It’s hard to ignore facts. The hottest real estate markets in the U.S.—San Francisco, Manhattan, and Boston among others—all have predominantly historic homes.
Business and technology clusters are attracting A-list, Ivy League talent to newly revitalizing historic downtowns like Tulsa and Detroit where property values are rising in lock step. According to a recent National Trust For Historic Preservation report, millennials are overwhelmingly on the move downtown.
If real estate were ever about location, it’s now. After decades trying to build the idyllic suburban “town center,” it turns out that early city planners did it just right 100 years ago– which is why the downtown historic real estate market is back in a big way with Generation X and millennial homebuyers.
There’s always been an art-like process in marketing and selling a classically-designed historic mansion or estate. They are not for every buyer. But they’re perfect for most of them right now if you market your property the right way to the right people.
Young homebuyers love old homes
A Realtor recently told me that old homes only attract old buyers. So she shies away from historic homes for sale because of the ‘doily’ factor and focuses on the modern developments that attract younger home buyers.
It’s staggering to us that some agents and brokerages still regard historic real estate as a hard sell proposition simply because it doesn’t have the new construction, smart technology pedigree.
For what it’s worth, the majority of people we know in their early 30’s through late 40’s (i.e., consumers in prime early revenue generating and house buying years) in Philadelphia live in historic homes that are 90 years old— and in some cases far older. The same goes for everyone we know in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
Because a brownstone townhouse six blocks from where you work and your kids go to school is awesome. Because historic homes in established neighborhoods foster community. Because 6,000 square feet of living space for a family of four can get tiresome to maintain when you could otherwise be at the beach. Because walking or biking to everything is the new millennial dream.
The next generation of real estate buyers has rediscovered old school downtown, metropolitan living. So don’t discount the doilies. Real estate is still all about location.
The press loves a good real estate story
Most leading real estate publications and online outlets are littered with $20 million Manhattan penthouses and glistening new Miami waterfront estates all vying for the same exposure. But most buyers don’t even know what that kind of money looks like, and the properties end up blurring together like celebrities on the red carpet.
Historic houses by contrast have a unique story to tell. They have legacy, quirkiness, famous past owners and hidden rooms. And the press—as well as many buyers—love a good real estate yarn. So if there’s a Civil War bullet in the dining room floor or Bob Dylan played guitar in the kitchen one night in 1968, use it to your advantage.
Case in point:
One of the properties marketed on our site was once owned by the Hollywood actor Robert Mitchum and rumor has it that the crack in the masonry façade by the front entrance was the result of an Aston Martin race between Mitchum and Yule Benner late one night when the party got a little too fun.
If you’re a real estate agent and don’t include that little tidbit in your marketing materials you might have just missed the buyer who loves old school Hollywood history standing just outside your door.
Builders don’t build like they used to
There’s a myth in real estate that newer is inherently better. When it comes to master suites, bright modern kitchens and bathrooms, and walk-in closets we couldn’t agreement more.
Most consumers looking for a new car or watch stick with trusted, historic brands like Rolex or Mercedes. The same holds true for many homebuyers looking for traditional craftsmanship but it doesn’t have a brand name yet. Instead it’s called plaster walls, copper plumbing, slate roofing and tight-grained hardwood floors.
Authentic architectural design features are reflective of an original commitment to artistry and quality that has stood the test of time. Make sure your potential buyers know it.
Old meets new is the new, new
You are forgiven for assuming that most of the historic homes marketed for sale on an online real estate platform like ours, and on the market in general, are tragically fraught with cold claw foot tubs, drafty windows, small rooms, and old kitchens. Everything has a stereotype.
What we now know is that virtually every historic home has had at least one owner (if not more) who was willing to bang down the walls, open up a master suite, rock an aquarium shower, build a wine cellar in the basement, chef out the kitchen and put an in-ground pool in the backyard.
Voila! Historic architecture meets modern luxury.
The oldest homes often have the most jaw dropping interiors, and younger buyers love old meets new. It’s the luxury real estate equivalent of buying a new $450 pair of jeans that are already ripped and faded.
Don’t underestimate real estate startups
The real estate industry, like every other marketplace, is being disrupted and transformed by technology every day.
Some of the best marketing opportunities for unique, historic and potentially difficult to sell properties are coming from new media and technology platforms, so don’t discount an innovative or aggressive start-up company that reaches out to you with a new opportunity. They might just end up selling your house on an iPhone app.
Meggen Taylor is a co-founder of FindEverythingHistoric.com. For the past decade she has been a principal at Philadelphia-based architectural sales and consulting firm that specializes in historic renovation and building enclosure systems design, and she holds a real estate license.