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Understanding Homeowners Insurance

Many of us obtain our homeowners insurance when we purchase our home.

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Many of us obtain our homeowners insurance when we purchase our home. After this initial purchase, we do not give this insurance another thought. It is not until the roof is damaged during a violent thunderstorm, a major appliance fails and floods our basement, or the neighbor's kid slips and fractures their wrist in our living room that we dust off the policy and ask ourselves, "Am I covered for this?" Don't wait until damage or an accident happens to discover what your insurance policy covers. Instead, you should have a good idea of what you are covered for and what is not included. Every year you should assess if your coverage should increase or if there is any optional coverage you may want to add. The purpose of this article is to point out some general characteristics of homeowners insurance and help in determining if you have the right coverage. Obviously this cannot substitute for a consultation with your insurance provider, but it will give you a better idea of what questions to ask. Image of home, crutches and turning road sign.

There are five popular topics concerning homeowners insurance that we will discuss below: types of damage covered, determining replacement cost, determining personal property value, understanding liability coverage, and ways to save money on your policy.

Homeowner insurance policies typically cover damages such as: fire and smoke damage, storm damage (i.e. lightening, wind, hail, ice and snow), water damage (other than flooding as this is separate), explosion, vandalism, theft (some companies are now offering an identity theft coverage option as well), civil unrest, and damage by aircraft and vehicles. You should discuss with your insurance provider any additional hazards you may face in your location such as earthquakes or floods. There may also be hazards you are not immediately aware of that could effect your insurance cost such as your neighborhood crime rate or if you own a Flood damage is not covered by homeowner insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program is a partnership between FEMA and isnurance companies that offers coverage. Click here for more.pet that is considered to be a high liability risk (i.e. certain breeds of dogs). Depending on the probability of need, you may be required to get additional coverage for these hazards by your insurance carrier and/or mortgage lender. To find out about special hazards in your area, talk with your insurance provider or contact your state insurance commissioner. If you run a home business, you will need to get separate insurance to cover business items such as computers and liability, i.e. if you run a daycare, your standard homeowners will not cover any accidents. Other items that are not covered by your homeowners insurance but may be covered by additional or alternate policies are: tenants, multiple family dwellings, land, theft by those covered in your insurance policy (i.e. recently separated spouses), and cars. Take a look at your policy and review your coverage. Consider how you use your home or where your home is located. Do you need additional or special coverage? This is a question you should review every year.

When choosing a policy, it is important that you consider the replacement cost of your home. The replacement cost is the amount it would take to replace your home. Replacement cost is not the same as the market value of your home as the market value includes the property it stands on and the current housing market. Because of this, it may not be equal to your outstanding mortgage. You can get estimates for replacement cost from appraisers, your local builder/craftsmen association or your insurance agent. Once you have determined how much your home replacement cost should be, you should review it and make any needed adjustments every Condos usually have a Master Policy that covers liability and property for common grounds. Individual policies then supplement personal property, liability and immediate structure.year. Most insurance companies will include an increase of coverage every year to match inflation. However, other items may also require you to adjust your replacement cost. Major remodels to your kitchen or bathroom or room additions can drastically effect the replacement cost of your home. If you use special materials or there is a housing boom making building materials scarce in your area, these too may affect your replacement cost. Another item that may effect your replacement cost is the change in building codes since when the house was built. Even with partial damage, it may be necessary to take the whole area/structure down to bring it up to code. If you own an older home, you should definitely discuss this with your agent. You may also get an extended replacement policy that will help you if your replacement coverage is below what you need. However, it is more economical if you take the time to review your policy and change your replacement cost coverage each year. Finally, keep in mind your policy should also include coverage for living expenses while the home is rebuilt or repaired. With the structure insured for major repairs, you can now consider your possessions.

Determining the personal property value depends on how much time the homeowner wants to invest in itemizing their property. Traditionally, most homeowners are covered at 50% of their home's value to cover personal property. Some pay a bit extra and get 75% of the homes value. Replacement costs like this cover like items, not necessarily the same make and model. You can also make an itemized actual cash value list that will cover items' actual cost minus depreciation. Many opt for percentage replacement coverage and then add a "floater" that will cover individual inventoried items. Major items should be inventoried with make, model, original cost, and documentation by picture or video. Items like jewelry and antiques should also have an appraisal. The documentation of these items should be kept in a secure location like a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe. Even if you opt for the general 50% coverage, you should have a list of your most valued possessions in case theft as this may help in tracking the items down (see more in our Home Security article).

Liability coverage protects you, your family, house guests and pets if they should accidentally hurt someone on your property or hurt someone or damage property elsewhere. On average, liability insurance usually covers up to $100,000 per incident. However, with lawyer and medical costs high these days, many homeowners also add an umbrella which allows for greater coverage at reasonable rates. Although most think of medical coverage as part of their liability coverage, it is actually categorized separate from liability because it pays for minor injuries that do not need to prove fault or negligence to be covered. An example would be someone twisting their ankle at your home. Liability is an important coverage that you will want to discuss with your agent.

Finally, there are a few things you may do to ease the cost of homeowners insurance. One way to lower your overall insurance cost is if you know you can take a higher deductible. If you can pay $500-1000 instead of $300 for each instance, this will lower your premium. Some decide to do this as the probability is that they will not claim or use the insurance very often. In addition to this, you may also pay your premium in larger and fewer payments. Another method to lower costs is to itemize your insurance to only the hazards you think most probable to happen. However, this option may not be available if you still owe a mortgage as the mortgage company may want more inclusive coverage. Also, you may check and see if there are any improvements you make to the home that may reduce your premium. Installing a home security system for example. Finally, combining policies with one carrier will also help you get lower premiums. If you combine your home, auto and life insurance policies, many companies will give you a preferred rate. Talk with your agent for further ways you may able to save money but maintain sound coverage on your home.

Conclusion
     There are a lot of options for your homeowner's insurance policy.  When setting up a policy, shop around and talk to different insurance companies to find one that works well with you.  Find out if they have a good reputation with the state insurance commissioner and consumer reports.  Find one that is fast, offers great service and handles claims fairly (you don't want to end up with a company that argues every claim).  Hopefully this overview has helped equip you with a better idea of the coverage you may need for your home.  You should have a better idea what to look for in a policy when you contact an agent to set up your homeowner's insurance.

More Resources

Household Checklist

There are a number of checklists available online; many are available from individual insurance providers. We found the following booklet from the University of Illinois to be the most comprehensive. www.ag.uiuc.edu/%7Evista/abstracts/ahouseinv.html

Household Papers/Records:
Taken from our earlier article about Home Security, here again is a checklist of important papers you should safeguard and how long you should keep them:
- Keep in Safe Deposit Box/Fireproof Safe: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce legal papers, adoption papers, citizenship records, and other documents that are government or court related. A copy of a will, although your attorney will keep the original. Investment and business papers, government bonds, deeds, titles and copyrights to name a few more. General rule is, "Put it in if you can't replace it or if it would be costly or troublesome to replace."
- Taxes: IRS can audit up to 6 years back. However, you can get rid of pay stubs if you have your W2. Cancelled checks you will want to keep if they are related to anything you claimed on your tax return.
- Medical Bills: Keep at least 3 years.
- Household Inventory: You should have a comprehensive list for each room and what of importance is in there. This will help you claim losses in event of burglary or fire. The details of this list should be shared with your insurance carrier to make sure of coverage. It is recommended that you review this list once every 6 months.
- Deposit, ATM, Credit Card and Debit Card Receipts: Save them until the transaction appears on your statement and you've verified that the information is accurate. Then they may be shredded.
- Credit Card Statements: If there are not purchases related to taxes you may shred them once every year. However, if you have larger purchases on the card you may want to keep hold of these older statements. Special Note: Credit Card Agreements should be kept as long as the card is active!
- Loan Agreements: Keep as long as the loan is active.
- Documentation of Stocks, Bonds nd Other Investments: Keep while you own the investment and then 7 years after that.

