Homeowners are required to provide a bibliography citing all books, articles, drawings, plans and other documentation attesting to their home’s historical significance. Photographs must be clear and descriptive and sequentially numbered. Each photo must be logged, and that log must contain the name of the property, its precise location using latitude and longitude, the name of the photographer, the date the photo was taken and the direction the camera was pointing when the photo was taken.
Don’t expect to breeze through the process; it will take about 100 hours to complete the form.
The National Park Service has prepared a bulletin explaining in detail how to complete its nomination form. This 132-page bulletin is available online at www.nps.
gov/nr/publications/bulletins/pdfs/nrb16a.pdf. Due to the detail required and the fact that each state has its own additional requirements, homeowners are well advised to engage professional architects, historians, community archivists and other consultants to assist them with their nomination form. The state Historic Preservation Office will work with the homeowner to explain state-specific requirements and to ensure that all guidelines and designation criteria are met before certifying to the National Park Service that the property meets the criteria for listing on the National Register.
Once all state and federal nomination forms are complete, the state historic office will review the submission. That review will take at least 90 days, and often far longer. If the office certifies that your nomination meets all federal, state and local criteria, it will decide whether to recommend to the National Park Service for or against listing in the National Register. The nomination and the office’s recommendation are then forwarded to the Park Service for its review. It will make a decision within 45 days of receiving the recommendation.
There are no application or nomination fees at the federal level, but there may be costs for obtaining photographs, drawings and historical documents; for conducting research; and for assembling and filing the nomination form or paying consultants to do so.
Congress virtually eliminated all federal tax benefits for owner-occupied historic homes listed on the National Register unless those homeowners are also willing to grant a permanent preservation easement. Homeowners can then contribute that easement to a nonprofit preservation organization. In such a case, the homeowner is able to take a charitable deduction against his federal income tax for the difference in value of his home immediately before granting the easement and immediately after granting the easement.
Perhaps the most important advice to bear in mind when embarking on this process is to be patient. Because the 64 full-time employees at the District level are apparently quite busy, the homeowner should expect long delays. But for those with the time, money and tenacity to see it through, the rewards of owning a home listed on the National Register are worth it.
Harvey S. Jacobs is a real estate lawyer in the Rockville office of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake. He is an active real estate investor, developer, landlord and lender. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.