You may be thinking about buying a house in a historic district or building a new home there. Old houses are quite charming. However, new homes and renovations may be time-consuming or work against you when trying to make changes now or in the future.
Renovations and Demolitions in Historic Districts
If you want to change the color or change the height or width of your home, you may face opposition. You would need architects, engineers, and contractors with you, preferably those who are experienced with working in historical districts when discussing those changes with the commission for the district. Changes to the exterior have to be approved before the work can start on those changes.
If you want to demolish an old house and build a new one in its place, the state, city, or county may require you to give notice to the agency or commission to let them know you plan to tear it down. Normally you may have to wait six to 12 months for the commission to review it. Private individuals may also get involved, and someone else may decide to buy the property to restore or preserve it. Therefore, you may end up having to sell the property whether you wanted to or not.
Demolitions and Renovations in St. Augustine
For example’s sake, we’ll look at the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Fl. Demolition and renovation standards are highly detailed in St. Augustine, Florida. This city has specific rules for different types of architecture in the historical district. In their review for appropriateness of repairs or demolition, the board and/or building official and/or planning director look into things such as the interior visible from the outside, textures, and colors; and go into detail regarding the site layout including walks, terraces, awnings, and other accessory objects.
In the case of renovations, they want to make sure these changes will not reduce the structural or historic value of the building. If you are proposing demolition of a building, they want to make sure the tear down will not hurt the historic and architectural character of the city, and they try to balance the architectural standards and the property owner’s desires. The city may delay the demolition of up to 12 months. Twelve months later, the owner must reapply to request the demolition if he or she still desires it (for more on living and building in St. Augustine look here).
If you still want to move to a historic district, please be aware laws are strict in those areas. You must also be aware of potential restrictions for the moving process itself. It’s best to contact professionals before you move to find if there are any procedures you need to be aware of. Many people choose not to buy a home in a historic district because there is so much red tape involved with changing the exteriors of those homes, but if you stick it out there is an incredible reward waiting in the form of a new home for you and yours surrounded by history. Before moving to a historic district you may want to contact your city’s development office to become familiar with the rules in that particular city. Then you can make an informed decision about whether to move there or not.