Useful Links

National Association of Insurance Commissioners
www.naic.org FEMA: Homeowners and Renters www.fema.gov/individual/home.shtm

Unmarried Couples Your Property Rights

Moving in Together or Splitting Up

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Unmarried Couples
Your Property Rights: Moving in Together or Splitting Up

Recent nationwide surveys show many couples are deciding to live together before marriage or live together with no intention of marrying at all. For these couples, buying a home is not necessarily more difficult but it does come with additional challenges and items to consider before signing the dotted line.

Unmarried couples will find they have the common options of Tenants in Common or Joint Tenancy contracts when they purchase property. In some states one of these options will be considered automatically for them so they should be aware of what type of contract they are signing in advance.

Tenants in Common:

  • Contract between two or more people to own property together. There is no limit to the number of owners. This type of ownership is common for unmarried couples, groups investing in larger property and those interested in buying property in expensive markets they could not otherwise afford on their own.
  • Tenants in Common can sell their share of the home at any time. If no additional contract is made, they may do this without forewarning other owners.
  • Shares of the Tenants in Common does not need to be equal. Percentages can be assign based off contribution amounts. Sally A. may own 50%, Tony B. 25% and Mary C. 25%.
  • To terminate a Tenants in Common contract one owner may buy out the other(s) or all parties can agree to sell the property and split the profits according to percentage(s) owned.
  • If one owner passes away, then it is whomever they specified in their last will and testament who inherits that share.

Joint Tenancy:

  • Most of the above conditions also apply to joint tenancy. However, a joint tenancy offers a right of survivorship. If one of the owners passes away, the other(s) automatically get ownership without the necessity of a last will and testament.

It is important to realize the above contracts cover the basic property rights for a mortgaged/purchased home or property. The above do not protect individual property (i.e. furniture), discrepancies in contributions to home improvements, or other expenses of owning a home. Therefore, it is imperative that unmarried couples write up a contract that address these issues. Almost like a pre-nuptial agreement (and often perceived as unromantic as one) a contract of terms will protect both parties in case paths do part.

Items to consider in a contractual agreement:

  • If you have a Tenants in Common agreement, make certain all parties do have a last will and testament to clear any possible confusion of ownership in case of death.
  • Include terms for terminating the joint ownership. -Specify if the other party should be given a required number of days notice of the sale and an option to buyout before one of the owners sells their half. -Set limits on the amount of the time allotted for the buyout. A fair time should be offered with a consideration of time constraints created by working through the banking process. -If the property will be sold, make sure to include the percentages of the property owned so each party gets their share.
  • Detail how expenses will be kept on equal terms. Will the mortgage be split? Will one pay the mortgage and the other all the household utilities and joint bills? Again, if the contribution is not equal the difference should be recorded.
  • It may be too cumbersome and unrealistic to include personal property items such as furniture in this contract. Instead you may want to make a separate record. List items that each individual brings into the household. If furniture is later purchased together, many unmarried couples will find it beneficial to keep track of contributions. Because their separation will not be treated as a divorce, disputes over items like these will be harder to resolve without some record.
  • Do not include chore items such as who does the dishes. This can make your contract frivolous and tossed out in a court of law. However, some counselors do suggest making chore lists for all couples (married or not) to help cope with the pressures and expectations of our fast passed lives and homes.

If the unthinkable does happen and you do separate, make sure to give yourself time to cope and process. Even without a marriage it is a major life change. With or without contracts it is important to work together until you can sell or buyout the house if at all possible.

Some coping strategies:

  • Accept and expect mood swings
  • Don't expect to be able to concentrate and work at 100% for a while
  • Don't expect to understand why you separated right away - this takes time and reflection
  • Don't become a hermit - instead use this as a launching pad to rediscover your interests and hobbies
  • Prioritize your needs

Spooky Vacations

Haunted Hotels, Inns, Castles and more!

