There’s an anonymous quote that says, “It’s not good because it’s old, it’s old because it’s good.” Paul Kiger, Sarah Ring and Linda Finney with RE/MAX Advantage in Floyds Knobs, IN believe that the older a home is, the better it is, and have built up their real estate careers around the old historic homes of their Southern Indiana communities.  Carving out their niche in the real estate market of listing and selling historic homes brings them great pleasure, but as they explain here – it’s not for the faint of heart. 

“Our latest historic listing is the Washington C. DePauw Mansion located on Mansion Row in New Albany,” explains Sarah, “and there is no other home like it.  It has 8 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, 4 dining rooms and three all ballroom sized rooms great for parties and small weddings. It would make a perfect boutique hotel.”   

Built in 1870 as the winter home for industrialist and philanthropist Washington C. DePauw – considered the richest man in the state at the time of his death – it includes over 14,000 square feet of living space. The home was last purchased in the early 1980’s and the current owner spent more than 2 years restoring it to its original state.  

“We got the listing by reputation,” explains Paul. “If you’re going to list, market and sell a historic home, you need street credit. I bought a historic home and that became my billboard – if you can own one you can sell one! It’s like if you’re a real estate agent but have never owned your own home, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Same with historic listings. If you’ve never owned one, remodeled one, worked with the preservation board, you just don’t know.  

“Owning a historic home is a lifestyle choice, a conscience choice.  The passion one has for historic properties leads to commitment, it’s in their blood. They are emotionally committed and when they decide to sell, they want to know you love their home and will present it with as much love and passion as they do.  So if you’re an agent who wants to get into listing historic homes, you need to get into it 100% and own one yourself!” 

If you’re interested in selling historic homes, here are five things you need to do differently to list a landmark property: 

  1. EXPERIENCE – “You have to be able to show street credit and be willing to get your hands dirty. Very old homes are not always well taken care of. You need to be ready to go into the basement and crawl around to see the bones behind the beauty. Historic homeowners will smell fresh blood immediately. If you can’t talk the talk, they’ll know it.  Sellers can be an emotional bunch, but with historic properties it’s not just the seller – it’s the community, preservation board and sometimes more.” – Paul 
  2. RESEARCH – “You need to absorb the home. Take time to research the history and style of the house. Visit the home, gaze, look, study its features, learn the architecture and vocabulary. Visit the history center at your library and work with a librarian or the historical society. This is all very important in writing up the marketing communication and telling its story.” – Sarah 
  3. STORYTELLING – “There are four main pieces to a home’s story: the house itself like the architecture, the community it’s located in, the history of the home and its homeowners, and the story of the house and what it’s seen. How did this home entertain, who came through its doors, different events it witnessed.  You’ve got to be able to paint that picture and explain how it fits into the community. You’re not just selling a home after all, you’re selling the community – and the buyers will be investing in the community.” – Sarah
  4. RELATIONSHIPS – “Relationships are so important in a historic community and you’ve got to build them with contractors, the historic board, local tradesmen – put them all in your rolodex! Be the resource for the homeowner. Don’t just know a plumber, know the plumber. Historic homes are a whole different trade; those that work on them have soft hands, a different level of care and resources.  Let your clients know you have those resources and keep them busy! If you work with luxury homes, you use gold handcuffs, we use antique handcuffs!” – Paul  
  5. PHOTOGRAPHY – “As with any listing, photography is always important. Photography, photography, photography. It’s more than a marketing resource with a historic listing, it weaves the history with the future” – Sarah

Paul and Sarah, with the help of a third team member Sharon Gordon, have been listing historic homes together for the past 7 years under the Paul Kiger Group and joined RE/MAX Advantage in 2007, teaming up with Broker/Owner Linda Finney.