How Historic Homes are Appraised in Charleston, SC

Posted By Marshall Walker @ Aug 24th 2016 3:30pm In: Historic Charleston

Have you ever looked up a property’s value on Zillow (i.e. the zestimate)? If you follow the steps, you realize a home’s value is based on comparisons. Real estate agents provide “comps” to prospective homebuyers and sellers all the time. They estimate what price point the property can be sold at, based on what others are selling at and what market forces tell them.

With many homes, it’s relatively easy to draw comparisons and get a good estimate. But buying a historic property presents a unique challenge, especially for appraisers. A historic home can’t be compared to other properties easily. Their value becomes like a piece of art -- what makes them worth more (or less) depends on uncommon traits.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how historic homes are appraised in Charleston, SC. Let’s begin …

  1. “Location” Appraisal Model

As mentioned before, real estate often draws comparisons based on surrounding homes. With historic properties, location still matters -- it’s just redefined. Is the house situated within a historic district or not? This is one of the key elements an appraiser will look for in Charleston.

Normally, an appraiser will use a sales comparison model based on size, condition, quality, physical characteristics, and time of sale. But with historic real estate, they’ll adjust the model for “historic district” location. People place higher value on these homes because they know the real estate is protected by its status. Rules and laws may restrict what renovations you can do, but they also protect its character and integrity (as a piece within the community). Hence, the value of the historic home is protected, and even increased by its location.

Other location factors an appraiser will account for include:

  • Proximity to hotels and other properties that attract visitors to the area
  • Access to transportation, scenic views, and other tourist attractions
  • Does the local population care about preserving the community and cultural history?

  1. The Historic Property’s Significance

A historic home is like a work of art. There are intangible elements for an appraiser to consider -- and do come up often in Charleston, SC. Questions like:

  • Was the property owned by someone famous before?
  • Did the property have a role in a historical battle or war?
  • Was the home designed by a historically important architect?

In Charleston, a home appraiser has to evaluate what time period the house was built in, how rare the architectural style is (since other properties can’t be built in the area), and did it have any significance during historical moments in South Carolina (such as the Revolutionary War or Civil War).

The more significant these elements, the more it impacts the historic property’s value. Could you imagine the value of home where George Washington had dined in? What about a house that is haunted?

  1. The Impact of Renovations

With any historic real estate, there are times when characteristics need updating (or fixing). Other times, the previous homeowner may have changed the layout or fixtures to their liking. For a Charleston appraiser, they have to measure whether the original architecture is in-tact and what the condition is. They have to decide whether modern updates are needed or if they’ll be needed 5 years from now.

In Charleston, particularly, historic real estate has to follow a strict code of cultural preservation. Only certain (and aged) materials can be used. Modifications that deviate from the district’s historical significance will impact the property’s value.

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