Don’t know if it’s getting old that I post about replacement windows but it has become epidemic.
Serving on the “Landmarks Commission” in my commmunity we’ve seen a doubling of COA’s (certificate of appropriateness) this last year over the year prior for taking out repairable windows for “replacement” windows.
By the time a homeowner has made the decision to replace their windows, submitted their COA and come to the commission their minds are already set and they’ve resigned themselves that they’re going to be spending all that money to replace their windows. After all, the window manufacturers, retailers and installers have all made very compelling arguments for why they should do so. And to boot there are “home energy” subsidy/incentives.
It’s “Green” and saves energy so I’ll save money in the long run on heating expense right? It’ll increase my homes value, right? I’ll bite the bullet and spend the money. It must be the right thing to do. Right?
Well without the benefit of knowing that there are lower-cost alternatives and what the down side is for taking out their repairable, “green-er” and potentially equally efficient windows (combined with sound storm windows) they’re making the best decision they can. And therein lies the challenge. There is very little counterbalance to the prevailing marketing message that replacement windows are the best choice. Consumers simply don’t know what the down-side is, what there options are or how to decide.
- There is a new website, savethewindow.org recently launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that attempts to set the record straight on what the hidden costs are of “replacement windows”. They do a great job of telling the story. They had a video. It seems to have gone missing. Here though are others.
- This is the single most compelling outline for how to decide… Should I, or should I not replace my windows. “Repair or Replace Old Windows – A visual look at the Impacts” (It’s a PDF download)
I would though like to add a couple points and observations of my own though. Note, I’ve completely ripped off the pics from the NT’s document “Repair or Replace Old Windows” above to illustrate my own points. So photo credits to them.
- It’s going to impact my homes resale value.
If you have a distinctive, well maintained older home you’re not going to out-new the new construction on the edges of town. I propose that you’re better off playing to the strength of your home and that is the period charm and character of your old house… and that includes your windows. Chances are a new buyer, if they’re interested in “Old Houses” likely have an appreciation for the character original windows add. Clunky, replacement windows can actually diminish the character of your distinctive old house and, I propose, impact your homes marketability.
(Side note: I call these “Little Orphan Annie” houses. It’s easy to find bad examples in clearly distressed neighborhoods. These owners have few options. Homes as this though where they clearly have money to spend… why would they denude a home like this. Ask yourself. A potential home buyer, if they were interested in a distinctive old houses in the first place, would they choose this or another where that same money (or less) was put into repairing what makes homes like these distinctive. If the potential buyer wants “new & generic” there are better new & generic without the bother of old house home ownership.)
- I’m increasing the resale value of my home right?
Often times not. You’ll find that you can’t afford to replace distinctive, high quality windows with anything like what was there originally. It’s just too @%#$ expensive to try and replicate with new windows.
As a result what happens is they swap in down-graded approximations. Add one more nail to the coffin of what had once been a distinctive old house with charm to one that has been denuded and reduced to remudeled ordinaryness.
Old house enthusiasts who can already discern and appreciation the aesthetic of original period windows are likely not interested in rip-n-replace in the first place. It’s more likely that those who don’t see or value the aesthetic of original windows that are quickest to pull them out. These folks are likely better persuaded by the pragmatic economics of replacements.
Actually this is the easier point to make. There is a growing number of independent, 3rd party evaluations on the actual energy savings and cost savings of repaired original windows with a storm over replacement windows. Many of these studies are coming from the utility companies themselves who are debunking the replacement window cost savings smoke-n-mirrors. I’ve blogged on this elsewhere but these citations have expanded since this post.
Saving Windows: Saving Money
Evaluating the energy performance of window replacement and retrofit
Our other posts on home energy and replacement windows
A recent continuing education seminar put on by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and Portland OR addressed how best to market old houses. It was reported on recently on the Finance & Commerce website.
“Owning and selling a historic property can be a gratifying – and lucrative – experience for property owners. But the process of determining a property’s historic status and then properly marketing it to reflect that status can make the difference between a big sale and an ordinary one.”
A key factor is that of simple economics of supply and demand. There is an ever-expanding supply of new home construction for that larger share of the market that appreciates new construction.
For that smaller but growing market for quality old houses with character in stable and improving neighborhoods in convenient proximity to community amenities, that supply is diminishing in many areas but growing to meet demand in others as property owners renovate and restore their homes.
What are best practices for selling old houses in historic districts?
- Doing your homework on the house. “All of that allows you to create a story around the property.”
Personally, I love stories. And old houses and neighborhoods have stories that simply don’t exist in suburban and new construction. Knowing the story of the house and effectively telling it adds real value to your home.
- “Some key selling points for a historic property, she said, are associated tax incentives…”
If your home is already within a historic district up to 25% of approved work can be recouped. This is significant. If though your home is outside the historic district your home may be individually registered or eligible. Marketing that your home as within a historic district communicates there are higher standards. There are some safeguards that help protect the home and neighborhood from some things that can diminish property values.
