Selling Antique Homes

We once had a client who owned a historic home on a tree lined street dotted with white picket fences. The home sat on the market for some time before we were hired to stage. Walking through the home, I could appreciate the architectural details from wide planked molding to coffered ceilings. It was spectacular. So why were they having such difficulty getting it sold?

The answer was simple. The architectural details were incredible and worth a small fortune in upgrades, but buyers didn’t notice them. Instead, they simply served to create an aesthetic most buyers, who do not appreciate antiques, would define as “dark and dated”. On first impression the woodwork reminded me of my grandparent’s home as a child and the stain glass was reminiscent of a church. Neither association is positive in the competitive real estate market.

“I highly recommend painting the woodwork white,” I advised. The homeowners expected this, even considered it themselves, but they were tentative. Their architect begged them not to paint over the wood. Their friends said they wouldn’t do it. So I asked my client the one question that changed everything, “Does your architect or friends live in a home with dark wood throughout?” She thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, no they don’t. They have white trim and they also have antique homes.” I expected her response and explained, “People can appreciate antique homes, but they don’t necessarily want to live in them. Finding a buyer for one of these homes is like finding a needle in a haystack. They are out there but the search will take longer. They will most likely have the upper hand in the negotiations, as you recognize over time that antique home buyers are few and far between.”

The homeowners needed no further explanation. The woodwork throughout the home was painted white, highlighting details that were lost in the shadows for years. When it was complete, the home was light and bright. It now competed with updated colonials with upgrades. Quintessential Pottery Barn. The home soon received offers.

When considering the sale of an antique home it’s important to remember a few things:

  1. There are fewer buyers for antique homes. The wait for a buyer could be longer.

  2. Lighter and brighter homes appear larger. Square footage sells.

  3. Buyers are evaluating the cost to make updates and deducting that price from the offer.

  4. They generally estimate on the high side. It’s typically cheaper to paint in advance.

  5. There is value hiding behind the shadows of dark wood. Speak to your real estate professional to determine the value of painting your antique home prior to selling.

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