Knowing What You’re Getting Into

Those of us who are somewhat regular at meetings of the City Architectural Review Board are quite accustomed to seeing someone on the agenda who has begun work (or worse) on their historic district home without the prior review and approval of this important group. And we can almost anticipate the defense:  “We didn’t know …”  “No one told us we were in an historic district …”  “Our agent didn’t mention a thing …”  Etc., etc., etc.

The litany of excuses goes on and on but the message is pretty much the same: For some reason, until this very date, there has been no pre-sale mechanism to alert a prospective buyer of an historic district home that certain restrictions apply to any changes to the exterior thereof.

You see, in newer areas of town, the restrictive covenants that apply to a given residence (or group of residences) in a specific development are recorded in the chain of title at the courthouse. Most good real estate agents and closing attorneys mention the existence of restrictions to buyers during the buying and closing process.

Alas, no such “notice to buyers” appears anywhere in the chain of title (abstract) of our historic district properties. Why?  Because the properties — and their surrounding areas — far predate the idea of such restrictions.

However, something is happening thanks to the steady pressure of many historic district owners and leaders. And thanks to the City’s hiring the extremely knowledgeable, capable and dedicated Christy Anderson. And thanks to the City becoming more aware of and supportive of our local historic district program, a new sticker will soon appear on affected homes being offered by REALTORS.

If you’re out house hunting, you may notice the small yellow decal on a for-sale sign. More likely, we hope, will be the sticker’s placement of the front of the electronic lockbox that usually dangles from the front doorknob of a home that is on the market. I say “we hope” because its placement there should make it clearly visible to REALTOR and buyer(s) alike and will, hopefully, occasion some upfront conversation about the responsibilities that go with buying a wonderful historic house.

Now, if we can only get the powers that be to budget to record an official “notice to buyers” in that chain of title!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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