Investing in Historic Buildings

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Beam & Branch Realty TREC #547752

My husband and I have now invested in and renovated two historic buildings in our town. Both projects were interesting, challenging, and fulfilling. There are certainly many things to consider before diving into any type of historic project.

🚧 SCOPE. It is important to get a full understanding of the condition of the building you are considering. You will need to consult with engineers, city officials, the historic commission, inspectors, asbestos experts, architects, and many others who can help you get the full scope of the work needed.

🚧 DUE DILIGENCE. You must do your homework with your city, county, and historic commission. Understanding what you plan to do with the building will be paramount for these entities to either approve or reject your project. 

🚧 BUDGET. Once you know what it is going to take to get the building the way you need it, determining a budget will be important. Historic renovations often go over budget because there are so many variables and unknown items.

🚧 LENDERS. Not every lender will loan money for a historic project. Identifying early on who will partner with you in this venture will need to be established. 

🚧 LIMITATIONS. Because you will be dealing with a historic project, there will be limitations regarding exterior restrictions, adding on, or making any significant changes to the building. 

🚧 CONTRACTORS. This will be one of the most difficult areas to establish. You will need to highly vet each and every contractor you use on a historic project. Renovation work is very different from standard construction methods. One bad contractor can completely ruin and hold up a project like this.

🚧 TIMELINE. Going into a historic project will be very different. Most likely, you will need to pad your timeline because of the unexpected issues you will encounter.

No doubt, taking on historic renovation projects is adventurous. The more work and details you can discover early on, the better. When you take your time to plan, the execution can run much more smoothly.

Best of luck if you choose to take on a project like this. And, feel free to reach out. We loved being a part of restoring history in our town and there is a ton of satisfaction when you complete your project!


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Comments (26)

Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Hey there, Laura Cerrano - please let me know about your projects. I love hearing what others are doing in other parts of the country.

Aug 02, 2023 08:05 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Endre Barath, Jr. - I bet! You do have some wonderful history in your neck of the woods.

Aug 02, 2023 08:06 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Thank you, Nina Hollander, Broker - it really isn't for everyone. There were lots of challenges along the way.

Aug 02, 2023 08:06 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Brian England - I cannot wait to hear more about your project! Please make a post about it.

Aug 02, 2023 08:07 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Thank you, Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint-Idaho - we have enjoyed doing these projects.

Aug 02, 2023 08:08 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Carol Williams, we would love to have you back here anytime.

Aug 02, 2023 08:08 AM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Paula you guys have done an awesome job or restoring the old buildings and bringing them back to a new and refreshed life.  Great post sharing what to look for when considering restoring old buildings.  I began my real estate journey years ago restoring old homes but never an old building!

Aug 02, 2023 10:21 AM
Mimi Foster
Falcon Property Company - Colorado Springs, CO
Voted Colorado Springs Best Realtor

For most of my career, I have specialized (niched?) in Victorian homes. So many fascinating facets that you don't encounter in modern resales. Every one of your bullet points is spot on. Prepare for the unexpected. 

Aug 02, 2023 10:28 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

There is a lot restriction renovating a property that has been classified as having historical value. We had a 1920 vintage theater here and the investor applied for a historical monument. But the theater's parking lot is where the freeway is for 20 years. It has enough parking space for 6 cars. To develop it it needs to tear down and have underground parking that is a no no. It went to foreclosure not sure what bank wants or can do with an eye sore.

Aug 02, 2023 12:34 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

I applaud you and your husband for venturing into investing in historic buildings.  That is a lot to take on yet you have done it, and done it well.  

Aug 02, 2023 02:29 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Paula,

I second that round of applause for you and your husband on investing in historic buildings. Your outline on things to consider before delving into a project like this are are spot-on for anyone thinking about taking on a project like that. Can't wait to hear more about your projects!

Aug 02, 2023 05:15 PM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

I envy you Dr. Paula McDonald as I have dreamed of doing the same but every time I start doing my due diligence something like asbestos or a whole new roof comes up.

Aug 02, 2023 06:26 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

I think investing in historic buildings is so very valuable.  Not only in investment dollars, but for the satisfaction of preserving community history.  I do understand in some areas there can be complications while dealing with local governmental restrictions and requirements, however.

Aug 02, 2023 08:13 PM
faye schubert
Retired - Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

I LOVE the restoration of historic buildings! It's so important to preserve our past, so we learn and grow. Thank you for doing this!

Aug 03, 2023 05:38 AM
Chuck Willman
Chuck Willman - Alpine, UT

One of our downtowns underwent a resurgence in popularity. I has this fear that the better days were behind us. Fortunately- people started doing what you have done twice now.

Aug 03, 2023 07:17 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

How cool to have this opportunity to keep historic buildings functional, safe and more importantly for future generations to enjoy.

Aug 03, 2023 10:18 AM
Buzz Mackintosh
Mackintosh REALTORS - Frederick, MD
“Experience, reliable, leadership”

Renovating historic properties is a labor of love. Especially navigating a historic district commission or hysterical society which can be a real head ache. The oldest building in our office complex dates back to the 1700's.

Aug 04, 2023 04:15 AM
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

It seems like every time I get involved in something historic, we always find something in the building that is really old. In the last one we found newspapers in the attic that talked about the home run BABE RUTH just hit!

Aug 04, 2023 06:51 AM
Peter Mohylsky, Beach Expert
PMI. Destin - Miramar Beach, FL
Call me at 850-517-7098

Nice and I really support this effort.  I have been to Granbury in the past and did not really appreciate the beauty of the town.  

Aug 05, 2023 05:42 AM
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

Historic buildings often have historic plumbing and electrical systems 

Aug 06, 2023 06:50 AM