Historic homes have long attracted homeowners for their classic architecture, original features and storied pasts.

  • When showing historic homes, sell potential buyers on the quality of the build, the home’s history and the endless possibilities for their family.

Historic homes have long attracted homeowners for their classic architecture, original features and storied pasts. However, listing and selling historic homes requires a unique approach that creates context for the property and caters to the home’s attributes and assets.

Now, many years into showing and selling the historical homes and estates that characterize New England and the Greater Boston area, I’ve put together a list of three tips for selling these unique estates.

1. Emphasize quality

They just don’t make them like they used to. More so than any specific feature, historic homes often attract buyers for that intangible sense of “character” that accompanies a property with a storied past.

There is a level of quality and craftsmanship in many features of historic homes that just are not common in more modern builds.

No two historic homes are alike, so agents should look to play up the points of character in their listing that make it a truly rare find.

There may be meticulous adherence to local historic preservation guidelines or expertly restored siding, roofing, windows and other exterior features. Also note and accentuate any innovative use of reclaimed materials in the remodeling of a home — historic or otherwise!

Takeaway tip: Underline the features that make your listing unique, and promote that exclusivity.

Agents should also be aware of the updates that can be made, as well as aspects of the home that cannot be altered, for potential buyers who appreciate the charm and history of an older home but enjoy modern amenities.

2. Highlight the home’s story

If these walls could talk, right? Part of what gives a historic home its character is, well, it’s history.

Do some digging into your listing’s past. Make sure to find out if there were any notable previous owners or any historical events that happened on the property or nearby.

Were the original owners influential in any local legislation or owners of any notable local businesses?

Normally, when I’m showing a home, I focus on what a life in the home could look like for its future owner.

However, storytelling is vital when it comes to these properties as many historic homebuyers want an authentic piece of the past, in addition to a place to start their future. 

Takeaway tip: Don’t shy away from a home’s history, showcase it as a unique selling point, a centuries-old story the new homeowners can continue to write.

3. Make it a family affair

Many historic homes tend to be quite large, often making them ideal for buyers with growing families. When listing these properties, our team makes every open house an event that engages the whole family.

Earlier this fall, I had a historic listing in Weston, Massachusetts, that featured an authentic and well-preserved barn. The family that eventually became its new owners spent quite awhile playing with their children in the barn and outside in the property’s yard.

That time made a meaningful impression on the whole family and surely contributed to their attachment to the listing. Parents should be able to take their time touring a property to take in its unique depth.

Agents might help occupy the kids by providing some snacks for them to munch on and activities to keep them busy. Of course, also encourage children to safely explore the home and what might be their future bedrooms as well as play areas so they can also get familiar with what it might be like to live there.

Takeaway tip: When selling a family home, invite the whole family to events, and make them fun for everyone.

Every historic home requires a marketing strategy that is as unique as its past.

Although it’s important that these homes still come across as practical, don’t measure them against contemporary builds. Encourage prospective buyers to remember that appliances and surface decor can be updated to their taste as in any new home.

Real estate agents can find success in selling a home with history by generating excitement about what makes it rare and irreplaceable.

Dean Poritzky is a private office adviser and license partner with Engel & Völkers Wellesley in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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