Always wanted a Home History Book? Now is your chance…

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

Since 2010, Houstory’s Home History Book archival journals have helped Real Estate agents, bed and breakfasts and homeowners around the world tell the stories behind their homes.

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Now, we want to say “thanks” for your support while clearing out our inventory.

Now for a limited time, we have drastically reduced the cost of all original Home History Books in our Deluxe line. Regularly $300, all Deluxe books are just $149. This includes free shipping in the U.S., a free bookstand and a personalized brass address plate.

Quantities and styles are limited. When the original Deluxe books are gone, they’re gone.

Order yours HERE!

 

How to hire a house historian

So you’ve decided to enlist some help when it comes to researching your home’s history, and want to hire a house historian.

Surprisingly, house historians — in the purest sense of the phrase — are not as prevalent as you might think. Houstory (fittingly pronounced “House-Story”), has been around several years now (since 2007), and we’ve made it our business to track down a growing collection of house historians to add to the company’s house historian search engine.

house historian, hiring

 

These are individuals we have entrusted to help owners of our product, The Home History Book archival journal, fill in the details of their home’s past. For real estate agents seeking a unique closing gift, or bed and breakfasts trying to share their historic property’s background, time is often of the essence and help researching this history is well worth the cost.

A house historian can be employed to write your entire home history, track down just your old tax records, find information about a particular owner — or something in between. Before you hire a home historian, do your research. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) have developed a handy checklist for the hiring process, as has historian Dan Curtis.

Are you a house historian? Or maybe you’ve worked with one you can recommend? We’d love to connect with you. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

Real estate expert: Recording, sharing love of your home can help sell it

We recently came across an article, written by real estate expert Tara-Nicholle Nelson, that we thought really tied into concepts we believe in: legacy and love of home. In her piece written last month, she talks about the importance of sharing the stories that make a house a home, and how that can positively impact the home-selling process. In the past few months, we’ve seen a few articles that touch on the value of knowing a home’s history, such as this one (“Researching your home’s past could pay off” — Chicago Tribune, Feb. 3, 2012).

house history, legacy, home history, real estate

A love letter, Tara-Nicholle Nelson explains, expresses the love the seller’s family has had for the home, and explains the facts and events underlying that sentiment.

“As someone who has been inside probably thousands of homes with buyers over the years, I’ve always thought there was one super-simple, vastly underrated marketing technique for homes that are having a hard time standing out from the rest of the market: the seller love letter. A seller love letter is a note, personally written or typed up by the home’s seller. Among other things, it expresses the love the seller’s family has had for the home, and explains the facts and events underlying that sentiment,” she wrote.

She continued: “If the power of staging lies in depersonalizing the property so buyers can picture their own family living out their own lives in the home, the power of a seller love letter is that it leaves buyers with a warm feeling that the home has a positive energy and history, which is especially desirable on today’s distressed property-riddled market.”

To read the full article, please visit her Web site at http://www.rethinkrealestate.com/http:/www.rethinkrealestate.com/6-elements-of-a-compelling-home-seller-love-letter/#

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of “The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook” and “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.” Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

We’d love to know your thoughts! Let us know — do you think knowing a home’s story can add value?

If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info@homehistorybook.com.

Yes, it’s true: Not every house has a happy story to tell

By Rick Read — Special to the Houstory Hearth

Last week, genealogist Rick Read shared his insight into how to effectively take “then” and “now” photos of your house using an older home in Bellingham, Wash. as the example. This week, he returns to tell us about the heartbreaking story behind those photos.

Rick has nearly 40 years of experience as an award-winning TV producer. He is also an avid still photographer and genealogist and was, for five years, the research aide for theWhatcom Genealogical Society (Washington state).

My previous blog entry focused on creating a “then” and “now” display of old and recent photos of your home.  What I did not talk about in that article was why the original “then” photo was taken in the first place.

Credit: 1995.0001.019938 Photo by Jack Carver Courtesy: Whatcom Museum

Jeff Jewell, Whatcom Museum photo historian (Bellingham, Wash.), asked me to research the photo, taken by veteran Bellingham Herald photographer Jack Carver. The photo was catalogued into the museum collection with a one-sentence description that included a surname (that I will not reveal for privacy reasons); a time frame (“spring 1958”); and a word (“murder”).

Not much to go on. So, how to proceed? With an approximate date, I could have simply looked through three months of newspaper microfilm to find the event. My experience has been that, depending on the magnitude of the event you’re researching, it can take up to an hour to scan through a month’s worth of newspapers. OK, so I could have found the article in about three hours. Fortunately, there was a quicker method.

The surname mentioned in the photo description was more uncommon than common – a big help. The event in question was a murder, so I knew I could check the state death index to find that surname. That would lead me to a first name and date. That would cut my research time considerably. But was there any quicker method?

If your subject was born, married or died in Washington state, the answer is “yes.” The Secretary of State’s office has created a wonderful online resource – the first of its kind in the country – called, “The Washington State Digital Archives” (http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov). By entering a first and/or last name, you can find birth, marriage and death records – as well as additional information – for almost anyone who was born, married or died in the state.

In this case, I did not have a first name, but I did have an unusual surname and an approximate date. So, I entered the surname, clicked on “Death Records,” then sorted the records by clicking on “Death Year,” and up popped a single death record for 1958. Suddenly, I had the victim’s full name, date of death, and even the names of her parents.

Minutes after arriving at the Bellingham Library, I was looking at the reason why Jack Carver had taken that photo back in the spring of 1958. Turns out it was front-page news.

