Selling historic and vintage homes brings its own set of unique challenges. No one knows those challenges (and the solutions that work best) better than Coldwell Banker Realtor William Ford-Sussman, who has a special interest in vintage and historic homes and is recognized as one of the top realtors in his market area of Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown.
What led you to focus on historic homes? While I don't represent only vintage homes, I have sold many over the course of my career. By now, I'm familiar enough with historic architecture to instinctively recognize the magnificence of these homes and the premium they command in the marketplace.
Can you share any helpful tips with homeowners who may be preparing to put their property on the market? First the Zen and then the practical. The selling process is more akin to a distance run than a sprint. Try to stay centered throughout the process and to regain your balance when the inevitable ups and downs of the process knock you off center. Lean on your realtor in these moments, especially.
As for some nuts and bolts of preparing a vintage property for sale: First, a top priority is removing any visible asbestos pipe insulation. Second, don’t treat the basement as an afterthought. Some vintage basements look more dungeon than vintage. Spruce it up so it inspires the imagination of the prospective buyer. Third, address any odors of dampness. Unpleasant odors—often from improperly channeled rainwater—are an immediate and definite turnoff.
Is it necessary to tackle more substantial changes, such as upgrades? With limitless resources and time, a competent realtor can look at the situation of any home sale and prescribe a textbook list of improvements to make. In the real world, tradeoffs and compromises always need to be made.
Here are a few priorities to consider that may favorably support the selling price for your home: 1) Upgrading the bathrooms and kitchen. 2) Removing old wallpaper is almost always advised. 3) If an oil-heated home has an oil tank that’s buried, consider having a licensed professional test and replace it with an above-ground tank. 4) As a finishing touch, a fresh coat of paint never hurts.
Are there any other steps you advise taking for these one-of-a-kind properties? I try to spend some time investigating the home’s history. Not only does it feed my personal interest, but I almost always find out something that serves my client well in the selling process.
Is it worthwhile to spend time researching the history of a vintage home? Does it affect the home’s purchase price or how quickly it sells? Understanding the history of a vintage home provides the realtor-owner team fodder for differentiating the home in the marketplace.
From your experience, what is the best way to approach uncovering a home’s history? Talk to builders and investigate old photographs the owner might have and those kept at the town historical society. Look at the lineage of its owners. I think the soul of a vintage home is its past. And that can’t be easily duplicated by another home on the market that might be competing with yours for the attention of buyers.
Some homeowners are enamored with the character of older homes and won’t consider any property built before the early 1900s. Do you have any advice for buyers? Buyers should dive into the structural and foundational issues of older homes. Magnificent as they are, don’t let your heart carry you away from the need to thoroughly check out an older home. Rely on a reputable engineer or home inspector. Once these nitty- gritty issues check out, get carried away to your heart’s content!
William Ford-Sussman, Ford-Sussman Group at Coldwell Banker; coldwellbankermoves.com