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Today thrill seekers can go skydiving, cliff jumping, white water rafting or paragliding, just to name a few. Looking for a little adventure in your blood but it's too wet outside to play? Why not snuggle indoors and thrill your imagination with a haunted vacation? Many hotels, inns, and even castles offer spooky weekend getaways. Perhaps a friendly ghost will fold your clothes and lay them out on the bed; a mischievous one might turn on the lights and radio at 2AM; or perhaps one with a chip on his shoulder might give you a little bump to remind you he's there. You might find it a good laugh or a little fun to shake up the winter humdrums. Below we have compiled a short list of some haunted places to stay. We have tried to collect from across the US and added in a few international destinations just in case you want a ghost with an accent! Enjoy and have some fun! International Haunts: Ireland: Ross Castle | United Kingdom - England: The Feathers Hotel Wales: Ruthin Castle **Many haunted houses seem to get their start from murder or untimely death. Although we have not gone into graphic details here, please note that if you follow any of the links to the right, some of these sites do go into much more (sometimes gruesome) detail! 17-Hundred-90 Restaurant & Inn - Savannah, GA The History: This inn was actually built in 1820, not 1790. First a boarding house and later an inn, this home has had many owners and guests. One of these guests was Anne Powell. The legend says she was unhappily married at 16 years of age to an Englishman. She fell in love with a German sailor who left her "in the family way." She watched his boat sail away and then committed suicide by jumping from the window, landing on the brick pavement below. The Haunting: Anne Powell is the most famous ghost, believed to haunt guest room 204 from where it is said she jumped to her death. She doesn't seem to be a menacing spirit: she sits beside the fire, lays out guests' clothes on the bed or plays pranks on guests waking them up in wee hours of the morning by setting off the radio alarm. Another ghost in the basement kitchen and restaurant doesn't like women very much and likes to shove them around. But this ghost is countered by the ghost of a merchant marine who will help the staff turn the lights off at closing. How to see it: Savannah ghost tours stop here for a drink but you can go to the restaurant yourself and have a bite to eat. Or if you really dare, spend the night instead - ask for room 204! Brumder Mansion - Milwaukee, WI The History: George Brumder had the home built in 1910 for his son, George Jr. After they sold the home, the house was everything from a boarding house to an activity center for a Lutheran church. They used the home for office space, a theater, and later opened a coffee house with a live music venue. The current owners purchased the home in 1997 and opened the renovated space as a B&B in 1998. The Haunting: The Gold Room was once the room for one of the Brumder daughters who never married after being spurned in love early in life. She is said to still stay in the room, in fact she was quite appalled and upset when the current owner spent the night in this room with her dogs - no dogs allowed! Your dreams will be haunted if any dogs sleep on the bed! How to see it: It's a Bed & Breakfast, so take the plunge and spend the night - request the Gold Suite! You can even join a ghost hunting seminar or enjoy a haunted history dinner! For more information, click here. The Carolina Inn - Chapel Hill, NC The History: Owned by UNC, this inn was built by a UNC graduate in 1924. Throughout its history it has been used by the campus to host conferences, guests and alumni. Today the proceeds from the inn are given to the university library. The Haunting: Professor William Jacocks likes to haunt room 252. Although guests do claim to have encounters with the professor, the hotel staff say he has never frightened anyone to the point of packing their bags and running. Instead he is a friendly ghost who plays pranks such as holding the doorknobs so rooms won't open, rustling papers, and making the occasional noise. Some claim there are additional ghosts walking the halls and looming over their shoulder, but always more curious than menacing. How to see it: You can spend the night in this historic hotel Crescent Hotel - Eureka Springs, AR The History: Founded in 1886, the Crescent Hotel started its career as a sleek and elegant hideaway for the Victorian wealthy. However, not able to stay afloat the hotel closed. It was reopened in 1908 as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. But this school closed in 1924. In 1937 it was opened as a hospital and health resort. Norman Baker claimed to have a cure for cancer but was met with scrutiny as it came to light that he had no medical education. He was later imprisoned on mail fraud. It wasn't until 1946 that efforts were made to reestablish the hotel. The Haunting: Perhaps the fresh spring water under the hotel attracts spirits thirsting for a little human interaction. This hotel has many different haunted areas from guest rooms, to the lobby, to the grounds. Guests have seen a women in the hall, a tall man knocking on the doors, and former cancer patients and nurses to name a few. A long list of guest experiences can be found at the hotel's ghost website. How to see it: The hotel offers history tours for groups of 10 or more. Ghost tours are available by Eureka Springs Ghost Tours. Driskill Hotel - Austin, TX The History: Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened this hotel in 1886. The hotel was grand and luxurious, funded by his success as a cattle baron. In 1888, the family lost its fortune due to drought and a cold winter that killed most of the cattle. The hotel then changed from owner to owner with the most recent change of hands in 1995. The Haunting: Driskill is claimed to still wander the hotel, puffing cigar smoke while he turns lights on and off. There is the ghost of a small girl, daughter of a Senator who was left unattended and fell to her death while playing with her ball - she can still be heard bouncing the ball today. How to see it: The hotel is open to guest today and offers all kinds of pampering. The Feathers Hotel - Ludlow, Shropshire, UK The History: The original building was built in 1619 and has been added to and modified since. First a private residence, it was changed to an Inn in 1670 after the English Civil War and would remain one for the next 200 years! In 1863 it changed to a hotel and started to acquire more land and expand. Why feathers? There are faded motifs of ostrich feathers on the outer woodwork still visible. They were a symbol of the Prince of Wales and "en vogue" at the time of construction. Not to mention the town of Ludlow was royalist even during the English Civil War. The Haunting: There is a female "guest" in room 211 who is known to bother women rather then men in the room, pulling their hair and letting them know they are not welcome. There are a couple gentlemen ghosts roaming about including one who is accompanied by his ghost dog! How to see it: You can join on a ghost hunting adventure either with Eerie Evenings or Haunted Breaks. Or you may opt to spend the night and enjoy the historic surroundings. Heceta House - Yachats, OR The History: This house accompanies a lighthouse on the Oregon coast built in 1894. Many families occupied the house complex over time which included a post office, school and the light house. But it is only the keeper's house that has tales of hauntings. Many believe this is the mother of child who fell off the cliffs back at the turn of the century. The Haunting: The ghost named Rue is said to be an extra caretaker of the house. She makes it known if she is displeased with any activity in the house. One of the more humorous accounts was of her screaming in the middle of a card game, she didn't want them playing cards in her house! How to see it: This house is now a bed and breakfast. It also has guided tours from its interpretive center. Although the current owners don't play up and advertise the ghost they have said guests have told them of strange encounters. Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego, CA The History: Babcock and Story built this resort to be the "talk of the Western world" in 1888. Since then it has been visited by presidents, foreign dignitaries, celebrities and heroes like Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Edison. The hotel was famous as a backdrop for "Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The Haunting: According to the hotel website, the tales of ghosts started with the untimely death of Kate Morgan. She was a guest in November 1892 that never left. She came to meet her estranged husband but he never showed. Kate was then found dead on the hotel steps leading to the ocean. She had died of a gunshot wound to the head that was officially deemed a suicide but is speculated to this day by some to be a case of murder. She likes to slam doors and randomly turn on the TV. Some have also seen indentation in the sheets as if someone was sleeping there. There are other ghosts in the hotel as well that love to flicker the lights, provide cold spots and make some random noises. How to see it: Of course you can stay at this stunning resort and enjoy the spa, golf course, pool or take some surfing lessons. To find out more click here (Kate's room was 312, then renumbered to 3312 and now to 3327 - check with staff to verify your request). Hotel El Convento - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico The History: This former Carmelite convent named The Monastery of Our Lady Carmne of San Jose was founded in 1651. The nuns left this convent in 1903 and site fell into ruin until 1962 when Robert Woolworth purchased it to make it into a resort. The Haunting: Dona Ana was a noblewoman who lost her husband in the war with the Dutch and then turned to her faith. She donated the land for the Carmelite convent. It is said her spirit and those of nuns can be seen about the grounds and gliding through the halls. How to see it: For information about how to enjoy a luxurious stay with these faithful spirits Jerome Grand Hotel - Jerome, AZ The History: Built in 1926, this building was originally the United Verde Hospital. The hospital was built to be fireproof and withstand blasts from the dynamite mining nearby. One of the best hospitals in the west, it unfortunately was phased out when the mining in the area began to slow down and closed by 1950. The building stood empty until 1994; it had been a time capsule having been unchanged for 44 years. It is now being restored as a hotel with many of the rooms already completed and open for guests. The Haunting: Being a hospital, there were many patients that perished in its walls. However, there were deaths of two orderlies that many believed to have been murder. There is also one recorded suicide. When the building lay dormant for 44 years, locals claimed they would still see lights burning in the vacant building. Since being reopen, more paranormal activity has been noticed. The most common is for guests to feel temperature drops and hear coughing or labored breathing in empty rooms or corners of their own guestroom. One ghost is said to be a woman who died in childbirth. She is upset that her child was buried in an unmarked grave and prowls the ground looking for the babe. How to see it: You may stay in the hotel today. Room rates begin at $110 and go up from there. Being the highest point in the Verde Valley, it offers some great views. And if you're lucky, maybe a glance at a ghost or two! Kehoe House - Savannah, GA The History: This home was built in 1892 for William Kehoe and his family. The large family (they had 10 children!) kept the home until 1930. After that the home became a boarding house, funeral parlor, and a private residence. In 1992 the home opened as a B&B, it changed ownership in 2003, but remains an inn with a B&B atmosphere. The Haunting: The main tragedy of the house (that we know of) was the death of the Kehoe twins who died when playing around the chimney. Children can be heard running the halls and some guests have even had children check in on them in their rooms. But if you don't see the children, their mother Annie is reputed to still wander the rooms, making sure to tuck in all the guests at night! How to see it: Why not spend the night? Ask for rooms 201 or 203. Kewaunee Inn - Kewaunee, WI The History: Built in 1912 by William Karsten this inn is still commonly known as the Hotel Karsten. Father and son managed this hotel until William Karsten Jr.'s death in 1964. The hotel then changed hands and received various facelifts. The most recent owners renamed the hotel to the Kewaunee Inn at Hamachek Village in May 2008. The Haunting: The ghosts at the Kewaunee Inn didn't start to bug the living until after renovations started in 1966. The inn website mentions the triad of ghosts include William Karsten Sr, Billy Karsten III (who died at 5 years of age shortly after his grandfather), and Agatha the housekeeper. Agatha seems to be the most active, floating about the halls and popping up behind you when you look in the mirror! She doesn't seem to like men much - so any male guests be on your guard! William likes to have a drink at the bar now and then and Billy still runs up and down the hall playing. How to see it: Brave enough to spend the night? Lemp Mansion - St. Louis, MO The History: This house was purchased by William Lemp around 1864 to use as a residence and office for the family brewery. William's father had used a family recipe/method to create a lager beer. This beer quickly became popular and William's father abandoned his grocery store to become a full time brewer. The beer continued to be made by the family until 1922 when family mishap and prohibition forced them to shut down and sell for good. The mansion itself has a sorrowful history with one brother dying under mysterious circumstances and three other men of the family committing suicide inside. The Haunting: With three suicides one can easily guess where the idea of ghosts haunting the mansion started. However, the families odd history also adds fuel to the imagination. There is the rumor that William Lemp had an illegitimate son with down syndrome who was kept hidden in the mansion attic his whole life. He is now said to be seen haunting the mansion and has the nickname "Monkey Face Boy." Tales of haunting first started after 1949 when the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Strange knocking and footsteps throughout the mansion scared the tenants away so the house started to run into disrepair. In 1975, the mansion was saved and renovated and turned into a restaurant and inn. All types of sights and sounds have continued and are still reported today. How to see it: Spend the night! Or take a tour if you're too scared... The mansion is a bed and breakfast that offers tours and a restaurant to those who don't want to spend the night. They also host a Halloween Party and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Lizzy Borden House - Fall River, MA The History: As with so many haunted homes, this story begins with a murder. