Thre Real Deal / Charm vs. tradeoffs for marketing old homes
I admit it, I'm a sucker for a charming house. Wide plank chestnut floors, built-in nooks and crannies, exposed beams, a stone fireplace ... I am so there.
Sometimes these touches can be found in a "regular" house -- one that otherwise lives and feels like your house, or mine. But authentic charming homes usually have some years on them.
Because of their vintage, most are close to the road, often on busy streets. Charming homes may have smaller rooms, steep staircases and lower ceilings -- inevitable trade-offs, it seems, for grand fireplaces and fabulous woodwork.
However, these houses may also include features that today's buyers don't find so charming, such as:
Single-pane windows that leak energy
No central air conditioning
Odd floor plans
Showers that an average-height man can barely stand up in
Radiators with exposed water pipes left in place after other forms of heating were installed
Critters in residence
I've had the pleasure of working with a number of charming house lovers -- both sellers and buyers -- over the years. In all of these cases, the house that was bought or sold had been lovingly updated to 21st-Century standards. Which means state-of-the-art kitchens and baths, and floor plans consistent with today's lifestyle.
Honoring the old while fully incorporating the new is what creates value in a charming house in the year 2012. When this unison is achieved, the result is truly spectacular.
As with antique furniture, value resides in the originality of the house and the authenticity and respect with which improvements/renovations have been made over the years.
Sellers of antique (100-plus years old) or vintage (1920s to 1940s) homes may not fully grasp this -- especially if their home has a provenance (e.g., built by noted local architect Frazier Peters or former home to a prominent family). I've met with some owners of lovely older homes and had to explain that the value is not just in what's old, but more importantly, what's new.
Today's charming home buyer applies the same standards that every buyer uses, when evaluating an antique or vintage home -- location, size, layout, condition/degree of updating and amenities. If a charming house does not meet today's standards -- or is lacking in some other way -- the buyer will either move on, or will subtract the cost of the work needing to be done from the asking price.
Charming homes are not for everyone. Either you're a charming house person, or you're not.
The more narrow appeal of antique and vintage homes therefore must be factored into valuation. Also, some years are hot markets for antique or vintage properties; others are not. To me, it seems random.
Right now there is a lovely assortment of charming homes available for sale in Westport and Weston. My favorites are two on North Avenue and the three on Greens Farms Road in Westport, along with those on Norfield and Cartbridge Roads in Weston. But the charming home market seems barely warm this year.
If you're a charming home buyer, this could be your moment.
Evi Coghlan's "The Real Deal" appears every other Friday. She is a licensed real estate agent with the Riverside Avenue office of Coldwell Banker and a former marketing consultant to Fortune 100 companies. She may be reached at 203-247-6691, by emailing her at email@example.com or visiting www.evicoghlan.com.