What Things Cost: Figuring the asking price for a near-mansion requires some legwork

The house has few peers in the neighborhood

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Published: January 6 2013 | 8:00 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 9:38 am in
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A significant piece of historical Victorian architecture sits on 2-plus acres of land at 1300 O Ave. NW in Cedar Rapids.

Built in 1881, it boasts 3,746 square feet with its 5 bedrooms, 2 full bathes, massive fireplaces, wide oak and cedar planked flooring, 10 foot ceilings, pocket doors, push-button light switches, floor-to-ceiling double-hung windows, ornate wood trims, transom windows and designated coal chute/room in the basement.

That makes it the stand-out property among its neighboring houses — homes that sell in the $115,000 to $200,000 range as compared to the $524,900 price tag the Roby Team with Skogman Realty has placed on the property.

Just how does the listing realty team go about pricing a rare historic mansion that has few peers in the Cedar Rapids area?

Claudette Roby, a Realtor-broker with Skogman Realty who’s been selling since 1988, is used to doing battle with large, high-end and historically significant houses in Cedar Rapids. She works with two other members on her team to handle such listings.

“As you might imagine, there is no real comp” — real estate verbiage for comparable property — “connected with this house, but we did have a history of the house as we had sold it before. We knew the previous two owners, and we were up to speed on what a tremendous undertaking it has been in renovating and keeping the historic value of the house,” Roby said.

“There isn’t much in Cedar Rapids that is exactly that property,” she said, adding that maybe the A.T. Averill House, 1120 Second Ave. SE, is the closest she can think of. That building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“A lot of thought went into the fact that all of the drainage had to be rerouted, the tuck pointing done, the shingles and shutters replaced, heating system upgraded — and still remain within the historic connections of the house itself.

“We took value in the size of the house — which is enormous — and then there was the land plus the out buildings, plus the in-ground pool, the party area which is a barn with several stalls of garages and a huge party area above,” she recalled. “So what we did was look at similar-sized properties.”

Her agency recently sold properties in the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Second Avenue SE that were the same size but, she noted, “didn’t have any of the land, the ambience or the pool. They were about the same vintage but didn’t have the acreage, or the side buildings or the same presence, so we had to adjust from that to get it back to local market.”

After considering those factors, there’s more.

“We know what we are looking for, we just have to find something that feels comfortable and then we have to translate that into our Cedar Rapids market,” she said, adding that they went as far away as Vinton, among several other towns that have Victorian homes such as this one to assist in determining a price.

“You have to look outside the box,” Roby explained, noting that their appraiser also went to Mount Vernon looking for comparable properties because of the number of historical houses in that city.

“Independence is another town that has a fair amount of historical properties that are older, and sometimes we have to go as far away as the Illinois border, to areas like Galena, to gather information for pricing.”

“Properties in Independence won’t be as high as Cedar Rapids, whereas properties in the Mount Vernon area are going to be higher priced because of all of the historic properties that are there.”

Roby also conferred with her connections at Cornell College in Mount Vernon for perspective on how Cornell values properties as the college has a number of historical buildings on its grounds.

“It takes a village to price them,” she said, pointing out that a working network is of the utmost value in the pricing process. “I work closely with appraisers and with facility managers in this process.

“We are going to be dealing with appraisers at some point so we feel it is better to seek their guidance from the beginning rather than wait until we’ve established our price point and then have to prove our point to them.”

This feature is another in an occasional series looking at what things cost — and how their prices are calculated — in Eastern Iowa.

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