Service of a Potentially Hidden Hurdle to Sell a House

October 21st, 2019

Categories: Big, Historic, Landmark, Real Estate

I prefer old to new homes and am distressed to learn when a historic home hits the dust.

But a twist unearthed by Wall Street Journal reporter Kris Frieswick in “When a Home Is Suddenly Called ‘Historic’” gives me pause about buying one with history. Her subhead tells it all: “Historic designations are becoming controversial as third parties seek landmark status on a home, often against the homeowner’s wishes, as a way to block demolition or development of a property.”

She wrote about one couple who was on the cusp of selling their St. Petersburg, Fla. home and had made an offer on another when out of the blue they received a certified letter that put the brakes on their sale. They needed a last piece–a demolition permit–to close the deal to the purchaser, a developer planning to tear it down.

The next door neighbor had alerted the local Community Planning and Preservation Commission and filled out an application to give their home a historic property designation which froze the sale until the City Council approved it or rejected the demolition block put on it.

“Potential buyers of property in an established historic district can learn before a purchase what changes are subject to oversight by a historic commission. But with third-party application, when anyone in a community can request a historic designation on a property at any time, homeowners wishing to demolish or significantly renovate the exterior of their home could be stopped by restrictions they never bargained for.”

I’ve seen once beautiful neighborhoods destroyed by people with little taste and fat wallets who demolish charming, vintage smaller homes tucked into stunning landscaping grown over years only to fill almost the entire lot with a monstrosity [photos top, right and left]. The originals were not historic homes but replacing them with giant eyesores bereft of mature perennials, trees and bushes is nonetheless visually criminal in my opinion.

Do you support the concept of a third-party application to a preservation commission about a neighbor’s home that can delay or stop a sale? I empathize with neighbors who fight to maintain the charm of where they live. At the same time I sympathize with someone anxious to sell.

Should a homeowner refuse to sell to a developer or individual planning to tear down a place with significance to a community? Shouldn’t people avoid buying such a home in the first place if they want the flexibility to sell to any and everyone?



2 Responses to “Service of a Potentially Hidden Hurdle to Sell a House”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    The changing aesthetics in a neighborhood can be very disrupting to long time owners and residents. However it seems incredibly complicated to permit any non-proprietary third party exercise gratuitous control of an owners ability to dispose of property as wanted. Historic preservation is normally determined by a group or body of more than one person. It would seem that private ownership would permit an individual to dispose of his property as desired within the limits of the law.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree.

    There’s a reason for the expression that walls make for good neighbors. I’d have a fit if I lived on a lovely road or street and the neighbor sold her property to a developer who inserted many unattractive houses in the place in which only one stood before. Up would go a wall of trees and maybe even a for sale sign!

    Upstate someone bought I house I loved to look at and they ruined it. What was a charming home tucked beautifully and artfully into its landscaping became this monstrosity with no character other than it was big. So when I passed it after that I didn’t look!

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