County Approval

We got approval from the county planning commission. We have to address a few minor issues, but we should have our permit by April. (Surprisingly, replacing the roof does not require a permit, so we can actually start in March.) Our next hurdle: Code variances, because I’m not replacing the grand stairway with an enclosed, fire-rated, metal escape ladder just because the code book says so!


Township Approval

The township planning commission and board of supervisors approved our request. We just have one more hurdle – the county planning commission – but I think we’re okay. So last week I went ahead and bought a one-way ticket for Dawn, and she gave notice at work. It’s hard to believe this is finally happening. It’s all we talked about for a year and a half, but we still aren’t prepared. We don’t want to be apart, we don’t want to spend all of our money, and I’m not sure we even want to move to Pennsylvania, but you certainly couldn’t tell that by our actions.


Historic Tax Credits

First, some disclaimers:

  • This isn’t tax advice. Consult your tax advisor. If you get audited, don’t blame me.
  • If you use your house as your residence only, there is no federal assistance available to you. (Some states, like Colorado, offer state tax credits for private residences.) This is only for buildings used primarily for business or non-profit work (like a museum). You have to be in business for five years after you claim tax credits.
  • You have to spend more on the restoration than your basis in the house. That is, you just bought a fixer-upper for $100,000 and spent $99,000 restoring it – too bad, you lose.
  • The process is generally controlled by the state, and I only know about Pennsylvania. Your mileage may vary.

If you’re still with me, and your house was built before 1936, and it is not eligible for the National Register, then you are automatically eligible for a 10% tax credit on the restoration costs without doing anything else. (See IRS form 3468.) Now, for the brass ring: the 20% tax credit. First, you have to submit a three-part application to the SHPO. The first part is just a copy of the National Register nomination, announcing your intent as a tax credit project. The second part is a detailed description of all proposed changes, including blueprints, drawings, and whatever else might be needed. The SHPO can reject this, make changes, do a site visit, and basically do whatever they want to your project at this point. If you don’t agree, you don’t get the tax credit. Once part 2 is approved, then you can start work. When you are finished, you submit part 3, showing that everything was completed according to plan. Once the SHPO signs off and submits it to the National Park Service, you have to pay their fee and you’re done. Of course there’s one final catch: You actually have to be listed on the National Register within a year of claiming the tax credits. So if you bought a place already listed on the Register, forget it. Final note: A tax credit is not a tax deduction. That is, if you spend $100,000 on restoration costs, you get a $20,000 tax credit. If you owe $25,000 in taxes, you just subtract $20,000 and pay $5,000. And you can carry any excess back one year or forward up to five years. Nice, huh?


National Register

The National Register nomination was finally submitted today. It’s eight months later than expected, but with all of the other problems we’ve had, I don’t care; I’m just glad it’s done. [P.S. Happy birthday, Dawn!]



Our new contractor wanted to have a site meeting with all of his subs. Unfortunately, that meant I had to fly out, too.

I arrived at 10am Saturday, and had to meet the contractor at 1pm. I think this was karma for me sending Dawn to that township meeting last October. Today, I met with about a dozen subcontractors, who crawled around the house for four hours.

Afterwards, Gary (the contractor) and I went over to the township to see how the permits were progressing. We have two meetings coming up (the planning commission and board of supervisors) and if they give us tentative approval, Rita will give us the building permit without waiting for the septic system. That was very good news.

In my spare time I set up a new computer for my mother-in-law, cleaned out a large closet in the mansion, and gave two tours. I think I got a total of 12 hours sleep in the last three days, but it was productive.