There are a number of additional points the presenters tough on. Interesting to note they emphasize how originally intact is the home.
“…be sure to highlight the property’s original elements, Davis said. Is the home’s character still intact? Are the moldings and fixtures original? Has the building been restored, as opposed to remodeled?”
Too often we see a short-sighted rip-n-replace mindset when home maintenance comes into play. This is particularly prevalent among flippers and some residents who don’t fully realize they’re actually degrading their own property. If a potential buyer is interested in an old or historic property in the first place it’s most likely they also have an appreciation for the original fabric of the house. Even if shabby and in need of repair, as long as it still exists restoration is still an option. Once removed though its often cost prohibitive to replace again with the grade of materials that have been removed…. if it’s even available at any price.
Given the current housing situation if you live in an old house the linked article on how to sell old houses is likely good information to have. Wanting to maximize your return on your home though is not unique to a slow housing market and will remain true later when things improve.
It’s refreshing to see the fine job they’ve done with this distinctive period home. It makes a huge difference and makes for a beautiful home. Take a look at the pics on the realtor’s listing. Amazing! Check out the woodwork, lighting and hardware. They’ve really done a wonderful job with this classic and dignified “old house”. If you’re moving to the area and have an appreciation for fine old homes and want/need move-in ready you should check this one out.
Though we had not been inside we knew the prior owners and understand the house needed some work. We’ve seen a number of sad homes where the “updating” was done by those with little understanding or appreciation for the original charm or period style of the home. Those homes have been stripped of their base, window/door, crown trim and other woodwork and replaced with anemic, under-scaled home center generics. They’ve pulled out the doors, hardware and lighting and replaced with generics. They’ve cheapened the home and made it bland IMO. Once removed it is very expensive to replace and often cost prohibitive. <exit soap box>
This home is very much still intact and beautiful. Worth a look.
- - Realtor’s Listing Here.
- - This home is not within any of the current historic districts.
- - Walkability Score: 77 out of 100, “Very Walkable”.
Old house living is not for everyone. I’ll admit to my prejudice, I love old houses and the sense of community frequently found in old neighborhoods. Taking a job within commuting distance it was the vintage housing stock and neighborhood that was a big part of why I moved to Beloit. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Generica and those influences where sameness crowds out unique character among communities, regions etc. They suit their purpose and have their benefits but planned development neighborhoods are just not where I’d ever choose to live.
For the larger portion of the home buying public that prefers new or more contemporary housing there are many more options. For those who appreciate what fine old homes and neighborhoods provide, finding distinctive old homes that still retain their original character within a neighborhood that supports and encourages this is much more difficult to find. If you’re moving into the Beloit or broader stateline area, or even if you’re already in the area but looking to move there are some great historic or vintage homes here. Still other homes hold great potential and are simply waiting for an owner with the vision and appreciation to bring them back to life. So come join us. We’re looking for some new neighbors who are old house lovers like ourselves to join our neighborhood.
One of the benefits to living in older neighborhoods is their proximity to those things you and your family want or need to do. Old neighborhoods are pedestrian neighborhoods and this is a good thing in many, perhaps not-so-obvious ways. It’s a characteristic removed from contemporary auto-centric planned developments.
Another wonderful thing is that it’s not uncommon for these “historic homes” to come with stories of their own. Interesting stories are tied to the home, it’s residents, builders or local events. Such is the case with many of the homes below. They’ve led interesting lives.
Home owners and Realtors:
- Federal Tax Credits: Homes that are within registered historic districts or individually listed are eligible for the “Historic Home Owner’s Tax Credit“. Homes that are not within an historic district may be eligible for individual listing. To apply for these significant tax benefit programs you may contact Beloit Neighborhood Planning or the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Offices (who administer this program).
- Property Values: Homes within registered historic districts typically maintain and increase their property values at a faster rate then surrounding neighborhoods. While no study has been commissioned for Beloit, Rockford IL (30 min. away) just completed one for their four historic districts 5 mo. ago in Dec. of 09′. Read this report here – The Impact of Historic District Designation on Property Values. This report is consistent with the experience of historic districts across the country.
- The Old House Marketplace: In fact there is a growing market for quality vintage and historic homes throughout the country. These include not only those that have been lovingly maintained or sensitively restored but also those that still have enough original fabric to be brought back to life – meaning… they’ve not been gutted or remuddled too extensively. See below.
Find historic homes for sale, real estate agents who specialize in historic houses for sale, and historic preservation resources.
.And it’s a market of supply and demand. Fewer and fewer homes are maintained in an architecturally sensitive manor or still retain enough original fabric to be brought back to their prior splendor.
Our directory of historic homes, buildings and other historic structures for sale has been connecting those seeking their “historic dream house” with a wide selection of truly amazing historic homes from all over North America since 1999.
- - Realtor’s Listing Here.
- - Within the College Park Historic District. Eligible for Historic Home Owner’s Tax Cridit.
- - Walkability Score: 83 out of 100, “very walkable”.