Historic Districts: Location, Location, Location!
Any real estate agent will tell you that when buying a home, do not forget to consider “Location, Location, Location!” Different neighborhoods have different characteristics and you will want to pick the one that fits your lifestyle and personality and provides the amenities and niceties that you want around you. However, aside from all that, location happens to be a primary factor in determining a home’s value. In the end, your home is only as good as the house next to yours. If a house is not maintained or its design is out of character, the entire neighborhood suffers. So, since buying a home is typically considered to be THE biggest financial investment a person can make in their lifetime, how do you know that the house you choose is going to hold its value many years from now? Well….
You can never be 100% certain that the house you choose is going to work out value-wise. We aren’t talking death and taxes here, after all! But there are certain locational indicators in the here and now that can help you sleep better those first couple of nights right after you have an accepted purchase contract for that new home that you fell in love with…One indicator of value is whether the home is within an historic district. Historic districts offer the homeowner an investment with added protection and security. In particular, homes in a protected neighborhood can increase in value by 5-35% per decade over homes not in a historic district (Mabry 2007). Not too shabby!
Currently, two very different historic homes are for sale on Overton Street in Newport, Kentucky–844 Overton and 825 Overton. The first is a fine example of a late 1800s Italianate residence and the second was originally an early 1900s Colonial Revival church that has since been converted to a unique single family residence. Both of these homes sit in the heart of Newport’s East Row Historic District.
The East Row Historic District in Newport, Kentucky is one of the commonwealth’s biggest local historic districts. In fact, the district is large enough to encompass two National Register districts: Mansion Hill, located north of 6th street, and East Newport (or Gateway), which extends to the south. This neighborhood consists of a very fine collection of late 19th and early 20th century urban house styles including Italianate, Queen Anne, Second Empire, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Craftsman. The homes at 825 and 844 Overton Street are both within the East Row Historic District as well as the East Newport National Register District.
Locally-designated historic districts and national historic districts provide two different sorts of regulations that, in turn, can provide long term real estate value. A National Register listing–whether it is an individual property or a district–does NOT lead to public acquisition of properties, does NOT require public access, and does NOT automatically trigger local historic district zoning or local landmark designations. A National Register listing DOES get you prestige, consideration in Federal projects, and eligibility for special grants and tax provisions. And for the private homeowner, you still have the freedom to maintain, modify, remodel, renovate, or dispose of the property as you wish (as long as no Federal monies or permits are involved, of course).
A local historic district is a bit different. Local historic districts are basically a type of zoning that applies to a neighborhood or to other locations that include multiple historic properties (“historic” defined as 50 years or older). The zoning provides control on the appearance of existing and proposed buildings. Like a National Register listing, the designation is also considered to be an honor and signals that a community feels that the historic character of their area is worthy of recognition and preservation. From a real estate perspective, historic district zoning can also help to improve property values by stabilizing and even enhancing the neighborhood’s character. An additional benefit is that it can protect property owners from inappropriate changes by other owners that might destroy the special qualities of the neighborhood. A local historic district designation does NOT effect property taxes.
The East Row Historic District was formed in 1990. It has its own set of historic design review guidelines, which are part of the city ordinance and functions to protect buildings within the district from particular alterations and demolitions through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process.
Overall, that 825 and 844 Overton Street are sitting in not one but TWO types of historic districts provides a double plus for each home when considering “Location, Location, Location!”
Mabry, Jonathan. 2007. Benefits of Historic District Designation for Property Owners. Available online here: