Protect Your House from Demolition

Can you protect your historic house from demolition by a future owner? In many areas, perfectly good houses are being demolished and replaced by McMansions because they are located in a desirable location. Waterfront properties are particularly vulnerable to this as vacant buildable shorefront land is limited.

There are several ways to protect a historic house from being demolished by a future owner. The first is being located in a local historic district that provides protection from demolition. National Register districts (or individual listings) do not protect a property from being demolished. Only a local ordinance can do it.

If your house is not in a local district, placing a preservation easement on the deed is your best option. This is a legal restriction limiting what a future owner can do to the property. Typically, the easement is “held” by a non-profit preservation organization or the state historic preservation office which has the authority to monitor the property and force compliance with the restrictions in court if necessary.

Placing an easement on a property will usually affect the value of the property. It may be possible to donate the easement to the non-profit and receive a tax deduction to offset the the loss of value on the sale price. State laws vary and you should talk to your local preservation org and tax advisor to determine what is possible.

Generally, the easement is accompanied by a document identifying the character-defining features of the house and what can and cannot be changed by a future owner. Most often, exterior elevations visible from a public way and the most significant interior features are protected. An example of this is described in Chapter 2 of my book, Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners.

The 720-page award-winning and best-selling hardcover book is available in bookstores and from online retailers (it is currently 34% off on Amazon! http://ow.ly/N7ba50y4PSL).

Signed and personalized copies are available directly from the author on this site, click here: https://yourhistorichouse.com/shop/.

Your local bookstore can order copies from W.W. Norton.

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