Sometimes if others won’t do it right, you may have to go ahead and do it yourself.
That is the case with the City of Newburyport. Other cities like Amesbury & Portsmouth, NH understand the property-value raising benefits of putting in brick sidewalks in an historic district. It has done an extraordinary benefit for our sister city. And they were only following suit from the example of Newburyport’s Downtown as the NRA championed historic preservation. Portsmouth did one better. They expanded the sidewalks to include all of the residential historic district.
The results have been phenomenal and have been well-documented as well as everywhere in the country it has been applied.
The IRS has actually codified this jump in values. They have found that improving the public sidewalk that runs adjacent to a homeowner’s property will boost the appraised value of the private property. They also found that installing historic brick sidewalks within an historic district can boost the value from 10% to as much as 30%.
Considering the cost of doing so usually ranges from less than $5,000 to $10,000; and the average home value in Newburyport is $375,700; even a moderately priced home can see an inexpensive way to raise its value considerably.
So why would the mighty Internal Revenue Service even care about this phenomena? Because giving donations to your local municipality is tax-deductible. In particular, in a situation where the sidewalks are not taken care of properly as is the case in Newburyport, many responsible citizens especially local ones have taken it upon themselves to improve their street frontage. As historic districts become common throughout the United States; many of these taxpayers have taken their contributions to the city property as a deduction.
But the IRS feels that if you are actually getting a huge benefit out of doing so; you have no right to request for it. They have felt so strongly about it; they took some claimers to court and in two separate cases; won them both: , Myers vs US, 1980 and McConnell vs. US, 1988. The net result has been that if you do put in brick sidewalks within the Newburyport Historic District; you will get that exhilarating boost in your property values. You will just have to settle with the fact that you are helping the City of Newburyport as a good citizen as well.
As anyone can see, driving around Newburyport; we have a leaderless DPS just putting in willy-nilly whatever they feel like. Concrete one day; blacktop another and if a wise-homeowner insists; historic brick. I think the stupidist and most wasteful thing I saw was concrete put on a high corner – eventually, they will have to break up the concrete and slant the pavement to make it ADA compliant – wasting further our tax dollars. The DPS director is from Peabody – what does he know about historic districts? And City Hall is filled with thuggish departments who don’t even know our city makes huge amounts of money from heritage tourism. And they certainly don’t care about tax revenues or they would champion the use of the brick sidewalks in the historic district.
So, if you live in the Newburyport Historic District (check the street listing) and want to boost your property values in a cheap way and help the city in boosting heritage tourism; this is the procedure. Hundreds who “get it” about Newburyport are doing it, and more and more wise owners are enjoying the benefits. If you already have brick sidewalks in front of your home, historic or not (doesn’t make a difference as long as you’re in the district) and are enjoying the benefits; be sure to take care of them and repair them to a smooth surface (Its cheap to maintain them too!) to sustain that property boost.
PS. For the Nitpickers; I spoke to Rick Taylor, IRS Agent, Special Research Division, Denver, Colorado who confirmed this information.
Pertaining to this subject, I recommend the following reading material:
IRS Publication 530 – Tax Information for Homeowners – very interesting section on tax deductions for National Register property!
IRS Publication 526 – Charitable Contributions
IRS Publication 561- Determining the Value of Donated Property
Form 8283-If non-cash donation is over $5,000 – if incorrectly calculated, 20-40% penalty