Choosing the best realtor for your old house

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses

Anyone who has gone through buying or selling a historic property has probably discovered the truth: A good realtor is hard to find. Finding a realtor who truly understands historic homes and has the expertise to guide a homeowner through the buying and selling process is vitally important, because as we all know, old houses are an entirely different beast. They require special attention during inspections, have their own unique charms and quirks and come with very specific maintenance concerns.

I've been through many old houses in my time. It became quite clear after my first purchase that the right realtor -- one who truly understands and loves old houses -- is worth their weight in gold.

To gather some great advice about old house selling and buying, I spoke to Margaret Rome, broker and owner of HomeRome Realty in Baltimore.

What buyers need to know about old house realtors

When seeking out someone to help you find the right historic property, go with a realtor who knows their stuff. "Find an agent that is not 'afraid' of old houses!" Rome said. "How knowledgeable are they and what kind of experts do they know who can assess the pluses and minus of a historic home? Look for an agent that will go out of their way to find these older homes. Make sure the agent knows what you are looking for and previews homes for your review."

In addition to choosing the right realtor, prospective old house buyers should do serious homework. "Not understanding the structure, the maintenance and not having the expertise to bring in the right experts to evaluate the entire property," are some of the biggest mistakes buyers make, according to Rome. And of course: "Always…repeat…always check the basement and the foundation for stability first."

Another point to remember is that the all-important 'days on market' guideline should be thrown out the window when it comes to older homes. Since historic and unique properties attract a very specific buyer, they might sit on the market longer than other places do.

What to know about selling an old house

Choosing the best realtor for selling an old house is important, too. Look at their track record and see how familiar they are with different types of old architecture. "Bring them into your home," Rome advised. "You can tell by the questions the agents ask of the homeowner if they are familiar or how willing they are to learn the special features and nuances of your specific home. How willing are they to listen or research the history so a story can be told to go along with the advertising?"

Remember that repetitive marketing in a variety of media is important to get the word about your old house to the people who might want to buy it. "Historic homes need more than the 3 P's -- putting a sign in the ground, placing the listing on MLS and praying," Rome said. The realtor should be familiar with various print media, professional photography, and using specific historic and unique home sites to list. Having a strong local presence, such as through a blog or even a radio show, is an indication that you have found a great realtor.

Finally, make sure your chosen professional is readily available to show the home to prospective buyers. The sale of an old home takes finesse and care -- the realtor should be able to show off the great features while being entirely honest about the unique care and maintenance required by a historic beauty.