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered by ax in their home. Their eldest daughter, Lizzy, was tried and latter acquitted of the murders. However, she was ostracized from the community for the rest of her life. Some consider that she had a split personality, even those close to her recall erratic and violent behavior. And of course there was the creation of the rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an ax Gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done Gave her father forty-one! The Haunting: There is a strange woman who tucks guests into bed and perhaps the same woman can be heard weeping in the night. Objects move on their own and electrical equipment such as lights and cameras have some interference. Many claim the most active room is Lizzy's old bedroom - which you can stay in if you want... How to see it: The home is now a bed and breakfast. You may spend the night, take a tour or even spend a weekend at Ghost Hunter University! Magnolia Mansion - New Orleans, LA The History: This home was built in 1857 by Alexander Harris. After Alexander died of yellow fever his widow remarried and sold the home to the Maginnis family. John Maginnis owned a cotton mill and it was rumored he was struck by lightning because of the cruel way he treated his employees. In 1939, John's daughter inherited the home and willed it to the Red Cross. The Red Cross used the home to train nurses for WWII and the Korean War. In 1954 the home was again sold into private ownership. Magnolia Mansion was renovated in 2001 and opened as a B&B in 2002. The Haunting: When renovating the home, the crew had to stop as an oily substance appeared over the walls. The owner then verbalized her plans for the place out loud so the ghosts would know exactly what she was up to. She told them she was improving the home and the ghosts would not be able to scare the guests away. This appeased them for awhile. However, ghosts are still reputed to slam doors and snuggle into bed with guests on occasion. Many guests have photos of orbs and a few extra faces from their visits as well. How to see it: This adult catering B&B offers a great escape to any non-smoker over 21 years of age. Specializing in romance with Elopement and Wedding packages, the B&B also has fun with their ghosts offering a Romantic Ghostly Getaway Package which includes a room, treats and ghost walking tours. Mason House Inn - Bentonsport, IA The History: This hotel was built in 1846 for steamboat travelers along the Des Moines River. Later, the Mason House was used as a 'holding hospital' during the Civil War for soldiers being transferred to Keokuk. It also served as a 'station' along the underground railroad. The Mason House keeps its name from the Mason family who owned the property for 99 years. The Haunting: Three of the owners have died in the building and there was also one murder in one of the guest rooms. In 1860 poor Mr. Knapp had been drinking and accidentally went to the wrong room. The occupant thought he was being robbed and stabbed Mr. Knapp in self-defense. The home had also been a 'holding hospital' in the Civil War and some patients may have died in the home. Also a Doctor renting a room in the 1940s died in the building. All in all, a great hangout for ghosts. The ghosts come in many forms. There are wisps of fog and cold spots to actual figures who appear and disappear from sight. There is a boy that plays tricks; he likes to rustle sheets and tug at guests as they sleep. There are footsteps, thuds and a woman in white. An abundance of ghosts and paranormal events for all! How to see it: Today you may stay at this B&B for about $80/night ($125 if you are staying in the restored caboose!). Request to stay in the main house on the 2nd floor (rooms 5 & 7) for the best chance of paranormal dreams! Ghost Hunting 101 and 102 classes are also available about twice a year and a Halloween Ghost Walk around Oct 31st. McCune Mansion - Salt Lake City, UT The History: This mansion was built in 1900 by a railroad tycoon named Alfred W. McCune. After leaving for California in 1920, the McCune's donated the mansion to the Latter-Day Saint Church. It was then turned into the McCune School of Music. It later became a Brigham Young University Salk Lake City Center and Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School. In 1999 it was purchased by Phil McCarthy who worked to restore the mansion and open it as a hotel. The Haunting: Music is said to still haunt the McCune halls. A small room under the stairs was used by the McCune's as a stage for hired musicians. The whole house would be filled with music but their guests did not know from where it came. It is said this music still fills the air. Other happenings include doors locking that are not fit with locks, doors opening on their own and lights going on and off on their own. How to see it: You can schedule a tour of the mansion through the Utah Heritage Foundation. Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, LA The History: This home was built by David Bradford in 1794 but stories of hauntings did not start until the 1950's. The house had a long history with many different owners. There is only one recorded murder of William Winter in 1871. However, there are many tales that are told about the home to justify the hauntings. Most of these seem to be fabricated tales, but many say that is just because the house is so haunted, people needed to make up some kind of explanation. The Haunting: Among the haunting activity is the ghost of a woman in a green turban who some believe to be the ghost of a slave killed for poisoning the head mistress and her two daughters. Others claim this ghost is not a young slave but an older, unknown woman. There is also a little girl who has appeared as well as a frustrated piano player who continuously practices the same cord over and over on the old piano. How to see it: You can dine in the restaurant, take a tour or spend the night. The choice is up to you. The Queen Mary - Long Beach, CA The History: Her maiden voyage was May 27, 1936 but with the coming of WWII she was refitted and used as a troop ship housing 5500 souls by May 5, 1940. By the end of the war it was used to transport as many as 12,886 war brides and children from Europe to the U.S. and Canada on six voyages in four months. More war bride voyages would follow. It became a cruise ship in 1963. By 1967 it was purchased for Long Beach, CA to act as restaurant and museum with the first hotel rooms opening in 1972. The Haunting: The first class swimming pool has some of the most recorded ghost sightings and noises. Many women dressed in 1930 swimsuits have been sighted. But the spirits like to wander and have been seen in many parts of the ship - especially the engine room where two men were crushed to death by the heavy "Door 13". Those who take the self-guided walking tour of the ship have been spooked more than once! How to see it: Brave enough? Click here to find out how to spend the night or click here to take a tour with Ghost and Legends of the Queen Mary group. The tour is technically enhanced to make certain you get a few jumps and spooks. The hotel also hosts a 'Terrorfest' of haunted mazes on Halloween. Ross Castle - Ross, County Meath, Ireland The History: This area shows record of settlement since the Iron Age. The castle tower was completed in 1537 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin. A family loyal to the English crown for their title and rank hoped to received the extra boon of £10 given as encouragement for each fortification built in Ireland. In time the Nugents began to marry the once rival Celtic nobles especially the O'Reillys. In 1644 the castle was pulverized by Cromwellian soldiers in retribution for Myles O'Reilly's defiance. Restoration was begun by the family in the 19th century and the castle was later modernized with plumbing and electricity. The Haunting: The castle's founder, Richard Nugent was also known as the Black Baron and, you guessed it, he had a reputation for being quite unpleasant. The Black Baron had a beautiful daughter named Sabina who had the unfortunate luck to fall in love with Orwin O'Reilly (at this time still an enemy). Moved by love to give up their home, family and wealth, they decided to elope. However, as they made their escape by boat a storm came up and it capsized. Orwin died but Sabina lived. Crushed with heartache, she pinned away in Ross Castle tower until she finally gave up the ghost which in turn walks the halls to this day. She is said to sometimes be heard screaming! The Black Baron is also rumored to haunt the grounds and can be quite unpleasant. How to see it: Besides ghost hunting, you can go fishing, golfing, horseback riding, sailing, boating, hiking, cycling, go see the races or even take flying lessons! Plenty to do and see in a romantic setting. Ruthin Castle - Ruthin, North Wales, UK The History: Legend has it that the original castle was a wooden fort lorded by Huail. He fought King Arthur and wounded him in the knee. A truce was called but Huail later mocked King Arthur and was beheaded. The first stone structure was put up by King Edward I in 1277 and the castle was owned by the crown off and on until sold by Charles I in 1632. The modern stone structure was built in 1826. However some of the older walls, dungeons and tunnels are still standing today. The Haunting: This castle comes with its own Grey Lady, dating back to the time of Edward I, this ghost was sentenced to death for killing the lover of her husband. Soldiers are said to still march around the grounds and prisoners long dead are still heard moaning in agony. How to see it: If you don't find ghost hunting or random spooks exciting enough, this castle offers other entertainment including medieval banquets (one even with a murder mystery theme!), golf, and romantic getaway packages. The Sagamore - Bolton Landing, NY The History: This hotel was originally built in 1883 to provide a getaway on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. This historic building suffered two fires but was reconstructed in 1930. The resort was meant to be a retreat for the wealthy and is still neighbored by palatial mansions across the lake. The Haunting: This hotel has many ghosts including one of a little boy on the golf course! This boy chased balls and sold them when alive. He died in a tragic accident when he was hit by a car running after a ball. Now his shadowy form can be seen running after golf balls on the course. He likes to steal balls and laugh at golfers as they look for them. When they give up he tosses the ball at them, again, laughing. Other ghosts include the guest who come down from the second floor for dinner every night and wait patiently in the reception area before they literally vanish. Then there is the portly cigar smoker in the elevator who may not appreciate the non-smoking policy these days. How to see it: You can stay in the hotel, vacation lodges or a castle (if you have the cash!). Themed getaways are available including the Murder Mystery Weekend Oct 17-19, 2008 The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO The History: Six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, this hotel has famous views and offers a serene escape. F.O. Stanley created this hotel after moving to the west when forced to by poor health. Besides the hotel he helped to create the sewer, power and water supply for the area. A recent claim to fame is that a stay in this hotel inspired Stephen King's The Shining. The Haunting: Both F.O. and his wife Flora haunt the hotel. They are amicable ghosts that enjoy hanging about the rooms they loved so much such as the Billiard room and Ballroom. Rooms 407 and 418 have reputed activity of lights going on and off, noises and of course rascally kids playing in the nearby hallway. One story relates some guests checked out early as the kids playing in the hall kept them up all night. When the hotel staff looked at the register there were not any kids as guests (at least not any live ones!). How to see it: Not only can you spend the night but you can sign up for a Historic Ghost Tour that tells you all the history that has created a haunted playground. The hotel has fun with the reputation and is hosting 'The Shining Ball' this year on Oct 25 and 31, 2008! The Stone Lion Inn - Guthrie, OK The History: F.E. Houghton built this mansion in 1907. It served most of its years as a residence and later was turned into a funeral home. The only person to die in the home seems to be a young girl who died of whooping cough after receiving the wrong medicine. The Haunting: After turning this mansion into an inn, the new owners woke up at night to the sounds of footsteps and doors opening and closing. They called the police but no intruder was found. Soon after they realized they had their first "guest" who may be a small girl as she likes to take out the toys at night to play. The Story Inn - Nashville, IN The History: This historic inn is located at the boarders of Brown County State Park and Hoosier National Forest. This inn and its collection of buildings is actually what remains of the town of Story that was established in 1851, set up as a lodging community. The Haunting: The Story Inn is haunted by a lady in blue who floats about the second floor of the general store that has been turned into guestrooms. There has also been activity in the restaurant below. A guestbook details the experiences of the spooked over the years. How to see it: Snuggle in for the night. If you don't want a ghost watching over you there are other cabins available in this small community. Thornewood Castle - Lakewood, WA The History: Thornewood Castle was built for Chester Thorne, a successful founder of the Port of Tacoma. This Tudor/Gothic estate was completed in 1911. Inspired by the estates in Britain, the stained glass windows were even imported from a castle in Europe. The castle has many different imports that add to structure and contents of the building. One of the more interesting aspects is the "wishbone sticks" left by the Native American workers who helped in the construction. These sticks help to ward off evil and are found at the foundation in the basement. The Haunting: There are multiple photographs taken of orbs throughout the castle and reports of objects moving on their own. Tape recorders have picked up voices, one of an unknown child. One child did drown in the lake and is said to haunt its shore, perhaps they visit the house as well? Overall, the spirits at Thornwood seem to be a good natured sort. There is not a violent history attached to this home. Although the wife of Mr. Thorne is said to haunt the halls, this is more because she likes the place rather than she is out to get anyone. In fact, some believe Thornwood Castle acts as a vortex and can attract ghosts from the other side. Some guests have reported making contact with loved ones from their lives who have no connection with the castle. How to see it: You may stay in the castle as it is now a B&B. There are Candle Light Tours: for $100 and the cost of a room you can spend the night exploring the haunted halls with a small group of ghost hunters.

