Friday Filing: Rural Property

"I don’t want to live in a museum." - Daryl Hall      source

“I don’t want to live in a museum.” – Daryl Hall

In rural America property rights are different and people maintain their properties with however much or however little money they care to. Someone like Darrel Hall of Hall & Oates has money to do an extensive restoration like he did on his rural New York home. Hall hosts a monthly web series from a Great Room that he built to connect two historic barns that he brought in from a different state. He also modernized the kitchen with high-end appliances and arrangements to entertain a crowd. This is a house that a lot of people might dream of living in. Some may think it is a bad idea to move two historic barns from the 18th century away from where they were first built. Others, like this article suggests, think it is a good idea to breathe new life into a barn that may very well be left to fall or burn down.

Any significant historical building in a rural area should be documented and inspected for further significance. If it is an important building your State Historic Preservation Officer can help you get it on the National Register of Historic Places. Once your building is on the National Register it opens you up to a variety of tax breaks.

Someone like Daryl Hall may not be concerned with tax breaks. Other historic homeowners might be interested to learn that Nation Register listing opens them up to tax breaks based on the money that they invest in their property. Some states incentivize historic preservation more than others and offer a variety of tax breaks that can help with the cost of maintenance and improvement on a historic property.  No state is trying to tell you what to do with your property but they will encourage you to maintain the exterior if you are listed on the National Register. You can do whatever you want to on the interior to make the home fit your needs and to improve its value.

The cover photo of Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Visser.

The cover photo of Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Visser.

One would hope that owners would be sensitive with something like a barn from the 1700s – we don’t have many buildings in this country that are older than that. The goal is not to turn historic buildings into museums but rather places that can be appreciated for the stories they tell and their place in history, all while being used and appreciated by their owners.

A professor of the Historic Preservation program at the University of Vermont wrote a fascinating book titled Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings. The variety of barn styles and how they tell the stories of the immigrants who built them, bringing their various construction techniques from the old world, is a rich history you wouldn’t necessarily think such a vernacular building type would carry.

Have a deeper interest in preserving barns? This link will give you all the technical information that you need to know to preserve them.

Another major legal matter concerning rural property are easements. An easement of a driveway or lease road is often granted in order to gain access to neighboring land in which the shortest route is through part of an adjacent property. This happens often with oil companies and other natural resource companies and it is often the biggest intrusion on rural property owners.

In the city there are various ordinances and codes in place which bring the city and the property owner together. Due to the density of people in and around buildings, the city must have some control over building owners in order to ensure safety. If the building is a landmark it is expected that the exterior will be maintained and the facade is regularly inspected to make sure pieces of the building aren’t going to fall off an hit someone.

The point comes back to location. Owning property in the city sets you up for much more scrutinization from local interest groups and nearby property owners, not to mention the local government. There is much more freedom and room for creative interpretation in rural areas simply because there are not as many eyes on property out there.