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With its rich history and architectural heritage, New York State offers a unique market for those interested in purchasing historic properties. However, buying a historic home comes with unique legal considerations, from how such dwellings are defined and protected to the implications for renovation, insurance, and financial considerations. This article aims to provide prospective buyers, underscored by the expertise of a real estate lawyer, with essential legal insights into purchasing historic properties in New York.

What Makes a Home Historic in New York?

In New York, a historic home is typically defined by its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or a similar state or local list. A property may be designated as historic if it possesses significant value in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture. This designation often navigated with the help of a real estate lawyer, can come from various levels of government, including federal, state, or local historic preservation offices.

The Process of Obtaining a Historic Home Designation

The process for a property to be officially recognized as “historic” involves several steps, often with the guidance of a real estate lawyer, to navigate the legal intricacies, beginning with a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places or a state or local equivalent. This nomination process requires detailed documentation of the property’s historical significance, architectural features, and integrity. Public input is often solicited, and a governing historic preservation body makes the final decision. Once designated, these properties are subject to specific regulations aimed at preserving their historical integrity.

New York's typical historic homes - Brownstone architecture.

Renovation Regulations for Historic Properties

Owning a historic property means navigating a complex set of regulations governing renovations, a domain where the counsel of a real estate lawyer is crucial. In New York, any alterations to the exterior of a historic home typically require approval from a historic preservation commission. This can include changes to architectural features, additions, or significant landscaping changes. The interior may also be regulated if the property is open to the public or has received specific tax incentives for preservation.

Specific restrictions might include:

Preservation of original features: Elements like windows, doors, and woodwork may need to be preserved or restored rather than replaced.

Materials: Renovations often require using materials that match or closely resemble the original ones in quality and design.

Architectural integrity: Additions or external changes must maintain the historical architectural style of the home.

Historical Home Inspection Considerations

Prospective buyers should seek a home inspection focused on the unique aspects of historic properties. This includes evaluating the condition of original structures and materials, potential lead paint and asbestos, and the overall integrity of the property. It’s crucial to use an inspector experienced with historic homes who can identify issues that might not be apparent in more modern properties.

Insurance Considerations for Historical Homes

Insurance for historic homes can be more complex and costly than non-historic properties. The unique features and materials of historic homes can make repairs more expensive, leading to higher insurance premiums. Additionally, some insurers may require policies that cover the cost of restoring the property to its historical condition in the event of damage.

Historic Home Financial Considerations

Buying a historic home in New York may come with additional financial considerations. While owning a piece of history can be rewarding, it often comes with higher maintenance and renovation costs due to the specialized materials and craftsmanship required. However, there are also financial incentives, including federal and state tax credits, for preserving and rehabilitating historic properties. A real estate lawyer can help inform you about these incentives to help offset some of the costs.

Legal Considerations Before Buying a Historic Home

Before purchasing a historic home in New York, it’s essential to be aware of the following legal considerations:

Easements: Some historic properties may have easements that allow public access or preserve certain aspects of the property.

Local ordinances and covenants: Beyond state and federal regulations, local ordinances may impose additional restrictions on historic properties.

Disclosure requirements: Sellers of historic homes may be subject to specific disclosure requirements about the property’s condition and restrictions.

Buying a historic home in New York is a unique opportunity to own a piece of history, but it comes with its own challenges and considerations. Prospective buyers should conduct thorough research and consider the long-term responsibilities of preservation. Consulting with a real estate lawyer specializing in historic properties is highly recommended for those looking to explore this unique aspect of New York’s real estate market. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today!