Fogging of insulated windows.

Our home inspector reported that three windows in our 9 year old house had fogging insulated panes, and he suggested that we contact the builder or manufacturer for warranty information.

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Q Our home inspector reported that three windows in our 9 year old house had fogging insulated panes, and he suggested that we contact the builder or manufacturer for warranty information. We contacted the manufacturer who sent a man out, but he said that only two of the windows were fogged. When we called the inspector, he said that insulated windows will fog only under certain conditions, and that we look at the windows at the same time of day that they were inspected. Is our inspector a bit foggy in the head?

A It has been my experience that insulated window panes, when the seal is broken, will fog only under certain conditions. The two pieces of glass in a double-pane window have an inert gas between them which is held in place by a seal. This thin space of gas is what allows the windows to slow down the transmission of heat or cold. When this seal is compromised, ordinary air is allowed to enter, and moisture may condense on the inside surfaces of the glass. These types of windows are most likely to fog on a winter morning a short time after the sun hits them. The outside of the window has been cold overnight, and the inside has been warm. When the sun hits the cold outer glass, moisture condenses and the foggy appearance occurs. A few hours later, as the temperatures stabilize, the fog may disappear altogether. In this case, the inspector was correct to suggest that the windows be inspected under the same conditions. In the case of your 9 year old house, your windows may still be under warranty. The earlier versions of insulated windows were somewhat prone to failure, but technology has steadily improved, and today’s windows are much more reliable. Warranties have gotten much better as well, so it you have foggy windows, check with the manufacturer to see if you can have them replaced under warranty.

Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 8

We will conclude this series with tips for the fall.

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Every Fall

SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS:

  • Change batteries and check to make sure they are operating properly.
  • Also consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t have any.

CLEAN CARPETING, UPHOLSTERY, DRAPERIES AND AIR DUCTS:  

  • Have your carpets, upholstery and draperies cleaned regularly, once every 12 to 18 months, to remove the dirt and grit that can wear them out prematurely.
  • Consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if family members suffer excessively from respiratory infections, asthma or allergies; if there is visible mold growth inside ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system, the ducts are infested with insects or rodents. Excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

DRAIN-WASTE AND VENT SYSTEM:

Flush out system. HEATING:

Forced Warm Air Heating System

Before turning on your unit, make sure nothing flammable has been stored next to the furnace over the summer. Also, change the filters regularly. Be sure all access panels are secure, with all the screws in place. Be sure the thermostat is set in the heating mode. Run your heater for a few minutes to burn off the dust that usually collects on the heat exchanger over the summer (don’t worry, that smell is normal) and to make sure it is in working order before you need it. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments. Consider hiring a pro to perform a furnace maintenance check-up, including these steps:

1. Inspect thermostat for proper operation.
2. Inspect filter and change or clean as needed.
3. Check all electrical components and controls.
4. Oil motors as needed.
5. Inspect heat exchanger for possible cracks, which would introduce carbon monoxide into the living space.
6. Check airflow. If diminished, it may be necessary to clean the evaporator coil and ductwork.
7. Check air fuel mixture, where appropriate.

Gas Burner 

  •  Clean burners and ports, or have them professionally cleaned.

Oil Burner 

  •  Have your oil burner professionally serviced; lubricate fan and motor bearings.

Thermostat

  •  Clean heat sensor, contact points, and contacts; check accuracy.

Heat Pump

· Schedule an annual service call to have a certified professional to inspect the wiring, check belts and replace if needed, and oil the moving parts. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments.

Hot Water Heating System

  •  For steam heating, check shutoff valve for leaks and drain lower water cut-off per manufacturers’ instructions. Lubricate pump and motor; bleed air from radiators or convectors.
  •  Oil-fired Boilers
  • Hire a professional for annual maintenance including flue cleaning, a fuel-filter change, cleaning and adjustment of the jets. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments.

DOORS AND WINDOW WEATHERSTRIPPING:

  • Check the weather-stripping around all doors and windows and replace it if necessary to reduce drafts. And the loss of heated air.
  •  Make sure the weather-stripping on the door between your garage and home is intact to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

FIREPLACE AND CHIMNEYS:

  •  The most important maintenance to do regularly is to have a pro clean your flue liners in order to prevent the build up of creosote.
  •  Have your wood burning fireplaces and stoves inspected annually and cleaned and repaired as required to prevent chimney fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and mortar and flashing failure.
  •  Water leaks can also cause your mortar to deteriorate prematurely.
  •  Consider installing a chimney cap to protect your chimney from water, debris and critters.

STORM WINDOWS AND DOORS:

  •  Inspect all windows and doors-replace any cracked or broken glass, tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint if necessary; replace broken, worn or missing hardware; tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers; check for broken or missing glazing.
  •  Consider installing a chimney cap to protect your chimney from water, debris and critters.

