I can understand why people are flocking to Newburyport’s real estate. I have seen as a resident here that the nationwide plague of devalued houses has even bordered our surrounding communities. Yet here, our values are rock solid or even slightly going up. And at the same time, we hold the dubious title of being the lowest taxed in the region!
This is all because of the presence of the Newburyport Historic District. Some people think it’s our beautiful downtown, the marinas, and the waterfront – but those are icing on the cake. When winter hits (and it hits a long time here) nobody can barely enjoy these things without getting icy winds stabbing them in the eyes. Most residents wouldn’t dream of putting even their big toes out in the cold let alone walk downtown or on the blustery boardwalk. In those cold times, our restaurants with their cozy warm seats barely keep a pulse on our local economy!
So why do people come? Our lovely streetscapes and our historic tree-lined neighborhoods and the gardens – and when the winter comes, the architecture just shines forth even more! Our very low crime rate and good schools couples with such a lovely environment makes us highly irresistible. The security that what is happening right now just off North Atkinson street will largely not be occurring to your home. It is a wonderful knowledge that the house next door won’t be torn down and replaced with a shopping center or a huge house!
So, as so many have done before; you have decided to move to Newburyport.
But this is where you have to make a decision – live in the historic district where space is limited, houses are often small or designed for another centuries living standards or, live outside in the twelve non-historic neighborhoods and get plenty of space, often 21st century living arrangements but more often than not – any sense of the ‘Newburyport feel’ is completely absent?
Because many want both (Cake and get to eat it too!) they make the fateful decision to move into the ‘district.
And the first mistake they make is to try to make the house fit into the typical suburban standard; failing completely to understand they are cutting their own throats and the throats of their neighbors. Out goes the windows that can survive for hundreds of years and replace them with windows that can only survive for 15 to 30 years (if their lucky). Tear out architectural features that add value to the home and replace them with the style of the day (which will need to be torn out once again when the fad is done.) Put in exterior plastic adornments that completely short-circuit the historic theme of the house thus guaranteeing a diminishing of the house’s property value.
So, you want to move to Newburyport. Realizing it is to your best interest to preserve that historical architectural feel of the home, you ask yourself,
How does one do it?
By taking a deep breath and to go slow in the process. Sure, if you are wealthy and can ‘do it all at once’ and have decided to do so; you can have your cake. but even those fortunate to be in that position will find out later they have made some pretty bad decisions. What you need to do is some careful planning and then lay a structured course toward your goal. I suggest that you read my post, “The Rewards of Restoring Old Homes in Newburyport”.
First, learn the architectural styles that are present in Newburyport. This will save you so much in sheer embarrassment and prevent you from making a fool of yourself.
Second, learn the history of your own house. You’re a stranger in a strange land until you find out why the building has been constructed in a particular way.
Third, have a [free] architectural evaluation of your house by calling in a knowledgeable volunteer from the Newburyport Preservation Trust. They will tell you what is ‘crap’ and what is ‘historical’ and even reveal even more why your house is setup in that way. Also sharing your plans with a pre-permit review [free again] by the Historical Commission could save you thousands in architectural, engineering and contracting expenses.
Fourth, start reading up online on how to renovate an historical home. The more you know, the less chance that a flimflam craftsman won’t give you a line of baloney as to how to deal with your house. Even the qualified workmen want to minimize effort and increase profit and they largely won’t mind doing it if your ‘ignorant’. A consumer is more likely to get want they really want out of a project by doing some previous homework.
If you have made the plunge into our historic district, you are probably in it for the long run. Which is probably why so few of our historical homes end up for sale. Living in a historic Newburyport neighborhood is to live in a community unlike thousands of other towns and cities.
Just the privilege of living here makes you more wealthy than a billionaire!
And to preserve that kind of quality of life will require some work!
So have at it!