Whose Responsibility is it to Disclose an Historic Property or District?

“It never dawned on us that we wouldn’t be able to paint it.”

Whose Responsibility is it to Disclose an Historic Property or District in Charlottesville?

It’s not the Sellers’ responsibility: (bolding mine, link to the Code of Virginia added by me)

(b) The seller makes no representations as to any matters that pertain to whether the provisions of any historic district ordinance affect the property. Purchasers are advised to exercise whatever due diligence they deem necessary with respect to any historic district designated by the locality pursuant to §15.2-2306, including review of any local ordinance creating such district or any official map adopted by the locality depicting historic districts, in accordance with terms and conditions as may be contained in the purchase contract, but in any event prior to settlement on the property.

This question was raised Monday night at the Charlottesville City Council meeting*

I’d stopped watching by this part, but was asked on Twitter:

Hey @JimDuncan whose job is it to tell purchasers re historic guidelines when buying houses? Or do buyers have to figure it out? #Cville

To which I responded:

1) Caveat Emptor 2) If Buyer’s agent involved, he/she should advise. 3) Get a useful GIS in Charlottesville & do an overlay

The relevant discussion from Monday’s meeting starts around the 1:40 mark.

It turns out that the City does have GIS capabilities that they will send you if you ask. “@JimDuncan we called the neighborhood development services and got the layer sent for use in our GIS software.”

Rather than get into the minutae of what buying a house in an historic district means, know this:

1: Virginia is a Caveat Emptor state. Buyer Beware. Ultimately, the onus is on the Purchaser to do his or her due diligence.

2: If you have a Buyer’s Agent (and a signed Buyer Brokerage Agreement), I think (note the hedge) that she should make the buyer aware of historic districts.

3: The Seller has NO obligation to disclose whether the property is in an historic district.

4: The City of Charlottesville is wholly negligent in not providing to the public a GIS site, as all of their neighbors do. See: Albemarle. or Louisa. Or Fluvanna.

5: A brochure distributed to property owners is a nice idea, but the City would be better off embracing the inter webs. See #4

6: Not everyone thinks to look for the shape files of the various districts to download. But if you’re looking to download the City of Charlottesville’s shape files, this is the place. See #4 and #5.

7. Ultimately, a good Buyer’s Agent can inform and attempt to educate, but if the buyer doesn’t understand or take action, Caveat Emptor.


* (if you’re interested/bored/a glutton for such matters, you can watch City Council meetings live on Channel 10/Public Access or watch them live via their stream or even, if you’re really bored, watch archives of the City Council meetings)

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1 Comment

  1. Property Dealer in Abu Dhabi November 3, 2011 at 07:32

    is important for the buyer to determine whether a property is
    considered a historic property and therefore subject to a special
    assessment providing for tax benefits to the owner of the property.  
    These properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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