There are historic homes scattered across the country, and for a certain kind of buyer – or tenant – they offer a special draw. Maybe the home belonged to a favorite author or a famed politician. Perhaps an artist or an inventor lived there. No matter what the roots of the place, historic homes garner a certain respect among local communities and distant fans alike.
For property owners and managers, however, historic homes also come with unique challenges, particularly in regard to renovations and upgrades, so it’s important to understand the implications of owning and caring for a structure that is recognized as a piece of our collective history. If you’re entrusted with such a home, here are a few things you’ll need to know.
Identifying Your Home
Historical homes can be identified in a few different ways. Some are noted on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), while others are identified by local communities as sites of importance based on significant events or the identity of past residents. There are no renovation restrictions on national sites unless they have federal money tied to them, but at the local level, you may encounter other regulations if you attempt to change significant details of the building.
Most homes on the NRHP are publically commemorated and it’s easy for interested buyers or tenants to look into their history, but if your property is a local landmark, you may have to do a little more to get it noticed. Collect any relevant documentation of your property’s historic status as you research, so that you can verify the home’s history to interested parties. You may also want to consider making a website dedicated to any historic properties you own in the region.
Renovation Risks and Rewards
As a property owner or manager, one of your most important jobs is to keep your rental properties well-maintained and appealing to residents, but when you’re working with a historic home, there may be a few challenges blocking your path. For example, you may not be permitted to add a deck or use modern vinyl siding if these upgrades clash with historic features of the home that need to be preserved.
Preservation of historic features is typically considered the ultimate goal of any home maintenance projects for these structures, particularly when a home still looks reasonably similar to how it appeared originally. When trying to preserve a historic home, you may also need to contact salvage yards or work with specialty contractors who understand what materials and construction styles are most appropriate to your structure.
The one real material benefit to property owners working to preserve a historic home is that you may not have to pay many out of pocket costs. Rather, there are many historic home specific grants available to help you keep your property looking its best. History buffs are passionate about encouraging historically-accurate preservation projects, so you can make your home look great without going into debt.
Additionally, if you can’t get a grant to care for your historic home, Texas also provides tax breaks for preservation expenses. You may wish to speak to an expert at the Texas Historical Commission before getting started, however. This office is your best resource when it comes to questions about regionally significant properties.
All rental properties should come with a clear set of rules from the property manager or landlord, but when you’re responsible for a historic home, you may need to be more stringent about your tenant screening process. For example, it would be a poor choice to rent a historic home to first-time renters with no real history or to college students; you may even want to have a “no pets” policy in such a property.
While you can’t expect your tenants to be perfect curators of your property, you can set ground rules that refer back to the nature of the home. You should be very clear that no alterations to the structure – even painting – can be undertaken without authorization and set forth clear penalties in the event that the property is damaged. With a historic home, you can’t afford to rely on the security deposit for such an occurrence.
Bonuses and Benefits
One way that you can benefit from the effort that goes into owning and maintaining a historic home is by marketing it toward a more upscale group of tenants than you might for an average home. Those with a passion for older homes or who care about the particular history of this building are also more willing to pay extra for the privilege of living in one. It costs you more to take care of the property, but renters will pay more to live there, so you should have no problem recuperating your costs.
You might also want to consider renting out your historic property on a short term basis rather than as a standard residential option. Many people would jump on the opportunity to live in such a home seasonally or to vacation there for a week or two, but may not want or be able to afford the space as a more permanent home. Again, you’ll also profit more by renting the home on a weekly or monthly basis to visitors than you might by marketing it as a standard rental property.
Honoring Houston’s History
If you’re a Houston area property owner, you’re in a unique position to honor our region’s history through the care and keeping of a historic home. But don’t worry – you don’t have to undertake this mission alone. At Green Residential, we have over thirty years of property management experience; we’re almost a piece of Houston history ourselves! With deep roots in the region, we’re well positioned to help you navigate the property management process.
Are you interested in breaking into the historic home rental market? Contact Green Residential today to learn more about our comprehensive property management services. We can assist you with everything from staging and listing your property to tenant screening, maintenance, and rent collection.
Celebrate the beauty of Houston’s history – but don’t let the responsibility of caring for historic homes weigh you down. Let the Green Residential team help you carry the load.