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Antique & Historic Houses in a Changing Marketplace

As many of our readers are either historic homeowners or a looking at buying an antique or historic home in the future, it seems timely to have discussion as to what is happening in the New England Real Estate market - what impact it has had on the value of antique properties and on the desirability and marketability of these unique properties. As in any discussion of real estate values, it is important to note that there are marketplace differences from region to region, and in trying to look at a broader picture, one must always look at local statistics for the most accurate read on any specific community or area.

The sales of all homes in New England have declined in 2008. Comparing the sale of existing home sales vs. new home sales, it is clear that existing home sales have fared much better in terms of volume. Builders sharply curtailed new housing starts for several reasons. First, market demand began to fall off as economic conditions rapidly deteriorated in late 2007 and in 2008. As financing for construction fell, so did the number of new housing starts. Saddled with debt and standing inventory, small, medium and large builders began to lower prices to move their product.

This slide crept in and forced the existing home sale market to follow on a similar path. A crescendo effect rippled across the country as marketplaces became increasingly jittery as Americans were bombarded with increasingly disturbing news from financial sectors including Bank Bailouts, declining Stock Markets, unsettling international projections, and a record number of foreclosures. For us in Real Estate, that meant buyers stepping back from making their buying decisions and Sellers in a quandary trying to determine whether to move or stay put.

That tells the story of where we’ve been. Now we have to determine where we are now and what we can expect looking forward.

In New England, antique and historic home sales account for about five percent of all the real estate stock. The good thing about these unique properties is that the inventory and demand are less likely to ever be out of sync with each other. The reason is simple: there is a finite supply of 18th and 19thcentury buildings. A finite supply, which can only go down over time, as buildings become casualties of natural and manmade disasters like fire and demolition. In addition, demand for these unique

properties has not significantly diminished. Keep in mind that does not mean that buyers are leaping out of their seats in this marketplace for any type of housing, but there are discerning buyers who are reentering the market at all different price levels.

First time buyers are getting a great helping hand under the Stimulus package approved by congress- an $8000 tax credit when they purchase a home. Coupled with interest rates that are at historic lows, and the relative market adjusted value of homes (compared to prices at the peak of the market in 2007) buyers have no reason to sit on the sideline.

As we move into this spring market, we are starting to see a positive shift in the perception of buyers who are out looking for a home. I think that the fear factor that has pervasively infected the American psyche over the economic outlook is beginning to turn. Of course I count myself as an optimist who sees the glass as half full, but I am certain that I am one of many old house lovers that see the world the same way. This is a great time to invest in an antique house with remarkable values and incredibly low interest rates. Whether you are looking for the perfect country retreat or a village or city house, nothing but opportunity awaits you.