Nina Sable advises on whether to demolish or cherish old houses
Originally built in 1878, this renovated home in Wayland was recently sold by Nina Sable.
By Christie Vogt
To preserve or tear down? That is the question real estate agent Nina Sable helps clients answer when they come across a compelling old or historic property. As with most transactions, there are pros and cons to each scenario.
“The benefits to preserving an old home are that you’re preserving history and keeping the integrity of the construction,” Sable says. “Many ‘older world’ details are more beautiful than newer designs.” Cost is another factor to consider, she says. “New construction,” Sable explains, “might cost a couple hundred thousand more than if you preserve an older home.” Sable also notes that there might be tax benefits to owning a historic property depending on its location and status.
In addition to their aesthetic charm, the floor plans of older houses are often appealing to buyers who work from home. “The floor plans of old homes include more nooks and cutouts, which people are finding a new appreciation for as they create home offices for their hybrid or remote work situations,” Sable explains. “New homes, by comparison, tend to have more open floor plans that don’t allow for quiet, removed spaces.”
With complex preservation projects, Sable advises connecting with a specialist. “You don’t want to open up walls and find things you didn’t anticipate or mess with complicated plumbing or electrical elements. There are also ways to preserve a house so that it’s a more cost-efficient process,” she adds.
When preserving an older property, homeowners may also consider removing and reselling elements that don’t suit their tastes, she says. For example, remodeler John Moran, one of Sable’s clients, was able to resell an antique coal stove, breakfast nook and grinding wheel that were part of an 1878 property in Wayland.
The recently sold home was originally built by Levi Curtis as a rooming house for a shoe factory. The house’s foundation and exterior were in decent shape, making it a good candidate for preservation. Moran was able to “keep the integrity of the neighborhood,” Sable says, by maintaining the home’s aesthetic. “He did a really beautiful job. The outside of the home looks completely like the time period, while the inside is very contemporary.”
There are times, though, when it is wiser to enter demolition territory, Sable says. “When costs get bigger, and if the house is in really poor shape or structurally unsound, it makes more sense to tear it down,” she says. The decision may also make sense for someone who’s interested in the lot or the land but not the property.
As for sellers of old properties, Sable stresses that she specializes in selling houses that require maintenance or updates. “Sellers don’t have to fix it up to put it on the market because I have the experience and connections to move ‘as-is’ homes successfully,” Sable says. “I also want people to know they don’t have to worry about being judged for their less-than-perfect property. This is my specialty.”