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Real Estate: Using history to market a home

09/26/2015 10:00 AM |

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In the North Fork’s competitive real estate market, attracting buyers is about more than broadcasting a home’s merits, like its sparkling in-ground pool or enviable water views.

As local realtors will say, the process can also require considerable research about a property’s history, sometimes making it necessary for them to delve back several centuries.

Not that they mind.

“It’s exciting to pull together the history and it helps create an entire experience,” said Jerry Cibulski, an agent with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold. “I don’t know that it triggers [potential buyers] to say ‘Because of that, I’m buying the house,’ but it kind of connects all the dots.”

Earlier this year, when Mr. Cibulski acquired the listing for a Greenport home built in 1688, he spent between 12 and 16 hours researching everything he could about the structure, which features original 18-inch wood beams.

First, he spoke to the house’s owners, who told them it was built in 1688 by Col. John Youngs, whose father founded Southold in 1644. They also told Mr. Cibulski that, according to legend, the house had been split in half by two feuding brothers at the turn of the 20th century.

He could have run with that story, but Mr. Cibulski wanted to learn the truth. So he began checking online archives of historic newspapers, eventually discovering that the story was, in fact, apocryphal.

“I don’t look at my business as purely transactional,” Mr. Cibulski said of the effort he puts into researching his listings. “I grew up out here and I like the history of what the area has to offer.”

History is one of the reasons Janet Markarian, an agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenport, went into the business. A former textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ms. Markarian has always enjoyed doing research and recently sold a Greenport house that Walt Whitman once summered in.

“I love to dig around and read property cards and go through records,” she said. “The first thing I do is go to Town Hall and pull the property card.”

A house’s property card, which contains a list of its previous owners, certainly comes in handy. But the information typically dates back only as far as the 1950s, said Ms. Markarian, so she often visits local historical societies in search of old photos or anecdotes about a property.

“Buyers are curious about that — especially in Orient, which attracts people who love historic homes,” she said. “The more you know about a house when you show it, the better able you are to market it.”

Jerry Cibulski, an agent with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold, enjoys researching the historic properties he lists, particulary because he grew up on the North Fork and likes 'the history of what the area has to offer.' (Credit: courtesy photo)

Jerry Cibulski, an agent with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold, enjoys researching the historic properties he lists, particulary because he grew up on the North Fork and likes ‘the history of what the area has to offer.’ (Credit: courtesy photo)

Mary Ellen Ellwood, an associate broker with Century 21 Albertson Realty’s Jamesport office, said conducting research on older homes or those with a lot of history is a necessary part of her job, but one she doesn’t mind doing.

“I think a lot of us come into real estate because we know it’s not just about showing a home,” she said.

Ms. Ellwood hasn’t visited historical societies to learn more about a listing, but she pulls property cards and asks homeowners to tell her everything they know about their house.

“Sometimes, when it’s an older home, the owners have already pulled a lot of that [information] together because they’re very proud of it,” she said.

When Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Real Estate in Jamesport, is stuck on a property, she contacts local historian Richard Wines.

“He goes way beyond the call of duty and researches and gives me these wonderful reports,” she said.

While all the realtors agreed that being familiar with the history of a home isn’t crucial to making a sale, they said it’s still a good idea to be armed with the information. You never know when it might come in handy.

“Customers like to shop with an agent who knows their territory,” Ms. Markarian said. “When you’re competing with other agents, you should show up prepared.”

Photo Caption: Janet Markarian, an agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenport, pulls the property card for one of her listings at Southold Town Hall with the help of senior assessment clerk Leslie Reichert Tasca. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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