Owner of oldhouses.com counting on budget-minded millennials to become preservationists

Owner of oldhouses.com counting on budget-minded millennials to become preservationists
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If you love historic homes and wasting time on the internet, may I present to you: oldhouses.com.

It’s a real estate website that curates listings from across the country.

You can search by state, by price, by era and by old home features like dumbwaiters and carriage houses. Those search features translate into hours of browsing.


Asking $1,499,000. Via listing, “Just outside Raleigh, the J. Beale Johnson House on the National Register of Historic Places is an elegant Neoclassical house built in 1906. Situated on 13.9 beautiful acres, this grand home has 5 bedrooms 3 full baths and first floor master bedroom. 4 fireplaces, hardwood floors throughout, grand central hallways on first and second floors.”

Old Houses is run by unabashed old home lover Joe Copley, who runs the website out of his home here in Charlotte.

“Yes, in Charlotte. Of all places, right?” Copley said to me recently.

He gets it. Of all the cities for an old home lover, Copley’s in bulldozer heaven.

Copley understands why old homes have been plowed over in Charlotte: They’re a lot of work. It can be easier to start from scratch.

But he fears cities are becoming playgrounds of the wealthy, devoid of houses that tell a place’s story.

Like many places, the historic houses here are often “an accident of shifting wealth,” Copley said. “Elizabeth and Dilworth became historic when middle-class and wealthier families left the city for developing south Charlotte. The pendulum swung back. And it will swing back again. It’s paradoxical; old houses and buildings are valuable today because for a long time no one wanted them.”

Copley said it takes two kinds of people to preserve a city’s historic housing stock.

The first type are “people who are immune to the most efficient use of capital or land,” Copley said, which is a polite way of saying eccentrics with DGAF old money. Alas, “We just don’t have many of them in Charlotte.”

The second type is young people who want a project and are priced out.

The problem right now is that young people want to live in the urban core, Copley said, but he expects that to change, just as it’s always swung back and forth.

“At some point people will think, look, we can get an old house out in this field, 3,000 square feet for $120,000, and fix it up for ourselves.”

On Copley’s website, the old houses near Charlotte ripe for a hungry couple’s fixer-upper project aren’t in a literal field; they’re in Salisbury.

Take a look here at some of the regional offerings. Pick your price point and your era, as North Carolina homes up for grabs include Neoclassical, Federal, Queen Anne Victorian, Colonial, Greek Revival and Italianite.


Twin Oak: H.G. Horton House, a 1928 Colonial Revival, is asking $159,400. Listing, “This home was built in 1928 on the quiet Main Street of Williamston. It is located mere blocks from government offices, churches, and shopping as well as several restaurants. The total square footage of the home is 2,742.”


The Mowery-Peeler house, an 1880 Italianate home, is asking $225,000. Listing, “Italianate Victorian features dual front porches, dual bay windows, unique swivel transoms, original millwork & floors. 5 fireplaces, built-ins in living room. Split staircase with two landings. 10′ ceilings. Granite counters in kitchen with huge island. Owners Suite with sitting area, built-in closet system & its own fireplace. Charleston-style back porch area overlooks scenic patio.”


The Bloom Homestead, a 1870 Farmhouse, is asking $849,000. Listing, “Three historic homes on approximately 15 acres with in ground pool, two stall horse barn and fenced pasture 2 and 1/2 miles from historic Edenton, NC and about one hour from the outer banks. The fully restored homes are circa 1850, 1870 and 1900.”

Even if an old house renovation isn’t for you, good luck restraining yourself from browsing the catalog and dreaming of your own bed & breakfast.

Cover photo via Bill Showalter /Flickr. Real estate tips? If you know of any unusual, interesting or perfect properties for sale or rent, let me know, [email protected] Thanks!

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