This ole house

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 20, 2003

Study: Historic homes fetch more

By Dale James / Selma Times – Journal

The average annual sales price for residential historic homes located within Selma’s Old Town District increased at more than twice the rate of other residential properties in the city during the last quarter-century.

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That’s the conclusion of a recent study funded by the Alabama Historical Commis-sion and conducted by the Center for Business at Auburn University-Montgomery.

The study analyzed the impact of historic designation on property values in Alabama. It focused on locally designated historic districts in Selma, Birmingham, Decatur, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile and Talladega.

According to the study, counting all properties sold from 1977 to 2000, the average annual sales price for residential historic homes located within the Old Town District increased at a rate of 11.92 percent, compared to a rate of 5.11 percent for residential properties in the community as a whole.

That comes as no surprise to Nancy Bennett.

Bennett is a licensed real estate broker with Property Services. Both her office and her home are located within the Old Town District. She’s also a member of the Old Town Association.

“We’re an organization of homeowners within the boundaries of the Old Town Historic District,” Bennett explained. “We’re a diverse organization made up of young and old, married and single, employed and retired, black and white. The common thread we share is that we all feel very strongly about our neighborhood.”

Old Town is one of four historic districts in Selma. The others are Water Avenue, Riverview and Ice House.

The Old Town Association was formed in the late 1970s, but remains vital and involved even today. The Alabama Preservation Alliance recently acknowledged the efforts of the association by presenting it with a merit award.

Many of the rewards of living in a historic district are intangible: the joys of owning a piece of history, of restoring a work of art to its original grandeur, of living in the best of both worlds.

But, Bennett concedes, “a lot of that is probably in the eye of the beholder.”

The commission’s study, however, is proof that the rewards of owning a historic home can be financial as well as nostalgic. But while the good times may not be over, there are indications that they are slowing up a bit.

Sharon Latham, a certified appraiser and licensed real estate broker associate with Action Manderson Real Estate, said real estate prices across the board have slowed in recent months along with the rest of the economy. That includes historic districts as well as residential properties at large.

“It has slowed,” Latham said. “But that’s not just Selma, it’s the economy as a whole. We hope it’s a very temporary stupor.”

Latham said there is another factor working against the prices of historic homes continuing their double-digit growth of the last 25 years.

“The fascination of older homes has worn off for a lot of people,” she said. “They’re just a lot of work, and they’re expensive. They don’t appeal to everybody. You have to love doing that kind of thing.”