GARAGE DOORS:

  •  Clean and lubricate hinges, rollers, and tracks; tighten screws.
  •  If serious repair is required, consider replacing.

PEST CONTROL:

  •  Remember, insects and other critters would naturally prefer to come indoors out of the rain and cold, if possible, as winter sets in.
  •  Make sure all vents and other openings are covered and spray for insects along perimeter of house. ·

WATER HEATER:

  •  Every six months you should turn off the power source and drain it completely until it is clear of sediment.
  •  Also inspect flue assembly (gas heater); check for leaks and corrosion.

EXTERIOR CAULKING:

  •  Inspect caulking around exterior doors and windows, replace if necessary.

BASEMENT AND FOUNDATION:

  •  Check grading for proper slope away from foundation wall.
  •  Inspect for cracks and moisture repair if needed.

DECKS AND OTHER EXTERIOR WOOD:

  •  Inspect exterior wood for cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; treat and repair as needed.
  •  Keep decks clean, removing wet leaves and debris that can cause staining or encourage wood decay, mold and mildew growth.
  •  Having your deck professionally cleaned and sealed can add years to its life.
  •  Repair hinges and latches on your gates.

GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS:

  •   Clear/install/repair gutters and downspouts and make sure the runoff is directed away from your home so it can not erode the soil around the foundation or run into your basement or crawl space.
  •  Install gutter accessories to divert water, channel underground drain lines into existing yard drainage or storm sewers, or consider installing a dry well at the end of the drainpipe to slowly distribute the water to surrounding soil.

LANDSCAPING: 

  • Cut back any trees or shrubs that are touching the exterior. 
  •  Check with a local gardening service or your county extension agent for information about appropriate measures in your area for fertilizing, thatching, aerating and reseeding lawn and controlling disease and insects in all your landscaping

PIPES: 

  • Check your pipes for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting, replace if necessary. 
  • Check for leaking around the outside hose bibs.
  •  Install insulation around outdoor water pipes to protect from freezing.

ROOF: 

  • Check for warping, aging, moss, and cracking making sure that shingles, shakes or tiles are sound; repair or replace as needed.
  •  Inspect the flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents.
  •  Seal cracks or openings where water could penetrate. ·
  • If you see significant damage or wear, consider contacting a roofing specialist to give you a bid on a roof replacement. · Do NOT cover air vents or turbines.

SIDING: 

  • Inspect siding (especially on the south and storm sides of the house) for evidence of deterioration, including cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; clean, treat and repair as needed.

o Brick and stone: check joints between wood and masonry. Waterproof or repaint if necessary.
o Wood: look for lifting or peeling paint, splitting wood or areas where the wood grain is separating. This is evidence that water is getting into the siding.
o Stucco: a chalky residue that rubs off on your hand is evidence of oxidation, a deterioration of paint or color coat that reduces stuccos’ insulating value. If the stucco is cracked, this allows water to get in around windows and doors.
o Trim: look for peeling paint on the fascia boards, windowsills and sashes that could allow water in to form mildew and fungus on the interior of your home behind curtains, blinds and window coverings.

This concludes our 8 part series on Preventive Maintenance Tips. I hope that you have enjoyed this series and that these tips will make for a more enjoyable home. Join us next time on “Hiring A Contractor.” Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Historical Homes

How to protect historical property.

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Historical landmarks throughout the country provide all citizens with a physical, present experience of our history. Through these landmarks you can not only observe but in many cases feel the original work and walk the spaces of the past. Historical homes help us remember important persons as we can view intimately how they lived; we get to see the most sacred of spaces, their internal sanctum, their home. Where did they read at night for inspiration, where did they write that novel, where did they meet the important guests and characters in their lives? All of these things we can glimpse through seeing history preserved in rock and mortar. Historical homes also allow us to visualize and experience architecture, culture, events and community history. They help tell the story of how our town and communities came to be and developed. This brief article will summarize how one protects a historical home. This will include how to register the home with the state and federal government. Also, we will look at incentives and resources aiding the owners in the task of preserving these properties. Additional links to state resources, historical homes for sale, historical home supplies and construction and spotlights of a few famous historical homes are also included. Even if you do not own a historical home, we welcome you to take a look into how these bits of our history are protected, preserved and continue to participate in and educate our communities.

Part I: Listing a Property as Historical

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (amended in 1992) provides guidelines for federal, state and local governments to work with non-profit organizations and the public to preserve our historical places. The preservation is handled through the National Park Service which administers the National Register for Historic Places. Historical places can be buildings, structures, sites and objects that speak for American history, architecture/engineering, and culture. This can be as varied as a historic home to an archaeological site. A few places that are considered to represent the nation on a whole may also be registered in the National Historic Landmarks program; however, this membership is harder to obtain (there are only 2,500 of these sites nationally). Our concentration will be on the large listing (79,000 sites and growing) of the National Register. 
So how does one determine if a site is historical? The National Register lists the following reasons for registering and protecting historical property:

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:
A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
B. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

These four basic guidelines can encompass quite a bit of history. However, there are some limitations as well. Properties must be over 50 years old; to get a younger property registered an owner must prove "exceptional importance" such as might be recognized immediately for its reflection of an extraordinary political event or architectural innovation. Other limitations may include cemeteries, historical figures birthplaces and gravestones, religious structures, moved or reconstructed structures and commemorative structures. As with the 50 year rule there are exceptions for these limitations. In conclusion, if an individual or group feel a property meets the right criteria and should be registered they will need to nominate the property for review.

Any person or group may nominate properties for the National Register. Nominations, depending on the properties significance and location, are nominated through theState Historical Preservation Officer (SHPO), the Federal Preservation Officer (FPO)or the Tribal Preservation Officer (TPO). In most instances nominators will start with the SHPO for their state. The officer will then recommend the nominated property be reviewed by the state review board which consists of historians, architects, archaeologists and other professionals. The board then makes the recommendation to approve or disapprove the registration back to the SHPO. During the time the property is being reviewed, the public is notified the property may be registered. This may include the property owner, who may not have nominated the property themselves. If the owner at that time does not wish the property to be registered they can reject the proposal. The property will not appear on the national register, however, the nomination may be forwarded to the National Park Service only as a determination of eligibility in case a future owner would wish to have the property registered. Although the process varies from state to state, there is usually a minimum of 90 days to process. Once a recommendation is made to the National Park Service, the nominators will know the decision within 45 days. Once a property is registered the owner may expect some changes.

Owners of registered historical places may find both benefits and restrictions from state and federal programs. Surprisingly, on the federal level, once a home is registered owners may choose to change very little about their property:

Under Federal law, owners of private property listed in the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose provided that there is no Federal involvement. Owners have no obligation to open their properties to the public, to restore them or even to maintain them, if they choose not to do so.

However, state and local preservation laws may be more restrictive of what property owners may do once a the property is registered (the SHPO will have further details about the restrictions in your state). Some properties will obtain Federal historic preservation grant funding or investment tax credits for rehabilitation. Participation in these Federal programs may include more restrictions. As for changes to a structure or site, drastic alterations or physically moving a property when not absolutely necessary may effect the property's status. If, for example, the remodeling of the structure is enough to destroy and remove its historical significance, the property may be removed from the registry. Finally, a property may be affected by recommendation of the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation's recommendations at the federal level. However, inclusively, federal, state and local governments want to work with historical property owners to entice them to preserve our history. Property owners should contact the SHPO for more specific answers about local and federal benefits and restrictions.

Registering a home on the National Register for Historical Places is a relatively straight forward process. Contacting SHPO (or FPO or TPO) is the first step in reviewing what changes to expect and what forms need to be completed. With a little patience and research a home can be registered and protected as a part of our history. Now that it is registered, let us examine what resources are available for the renovation and upkeep of these places.

Part II: Resources for Historical Properties

The restoration of historical homes can be both overwhelming and expensive. Obtaining expert advise from contractors, architects, and historians (to name a few) can be invaluable to the homeowner. Research may be necessary to understand how the home looked, was furnished and functioned in the past. Also, it may be necessary to update older systems of plumbing, wiring, and replace lead-based paint (again, to name only a few). To begin the renovation process the home owner will first consider where the funding will come from, what projects need to be done, and finally, what the ultimate function of the historical home will be. There are many grants and sources of funds to help ease the impact of these improvement costs.

