We all know how effective it is to have attractive furniture, plants, the occasional work of art and even something yummy cooking on the stove to create an appealing potential new home for a buyer.
But I also think that with old houses, being able to tell the story of the house as you walk through could also have an impact. You need a historian/researcher to be sure, but then you then need to be able to tell the story.
I am not talking about architecture, although you should know that too, I am talking about the personal stories – how people used the rooms.
Was there a 17th century “kitchen” or “hall” where the family did everything from cooking and eating to making soap, sewing, spinning, reading, and sometimes even sleeping? Was there an 18th century family parlor, and a more formal parlor for entertaining? Were there 19th century “upstairs and downstairs” and what do you know about the lives of both classes of residents?
Were there celebrations in the house? Special visitors? Tragedies? Joys? Births? Deaths? Was something important accomplished in the house?
I think about the private residence on Ellery Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Margaret Fuller wrote Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, the first book she put her name to and an early eyewitness account of what happened when Native Americans were “displaced” by the U.S. government. Fuller’s book also condemned the policy – very gutsy for anyone, much less a woman -- and she became the first woman in America to use Harvard’s library when she worked on her manuscript.
I happen to know that the owner of this house is very much aware and deeply proud of this history. He keeps the house in impeccable condition.
I am also reminded of the owner of the Joseph Story House in Salem, Massachusetts. Story was the youngest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and rendered history-altering decisions like the famous Amistad case that found in favor of a group of slaves who mutinied. The owner of the house, an accomplished attorney, bought the house and restored it precisely because it was Justice Story’s house.
These two examples involve historical celebrities, but you get the idea. Every old house has stories to tell! Please discover them, and tell them. Buyers can form a emotional bond with a house because of its past.
By uncovering and telling the stories, uou will expand our understanding of history AND sell that house you haven’t been able to sell!
2011 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.