A pair of Highland Park house flips that violated preservation rules. Photos from Redfin
Highland Park is a hotspot for home flippers, investors who buy, fix up and then resell homes as quickly as possible. But some of the flippers have run afoul of the rules that govern the historic district, which includes about 4,000 Highland Park homes and buildings. Last month, the board of the the Highland Park-Garvanza Preservation Overlay Zone reviewed the case of two house flippers that had been caught replacing original wood doors and windows with vinyl windows and other materials that did not fit into the homes’ historic character.
Board president Charles Fisher said he is sympathetic to homeowners who may not be aware that they are required to seek approval before changing out windows and doors. But flippers are another matter, he said. “The flipper has got some money. They should know better.”
In fact, swapping original wood windows and doors has been the biggest problem when it comes to Highland Park home flippers, Fisher said. “We have some are flippers who know their stuff,” he said. But the normal routine is for them to “just gut everything and start changing windows.”
Why does it matter if someone replaces a wood window with a new vinyl or metal window? Fisher said the historic preservation rules governing changes to building exterior are focused on protecting historic architectural features. “You want to keep the character defining features of these homes, and the windows are one of those character defining features.”
Ideally, the Highland Park board would prefer that any exterior changes reflect the building’s historic style and features. But, in some cases, the board is fine if only windows and doors that are visible from the street be preserved or replaced with something of a similar style and material.
That was not the case of the two flipper properties that came before the most recent Highland Park HPOZ meeting. The current owner of 610 N. Avenue 54, which was purchased in December for $218,000 and was put up for sale at $299,143 last month, agreed to replace the new windows, porch railings and front door with something more historically appropriate for the 104-year-old bungalow, a plan approved by the board.
Meanwhile, the owner of 238 E. Avenue 41, a 92-year-old wood-sided cottage that went on the market in March at an asking price of $299,000, agreed to replace the vinyl windows that has been ripped out with wood replicas. That plan also met with the board’s approval.
While the replacement of wood windows at both properties violated the historic preservation rules they did not seem to bother buyers all that much. Both homes went into escrow less than a month after being put up for sale.