In the course of serving my clients who show interest in older San Diego communities, we often talk about historic preservation, the Mills Act, renovation costs and other related issues to consider when investing in older properties.
The issue became more personal to me in the last year when I purchased a home in a historic district in San Diego. Since then, I have navigated through the renovation process of the home while keeping within the historic resource guidelines in order for the property to qualify for the Mills Act, a tax reduction incentive for designated historic resources. The whirlwind of renovation is coming to an end. Soon, I will be moving into and maintaining my new home!
What makes a property historically significant?
In order to be designated as a historically significant site at the local level, the historical study must show that a site meets at least one of the following City of San Diego historical designation criteria.
- Exemplifies or reflects special elements of the City’s, a community’s or a neighborhood’s historical, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.
- Is identified with persons or events significant in local, state or national history.
- Embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of indigenous materials or craftsmanship.
- Is representative of the notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman.
- Is listed or has been determined eligible by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or is listed or has been determined eligible by the California State Office of Historic Preservation for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.
- Is a finite group of resources related to one another in a clearly distinguishable way or is a geographically definable area or neighborhood containing improvements which have a special character, historical interest or aesthetic value or which represent one or more architectural periods or styles in the history and development of the City.
Mills Act Program - City of San Diego
The Mills Act Program agreement is a legal contract binding the owner of a designated historical resource to maintain the subject property and to provide visibility of the historical resource from the public right-of-way, and to improve or rehabilitate the property based on specific conditions included in the agreement. The average savings is 50 percent with a range of property tax reduction between 25 percent and 75 percent.
This property tax reduction is an incentive offered citywide (San Diego) to property owners of designated historical resources that are listed on the City of San Diego Register. In exchange for the reduction in property taxes, the owner is required to maintain their property and its historical significance in accordance with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and to rehabilitate or restore portions of the property if necessary. There are limitations on the use of this program within some redevelopment areas. Incentives other than the Mills Act tax reduction may be available in these cases.
What are my new responsibilities as an owner if my property is on a site that has been historically designated, in contrast to what they were before designation?
A project review to assess adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties would be needed before doing major alterations to the exterior of your building that are visible to the public, such as building an addition or second story, changing the exterior wall material, removing original features, or changing windows. The proposed changes would have to be compatible with the style or character of your home, so that it would continue to maintain its historical character. Some of these things may not require a building permit, but you need to obtain historical approval for them before you commence the work. Before your site was designated, you had to obtain a permit to do most of these things, but proposed changes didn’t have to be compatible with your existing house and didn’t need the historical review.
(Resource: City of San Diego)
If you know someone who is interested in purchasing property of any vintage please send them my way!
It comes up all the time. A seller will want his/her house to sell, sell fast and, with luck, the seller will be happy with the sale price. Most real estate professionals will tell you, it takes more than luck. There are things that every seller should do to improve their chances of attracting the potential buyers.
Get the House Ready by Realtor.com
From experience, REALTORS® also know that a “well-polished” house appeals to more buyers and will sell faster and for a higher price. Additionally, buyers feel more comfortable purchasing a well-cared for home because if what they can see is maintained, what they can’t see has probably also been maintained. In readying your house for sale, consider:
- how much should you spend
- exterior and curb appeal
- preparing the interior
In preparing your home for the market, spend as little money as possible. Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren’t likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive “polishes” and “touch-ups” to your house, such as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations, like installing a new kitchen. Your REALTOR®, who is familiar with buyers’ expectations in your neighborhood, can advise you specifically on what improvements need to be made. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
Maximizing exterior and curb appeal
Before putting your house on the market, take as much time as necessary (and as little money as possible) to maximize its exterior and interior appeal.
- Keep the lawn edged, cut and watered regularly.
- Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds, and prune trees regularly.
- Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling.
- Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
- Clean and align gutters.
- Inspect and clean the chimney.
- Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
- Repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
- In Northern winters, keep walks neatly cleared of snow and ice.
- During spring and summer months consider adding a few showy annuals, perhaps in pots, near your front entrance.
- Re-seal an asphalt driveway.
- Keep your garage door closed.
- Store RVs or old and beaten up cars elsewhere while the house is on the market.
- Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
Maximizing interior appeal
- Giving every room in the house a thorough cleaning, as well as removing all clutter. This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Some homeowners with crowded rooms have actually rented storage garages and moved half their furniture out, creating a sleeker, more spacious look.
- Hiring a professional cleaning service, once every few weeks while the house is on the market. This may be a good investment for owners who are busy elsewhere.
- Removing the less frequently used, even daily used items from kitchen counters, closets, and attics, making these areas much more inviting. Since you’re anticipating a move anyhow, holding a garage sale at this point is a great idea.
- If necessary, repainting dingy, soiled or strongly colored walls with a neutral shade of paint, such as off-white or beige. The same neutral scheme can be applied to carpets and linoleum.
- Checking for cracks, leaks and signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
- Repairing cracks, holes or damage to plaster, wallboard, wallpaper, paint, and tiles.Replacing broken or cracked windowpanes, moldings, and other woodwork. Inspecting and repairing the plumbing, heating , cooling, and alarm systems.
- Repairing dripping faucets and showerheads. Buying showy new towels for the bathroom, to be brought out only when prospective buyers are on the way.
- Sprucing up a kitchen in need of more major remodeling by investing in new cabinet knobs, new curtains, or a coat of neutral paint.
Are you interested in selling property? If so, feel free to contact me. I can answer your questions and discuss your best options.