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How Does Buying in An Historic District Affect You?

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Many municipalities in the Hamptons have designated buildings or districts as having particular historic, architectural, scenic, or other significance. These can range from the federal government, to the state, to the town, to the village, to the hamlet level. Houses in these areas may be subject to review for alterations, additions or demolitions. There may be a raft of regulations that you must obey when repairing or renovating your home. But this is a good thing, as it preserves the historic nature of the building or district.

Many designations or registrations, such as the National Register of Historic Places, are purely honorary. Owners of buildings designated thus may do anything they like with their property. Even more restrictive ordinances, which tend to be on the local level, generally don't forbid various renovations to your house; they just require that proposed alterations are reviewed by local experts before a permit is issued.

A historic house is an upscale amenity that attracts a specific group of homebuyers. Studies have shown that houses in historic districts sell faster than others and fetch higher prices.

In East Hampton Village, the historic districts are as follows: Main Street Historic District, the Hook Historic District, and the Huntting Lane Historic District. In East Hampton Town: the Springs Historic District, the Amagansett Village Historic District, the Bluff Road Historic District, and the Montauk Association Historic District.

In Southampton Village: the Southampton Village Historic District, the Beach Road Historic District Southampton Village, the North Main Street Historic District. There are also the Sag Harbor Village Historic District and the Sagaponack Historic District. There are no Town of Southampton historic districts as yet, although this is being debated. There are Hamlet Heritage Areas in the town of Southampton, although these are honorary designations with no restrictions.

In Southampton Village historic districts, "A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is needed to carry out any exterior alteration, restoration, reconstruction, demolition, new construction or moving of a landmark or a property within an historic district." In East Hampton Village historic districts, "Residents with properties in the village's three historic districts cannot make any change, except normal maintenance, in the appearance of any of the significant exterior elements of their property without first obtaining a certificate of appropriateness from the Design Review Board."

When doing renovations and repairs, historic district commissions may require replacement of damaged materials in kind or require you to use specific or expensive materials or craftsmanship. But this also means that your investment in the property will be secure, and your neighbor's property value will also hold.

Failure to get the necessary permits and reviews in place before doing renovation work can result in fines. The bottom line is, know what restrictions are in place before you buy in an historic area. If you can't live with them, don't buy that property. Help preserve the Hamptons' rich architectural heritage. [Curbedwire]