Background: Sam and Ethel had lived with their three children at the house on “I” Street for three years (I found this information by researching their name in the city directory). On the night before Father’s Day, Ethel walked her daughter to a babysitting job just a few doors down the street. When Ethel didn’t return promptly, Sam became concerned. He went outside and discovered his wife, beaten and unconscious, lying alongside their home. She passed away the next morning. An 18-year-old man was arrested later and he confessed to the random killing.

This turned out to be on of those “be careful what you wish for” stories. It can be a fascinating process to research the stories associated with your home. Just keep in mind that not all of those stories may be happy ones.

Editor’s note: While it is true not every house has a happy story to tell, we still believe it’s important to document the past and present. After all, history is not always pleasant — but it does help to give us context and insight — which is why it holds value. 

For more on disclosure of your home’s past, Inman News — a great resource for independent real estate news — recently published an article on the topic entitled, “Disclosing crime when selling a home.” 

We’d love to know your thoughts! Let us know — would you want to know the full history of your home, warts and all? 

If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info@homehistorybook.com.

My Hutong Heartbreak: Beijing’s destruction of ancient neighborhoods slowly ending a way of life

Back in July 2004 — while taking a break from my job teaching Taiwanese school children English — I took a trip to Beijing. I remember one day my girlfriend (and now wife) rented bicycles, and were fortunate enough to spend the better part of the morning exploring some of the city’s hutong. For those who may not know what the hutong are, they are old traditional alleyways and courtyard homes that once existed all over the city.  The below video (the first of four chapters) does a beautiful job illustrating their place in the city’s ancient history. Fascinating stuff.

As we pedaled along, I remember women hanging laundry; families preparing food through open windows; colorful doors and a feeling of community. These alleyways seemed to stretch on forever. It was a kind of history — with buildings dating back many centuries — that I couldn’t fathom, being from the relatively “new” Western coast of the United States.

Simply put, I was in awe.

Honestly, the next time I thought of the hutong was just prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hearing that these remarkable communities — so full of life — were being ripped down in advance of the games to develop structures such as office buildings and roads felt like a kick in the gut.

Fast forward to a recent article in the Atlantic on the continuing and devastating destruction of the hutong in Beijing, and the sadness has retuned again. It’s easy to forget that historical preservation struggles happen all the time, all over the planet unless you are constantly reminded of them.

Rainy Beijing --- July 2004

Of course I’m not arguing that all new development is inherently wrong. However, it is important that the decision makers put forth a good-faith effort to acknowledge the development’s impact on the historical, environmental and general welfare of the community in which they are building — and not just trying to make a quick profit or a superficial cosmetic upgrade.

Sadly, from what I’ve been able to find,  it seems as if the latter reasons are the primary motivating factors in the case of the hutong.

While the rise of the Chinese economy and its place on the world stage has been flabbergasting, it has obviously come at a price, as The Atlantic author Jonathan Kaiman shares in the article.

“At the height of the city’s headlong rush to modernity in the 1990s, about 600 hutong were destroyed each year, displacing an estimated 500,000 residents. Seemingly overnight, the city was transformed from a warren of Ming dynasty-era neighborhoods into an ultramodern urban sprawl, pocked with gleaming office towers and traversed by eight-lane highways,” writes Kaiman.

For many, this loss of history is a tough pill to swallow. Some groups, such as the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP), are doing their part to stem this tide.
If you are interested in the hutong, and historical preservation, please see an important video series on the hutong produced by Beijing-based videographer and photographer Jonah Kessel.

— Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

Trying to sell your house? Home staging may be crucial

In this economy, homeowners need all the help they can get to sell their properties. One way to help accomplish the task: home staging, according to a recent piece in the Washington Post.

Bring emotion back to the selling process by helping people see what the home could be used for -- with a little imagination. A Home History Book™ archival journal can help do just that. Preserve your stories now, share them later.

Basic staging “brings some emotion back to the (selling) process, which helps bump the price up,” said Washington, D.C. broker Bill Sawyer of William Sawyer & Co. Realtors in the article.

Essentially, it’s helping potential buyers to use their imaginations as to what a home could look like with a little effort. So, the next time you have a holiday party, or landscape the backyard, make sure to document it so you can show it off later. It may just pay off.

What’s the value in researching the history of a new home?

While it may not sound as intriguing as researching the beginning history of a 100-year-old property, researching your newer home’s story is not only easier — it tends to be a lot more accurate. That’s because you are the one who is relaying the story — a first-person account.

Documenting changes as they occur today will be helpful -- and valuable -- for homeowners tomorrow.

You are the best “historical” resource available and your knowledge of your home’s beginning and access to original documents and photos will be invaluable to future residents. Unlike owners who move into a 150-year-old home, for example, you have been there from the beginning and can provide a complete history. You — unlike anyone else — are in the perfect position to provide all of the information about your home’s early history with little or no research. You may have photos of your home during construction, before the landscaping was installed, of moving day or the first night you spent in your new home. These photos and stories will provide a wonderful and unique historical record for both visitors and residents in your home today and in the future.

Imagine their practical value, not to mention the historical interest they will generate 100 or even 10 years from now. For more information on researching your home history, visit www.homehistorybook.com.

If you love your home and you love history, you’re at the right place

Welcome to the first edition of The Houstorian’s Hearth blog, and thanks for visiting.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: This may be the only posting for a little while, as we are not quite ready to poke our heads out of the door on a regular basis just yet.  But, soon enough, we will be regularly updating it with information on all things home genealogy, including but not limited to: historical preservation (specifically regarding property and documents), historical home real estate listings, home genealogy conferences, contests, events, scrap booking, book binding, the latest in home history research information and technology, renovation and construction practices as related to home genealogy…you get the picture.

Please check back soon!