What Does it Mean to Live in a Historic District?

As with most older New England towns, Franklin has a historic district. The Franklin Common Historic District encompasses the traditional village center, and its primary focus is on the town common, a triangular green space that took shape in the mid-18th century. In Franklin, the district also includes the buildings that abut the green, extending northward to the intersection of Main Street and Lincoln Street, just near the Red Brick School.

If you’re lucky enough to buy a home in this slice of prime real estate, you’ll need to acquaint yourself with what it means to live in a historic district. The Franklin Historical Commission can be a great source of general information. Here’s what else you should know.

Historic districts are great, but they can have their trade-offs. Living in a designated district may restrict what you can do with the exterior of your home, including your choices for things like paint color, window type, and garden. Before making any external changes, you’ll need to check with your local planning department. That said, remember that these restrictions apply to all residents equally. This means that historic districts often have very steady property values and an active neighborhood association invested in the quality of the area.

Additionally, districts that are listed only on the National Register of Historic Places don’t restrict what you can do with your home, but areas on state or local registries often have restrictions.

Before purchasing your home in the Franklin historic district, see if there is a historic preservation easement. These contracts are designed to protect the historic integrity of the home in perpetuity. The owner pays a qualified preservation organization or government agency to hold the easement, and this often qualifies for a federal tax deduction. To see if there is an easement already in place, check the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Even though living in a historic district may come with a few bureaucratic speedbumps, don’t let this scare you away from buying an older home. These policies are in place to ensure the building remains a piece of history.


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