Chicago Agent Magazine: The Short List

Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Kristine Menas, an agent with Dream Town Realty in Chicago, about the benefits of helping a client buy or sell a historic home.

9. Chicago is not only a great city to live, work and play, it is one that’s a destination world-wide for our architecture. From Burnham to Wright to Goff to Gang, we have world class architecture surrounding us daily. In Chicago, there are two levels of historic designation: the National Register of Historic Places Landmark and the Chicago Landmark. There are Historic Districts all over the City – Logan Square, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, East Ravenswood and Hyde Park, to name a few. Pilsen actually boasts the largest historic district in the state with over 4,000 contributing structures. Knowing the basics of historic designation is paramount in helping your client buy or sell a historic home.

8. There are many reasons to buy a historic home, but as an agent, if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about – for instance, knowing that it’s the National Register of Historic Places, NOT the National Registry; you’ll sound like an expert if you use the right term.

7. Just because a building is designated a historic landmark, doesn’t necessarily mean there are restrictions placed on it. First you need to understand if it’s designated on the national or municipal level. A building that is a National Register designated landmark is an incentive-only designation and doesn’t mean there’s additional restrictions for rehab. A City of Chicago designated landmark, however, does mean there’s additional review and restrictions by the City to help the building maintain its integrity.

6. Know your incentives! For owner-occupants of a historic, contributing building with 4 or less units, you qualify for the property tax assessment freeze, similar to the senior tax freeze. If you own an income-producing building, you qualify for the federal tax credits, which is one of the best incentives out there – a dollar for dollar income tax credit.

5. Old windows CAN be energy efficient. Retro-fitting existing historic windows can be as or more energy efficient as putting in all new windows and less expensive! The highest performing retrofits include interior window panels, exterior storm windows, and a combination of insulating shades with exterior storm windows. Weather stripping is a great way homeowners can install on their own and produce a high return on investment. On top of it all, original windows helps the building retain its character.

4. Historic buildings are a great return on investment. What property owner doesn’t like to turn a profit? According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, several studies have shown the positive correlation between National Register Historic District designation and property value increases.

3. Owning a historic home or building means your client will be in an elite group of people. A historic building could be designated for a variety of reasons, from a famous owner to a home that’s important to the broad patters of Chicago history. When you buy a historic property, you’re buying a unique piece of property that has been designated important. Groups like Landmarks Illinois have great resources online for historic homeowners.

2. Most historic homes that have stood the test of time are standing for a reason – they are of a greater quality than the average structure today. Quality construction using old-growth wood, plaster, and other materials often outlasts contemporary building materials like plywood and drywall.

1. In 1980, Congress passed legislation to allow a federal income tax deduction to owners of historic properties who donate preservation easements to qualified organizations like Landmarks Illinois here in Chicago. This is a particularly good option for owners of Chicago landmarks to get a tax deduction while preserving the façade of their building.

Kristine Menas is an agent with Dream Town Realty in Chicago. Passionate about history and architecture, Kristine was drawn from Minneapolis to Chicago to study for her master’s degree in historic preservation at the Art Institute of Chicago. In additional to real estate, Kristine has consulted on several property tax-incentive projects for buildings in both Chicago and Evanston, and has first-hand experiences in many Chicago neighborhoods.

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