Advice for owning a historic home

Published 8:58 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

I have lived in Franklin for 13 years and have accumulated so much information and knowledge about the history of Franklin and funds available to historic home/structure owners, that I feel obligated to share it with those moving into Franklin and purchasing historic homes.

I feel that not sharing this information is an abomination on my part — a tragedy for the city and extremely unfair to new and current owners of historic properties within Franklin’s historic district.

When a historic home/structure is purchased, the new owner takes on unforeseen undertakings and repairs. Unfortunately, at the time of purchase some may share little to no information with the new owner about the what, where, why, or how-to of any matters to “fix” the home economically without busting the bank. A problem my family and I ran into.

However, if someone told you at the time of purchase that you could save 20 cents for every dollar you spent on your home, wouldn’t you take advantage of it? In Virginia, if your home is on the National Historic Register you can! It’s all about how much information the locality is willing to share with those who have bought a historic property related to local guidelines to help owners use state tax credits, incentives and financing.

If only my family and I had that information when we bought our home! We could have had our kitchen and bathrooms upgraded to include granite or marble, a new heating system, our floors refinished, roof repaired/redone, termite damage and rotting wood repaired, etc., instead of digging deep into our pockets for the extra pennies.

As long as the property maintains its architectural integrity, you can upgrade your home to your liking. Repairs, upgrades and funding run a gamut of opportunities.

As a bonus, if the property is an income-producing property, such as rental, bed and breakfast, antique/thrift store, coffee shop, restaurant, etc., you can receive 20 percent from the state for owning the property. You are also eligible for an additional 25 percent tax credit through the federal government. There are local tax incentives as well.

Incentives are great if you utilize them. A restored historic home/structure has the potential to be worth as much or even more than modern homes/structures.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the city to promote this, and the property owner utilized this information. They would only be improving the property’s value while saving money, all while helping the city strengthen its economy.

The City of Franklin paid $45,000 to Edwards-Pitman in North Carolina to create architectural guidelines and then adopted them in March 2006 for this very reason. The guidelines can be found on the Internet through the web address listed below. Such sources as business associations, real estate agents, city entities and citizens could be a fountain of information for historic home and business owners.

There are numerous sources of information in Virginia for historic property owners to answer all of the what, where, why and how-tos in favor of the owner. The secret is knowing how to tap into it.

If you own a historic structure, you understand the undertaking. Hayden High School is a great example of how to embrace local, state and federal tax credits and create housing for people on a budget as a large-scale project.

The city is taking advantage of all that’s available whether you are an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or a property owner; you can too!

Listed below are websites with guidelines for Franklin’s structures, where to find tax credits, financing for first-time homebuyers, and nomination forms for some of Franklin’s properties.

If you would like more information about whether your home is within Franklin’s historic district boundaries, contact the Office of Preservation Incentives department at

Or go to:

The websites are available to help owners of historic structures make better economic decisions when purchasing a property or for those who own one. This information can be utilized by anyone who resides or owns a business listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Landmarks Register. This information is being shared as an opportunity for owners or potential owners of historic structures and is not a critique of the city.

JENNIFER BERNOCCO is a Franklin resident and can be reached at