The funds available to owners of historical properties vary both nationally and locally. Nationally the most common is the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive which entitles those qualified a 20% tax break. However, to obtain the credit the property does have to be used commercially for at least 5 years; usually as a rental or an apartment, in some cases use as an office may be sufficient. Local grants, loans and state tax incentives are not always available. To find what locally based programs there are contact your local government agencies such as the Historic Development Commission, Department of Planning and Economic Development, Housing and Redevelopment, and State Historic Preservation Office. When they are available the funds may come with certain restrictions or requirements. For example, some funds are only available to non-profit organizations or a grant may be offered that requires owners to share property with the public through tours or other educational outreach programs. Finally, involving family and community in the restoration project can help tremendously. Receiving help from the community may again mean opening up your home to educational programs or tours. However, when owning a historical home, sharing the history is part of the fun! So you have some money in your pocket; now you must decide what you want to restore first.

There may be many renovations needed for your historical home ranging from wiring to lead-paint removal. So overwhelming are the renovations at times that there is the tendency to over renovate homes. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has this top ten of Do's and Don'ts:

  • Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose.
  • Do not destroy distinctive original features.
  • Recognize all buildings as products of their own time.
  • Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time.
  • Treat sensitively distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work.
  • Repair rather than replace worn architectural features when possible. When replacement is necessary, new material should match the old in design, composition, and color.
  • Clean facades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging methods.
  • Protect and preserve affected archeological resources.
  • Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure.

Once you have clarified the tasks that need to be done, hiring a contractor, plumber, architect or electrician (to name a few) will be an important step in the renovation of your historical home. Make sure to take time to interview and speak with several professionals to find one with the most experience and knowledge about historical homes. Again, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has compiled good short summaries about choosing professionals. When making any renovations to the historic home it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the house. The functions of a historical home can be varried. For some home owners they simply want to renovate and enjoy the historical building as their home. When making improvements, owners will be more concerned about updating creature comforts and creating an esthetic environment for their family. On the other hand, some will choose to live in the historic home but also dedicate rooms or floors as public museums. When making renovations for these homes a balance should be kept between updating the living space that will be used while keeping museum spaces closer to the feel and accuracy of the time they represent. Brand new faucets upstairs in the family bath are great but a stainless steel countertop in a 19th century room may look a bit out of place. Finally, others will live in the historic house but also rent out rooms for guests and small conferences. Historic homes can make an ideal bed and breakfast. This may create additional renovation challenges such as access ability and practical updates for the comfort of guests (i.e. adding and updating a bathroom or two). However, owners will want to keep in mind the historic atmosphere of the home. Visitors are drawn to historical B&Bs because of the sense of walking into the past. Keeping antiques relevant to the time or using period correct wall treatments (i.e. wallpaper patterns) are just a few ways to help keep the historic feel of the home. If creating a bed and breakfast out of a historical home is the goal, then reading about the B&B business will be helpful. Whatever the function of the historical home, the project should remain fun and rewarding.

The restoration of a historic homes can be expensive and daunting. However, it is also very rewarding, a wonderful chance for connecting to the past and community (and can be a great home too!). Whether your historic building will be a home, museum, B&B or all the above, having a game plan before starting renovations is a great idea. Make sure the plan protects the hisotry of the home so that the character and craftsmenship of the home is not lost in the renovation. Enlisting professionals and the community will help. In the end it really can be very rewarding!

Conclusion

A lot can be said for the structures a society builds. When looking at buildings from the past one can get a sense of style, comfort and culture from previous generations. A family and/or a community may learn more about where they came from. To preserve historical homes, individuals or communities need to take the time to submit the home to the National Register for Historical Places. Once this is done the home may still be used for varying purposes from a living space to a museum. In some cases funding is available to help in the daunting task of renovation. In the end historical homes are a tough investment that with a bit of research can turn in to a rewarding home and much more.

Resources by State 
Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | District of Columbia Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

Alabama

State Historic Preservation Officer: Elizabeth Brown AL Historical Commission 468 South Perry Street Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0900 (334) 242-3184 Alabama Register Coordinator: Dorothy Walker - dwalker@preserveala.org National Register Coordinator: Christy Anderson - canderson@preserveala.org www.preserveala.org

Alaska

State Historic Preservation Officer: Judith E. Bittner - judyb@dnr.state.ak.us Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation 550 W 7th Avenue, Suite 1310 Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3565 (907) 269-8721 www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/oha/index.htm

Arizona

State Historic Preservation Officer: James W. Garrison - jgarrison@pr.state.az.us Office of Historic Preservation Arizona State Parks 1300 W. Washington Phoenix, Arizona 85007 (602) 542-4174 National Register Coordinator: Kathryn Leonard www.pr.state.az.us/partnerships/shpo/shpo.html

Arkansas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Cathie Matthews - cathiem@arkansasheritage.org Department of Arkansas Heritage 323 Center Street, Suite 1500 Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 (501) 324-9162 National Register Coordinator: Ralph Wilcox - ralph@arkansasheritage.org www.arkansaspreservation.org

California

State Historic Preservation Officer: Milford Wayne Donaldson - mwdonaldson@parks.ca.gov Office of Historic Preservation Department of Parks and Recreation P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, California 94296-0001 (916) 653-9125 http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/

Colorado

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Georgianna Contiguglia Colorado History Museum 1300 Broadway Denver, Colorado 80203-2137 (303) 866-3395 Information: oahp@chs.state.co.us www.coloradohistory-oahp.org

Connecticut

State Historic Preservation Officer: John W. Shannahan Connecticut Historical Commission 59 South Prospect Street Hartford, Connecticut 06106 (860) 566-3005 Information: cthist@neca.com www.cultureandtourism.org (This website is being revised; check out the CT Trust for more information at www.cttrust.org)

Delaware

State Historic Preservation Officer: Timothy A. Slavin Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs 21 The Green, Suite B Dover, Delaware 19901 (302) 739-5313 www.state.de.us/shpo/default.shtml

District of Columbia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lisa Burcham DC Office of Planning, Historic Pres. Division 801 North Capitol Street, N.E. 3rd Floor Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 442-8850 http://planning.dc.gov/

Florida

Actg. State Historic Preservation Officer: Frederick Gaske - fgaske@mail.dos.state.fl.us Division of Historical Resources R.A. Gray Building 500 S. Bronough Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250 (850) 245-6300 www.flheritage.com

Georgia

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Ray Luce - ray_luce@dnr.state.ga.us Department of Natural Resources 156 Trinity Avenue, SW Suite 101 Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3600 (404) 651-5061 http://hpd.dnr.state.ga.us/

Hawaii

State Historic Preservation Officer: Peter T. Young Department of Land and Natural Resources 601 Kamokila Boulevard Room 555 Kapolei, Hawaii 96707 808-587-0401 www.hawaii.gov/dlnr

Idaho

State Historic Preservation Officer: Steve Guerber - steve.guerber@ishs.idaho.gov State Historic Preservation Office 210 Main Street Boise, Idaho 83702-7264 (208) 334-3890 www.idahohistory.net

Illinois

State Historic Preservation Officer: William L. Wheeler - Ted_Lild@ilpa.state.il.us Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Preservation Services Division One Old State Capitol Plaza Springfield, Illinois 62701-1512 (217) 785-9045 www.state.il.us/HPA/

Indiana

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jon Charles Smith- jsmith@dnr.in.gov Department of Natural Resources 402 W. Washington Street, Rm W274 Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 (317) 232-4020 Information: dhpa@dnr.state.in.us www.state.in.us/dnr/historic/

Iowa

Actg. State Historic Preservation Officer: Anita Walker - anita.walker@dca.state.ia.us State Historical Society of Iowa 600 East Locust Street Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0290 (515) 281-8741 www.iowahistory.org

Kansas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jennie Chinn - jchinn@kshs.org Kansas State Historical Society Cultural Resources Division 6425 Southwest 6th Avenue Topeka, Kansas 66615-1099 (785) 272-8681 Information: histsoc@acc.wuacc.edu www.kshs.org

