What you Should Know Before Buying/Renovating a Historic Property in MA

November 2, 2017 2:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

As outlined by the National Park Service, the body in charge of historic house listings in the U.S., in order to qualify for historic listing, a home must be at least 50 years old and still look the same as it did when it was first constructed, and it must have some historic significance within its history. If you’re looking to buy/renovate a historic home, there are some things you should know before you begin, according to both federal and state laws and regulations, as well as some general guidelines. Let’s take a look at both Federal and State, and choosing an appropriate color scheme:


  • Federal – Let’s start with Federal laws and restrictions. As long as there are no federal licenses or permits, and no federal money is attached to the property, a non-federal homeowner is free to complete any project involving the property, including demolition. If, however, the historic property is federally funded, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation must be allowed to comment on any and all changes and/or renovations.
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts – If the renovation of your historic property requires a building permit, funding, or licensing from the state of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) must review and approve it. Information  for all other states and territories can be found on the National Park Service website. Contact info for every State Historic Preservation Officer is provided through clicking the link for each respective state and territory within the United States.
  • Repainting – It is best practice to either stick with the same, original color scheme, or to choose a color scheme that was appropriate at the time of the house’s construction. Although this will cost a pretty penny, it would behoove you to consult an experienced painter who can analyze the house’s original color scheme to help you choose the same or period-appropriate color(s), considering the age, look, and architectural style of the house.


As with any home, the choice to buy and/or renovate a home that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a commitment and should be well-planned in order to preserve its history. Do your research, depending on the state, and complete the project accordingly. Once purchased or paid off, the property is federally yours to do with what you please, but limitations may exist within your state as to what you can do with a historic property.

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This post was written by Sperling

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