Kentucky

State Historic Preservation Officer: David Morgan - davidl.morgan@ky.gov Kentucky Heritage Council 300 Washington Street Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 (502) 564-7005 www.state.ky.us/agencies/khc/khchome.htm

Louisiana

Division of Historic Preservation Office of Cultural Development P.O. Box 44247 Baton Rouge, LA 70804 (225) 342-8160 National Register Coordinator: Donna Fricker National Register Section (1st time inquiries): Patricia Duncan www.louisianahp.org

Maine

Director: Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. - Earle.Shettleworth@Maine.gov 55 Capitol Street, State House Station 65 Augusta, Maine 04333-0065 (207) 287-2132 / Fax (207) 287-2335 www.state.me.us/mhpc/

Maryland

State Historic Preservation Officer: J. Rodney Little - RLittle@mdp.state.md.us Division of Historical and Cultural Programs 100 Community Place Crownsville, Maryland 21032-2023 (410) 514-7600 or 1-800-756-0119 www.marylandhistoricaltrust.net

Massachusetts

Secretary of the Commonwealth Massachusetts Historical Commission 220 Morrissey Boulevard Boston, MA 02125-3314 (617) 727-8470 www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcidx.htm

Michigan

State Historic Preservation Officer: Brian D. Conway - conwaybd@michigan.gov State Historic Preservation Office P.O. Box 30740 702 West Kalamazoo St. Lansing, Michigan 48909-8240 (517) 373-1630 www.michigan.gov/hal/

Minnesota

Department Head and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Britta L. Bloomberg - britta.bloomberg@mnhs.org Historic Preservation, Field Services and Grants Department Minnesota Historical Society 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 (651) 296-5434 www.mnhs.org/shpo/

Mississippi

Mississippi Department of Archives and History 200 North Street Jackson, MS 39201 (601) 576-6850 Historic Preservation Division: msshpo@mdah.state.ms.us www.mdah.state.ms.us/index.html

Missouri

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Mark Miles - mark.miles@dnr.mo.gov Department of Natural Resources P. O. Box 176 Jefferson City, MO 65102 (573) 751-7858 www.dnr.state.mo.us/shpo/index.html

Montana

State Historic Preservation Officer: Mark Baumler, Ph. D. - mbaumler@mt.gov The Montana Historical Society 225 N. Roberts P.O. Box 201201 Helena, MT 59620-120 (406) 444-7715 www.his.state.mt.us

Nebraska

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lawrence J. Sommer

Nebraska

State Historical Society 1500 R Street P.O. Box 82554 Lincoln, Nebraska 68501 (402) 471-4746 Information: nshs@nebraskahistory.org www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/

Nevada

tate Historic Preservation Officer: Ronald M. James - rmjames@clan.lib.nv.us Department of Cultural Affairs 100 North Stewart Street Carson City, Nevada 89701-4285 (775) 684-3440 http://dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/shpo/

New Hampshire

State Historic Preservation Officer: James M. McConaha - James.Mcconaha@dcr.nh.gov Division of Historical Resources P.O. Box 2043 Concord, New Hampshire 03302-2043 (603) 271-6435 www.nh.gov/nhdhr/

New Jersey

State Historic Preservation Officer NJ Department Parks & Forestry P.O. Box 304 Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0404 (609) 292-2885 www.state.nj.us/dep/hpo/

New Mexico

State Historic Preservation Officer: Katherine Slick - katherine.slick@state.nm.us Office of Cultural Affairs Villa Rivera Building, 3rd Floor 228 E. Palace Avenue Santa Fe, New Mexico 87503 (505) 827-6320 www.nmhistoricpreservation.org

New York

State Historic Preservation Officer Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Pres. Empire State Plaza Agency Building 1, 20th Floor Albany, New York 12238 (518) 474-0443 http://nysparks.state.ny.us/shpo/

North Carolina

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jeffrey J. Crow - jeff.crow@ncmail.net Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History 4617 Mail Service Center Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4617 (919) 733-7305 www.hpo.dcr.state.nc.us

North Dakota

State Historic Preservation Officer: Fern E. Swenson State Historical Society of North Dakota ND Heritage Center 612 East Boulevard Avenue Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0830 (701) 328-2666 www.state.nd.us/hist/

Ohio

State Historic Preservation Officer: Rachel Tooker - rtooker@ohiohistory.org Ohio Historic Preservation Office Ohio Historical Society 567 E. Hudson Street Columbus, Ohio 43211-1030 (614) 298-2000 www.ohiohistory.org/resource/histpres/

Oklahoma

State Historic Preservation Officer: Melvena Heisch - mheisch@ok-history.mus.ok.us Oklahoma Historical Society Wiley Post Historical Building 2100 N. Lincoln Boulevard Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105 (405) 521-2491 www.ok-history.mus.ok.us

Oregon

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: Roger Roper Heritage Programs Division Oregon Parks and Recreation Department 725 Summer Street, Suite C Salem, Oregon 97301 (503) 986-0677 http://www.oregonheritage.org

Pennsylvania

State Historic Preservation Officer: Barbara Franco Bureau for Historic Preservation Commonwealth Keystone Building, 2nd floor 400 North Street Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0093 (717) 787-2891 www.phmc.state.pa.us

Rhode Island

State Historic Preservation Officer: Edward Sanderson - esanderson@preservation.ri.gov Hist. Preservation and Heritage Commission Old State House 150 Benefit Street Providence, Rhode Island 02903 (401) 222-2678 www.preservation.ri.gov

South Carolina

State Historic Preservation Officer: Mary W. Edmonds - edmonds@scdah.state.sc.us Department of Archives and History 8301 Parklane Road Columbia, South Carolina 29223-4905 (803) 896-6168 www.state.sc.us/scdah/histrcpl.htm

South Dakota

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jay D. Vogt - jay.vogt@.state.sd.us South Dakota State Historical Society 900 Governors Drive Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2217 (605) 773-3458 www.sdhistory.org

Tennessee

State Historic Preservation Officer: Herbert Harper - Herbert.Harper@state.tn.us Department of Environment and Conservation 2941 Lebanon Road Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0442 (615) 532-0109 www.tennessee.gov/environment/hist/

Texas

State Historic Preservation Officer: Lawerence Oaks - l.oaks@thc.state.tx.us Texas Historical Commission P.O. Box 12276 Capitol Station Austin, Texas 78711-2276 (512) 463-6100 www.thc.state.tx.us

Utah

State Historic Preservation Officer: Wilson G. Martin - wmartin@utah.gov Utah State Historical Society 300 Rio Grande Salt Lake City, Utah 84101 (801) 533-3500 http://history.utah.gov

Vermont

State Historic Preservation Officer: Jane Lendway - jane.lendway@state.vt.us Agency of Commerce & Community Dev. VT Division for Hist. Preservation National Life Bldg., Drawer 20 Montpelier, Vermont 05620-0501 (802) 828-3056 www.historicvermont.org

Virginia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Ann Andrus - ann.andrus@dhr.virginia.gov Department of Historic Resources 2801 Kensington Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23221 (804) 367-2323 www.dhr.virginia.gov

Washington

State Historic Preservation Officer: Allyson Brooks - Allyson.Brooks@dahp.wa.gov Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation 1063 S Capitol Way Suite 106 P.O. Box 48343 Olympia, Washington 98504-8343 360-585-3066 www.oahp.wa.gov

West Virginia

State Historic Preservation Officer: Susan Pierce - susan.pierce@wvculture.org Division of Culture and History 1900 Kanawha Boulevard E. Capitol Complex Charleston, West Virginia 25305 (304) 558-0220 www.wvculture.org/shpo/shpoindex.aspx

Wisconsin

State Historic Preservation Officer: Michael E Stevens Wisconsin State Historical Society 816 State Street Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1482 (608) 264-6500 www.wisconsinhistory.org

Wyoming

State Historic Preservation Officer: Sara Needles - sneedl@state.wy.us Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office Dept. of State Parks & Cultural Resources 2301 Central Avenue, 3rd floor Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002 (307) 777-7697 http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/