When we first heard it was possible to lease a pre-Victorian farmhouse with warm southern exposure, hardwood floors and more than an acre of land for $0, our first thought was, “sign us up!”.

Of course, there was a catch. The lease is part of a public-private partnership program in a handful of East Coast states and the house has been boarded up for over ten years and needs a total renovation. What’s more? It’s a publicly owned historic property, so the only option is rehabilitation.

The deal might not be for everyone, but for a small group of “resident curators”, the benefits outweigh the risks.

The public-private program leases historic properties to organizations and individuals who agree to pay for renovations and ongoing upkeep. The leases are as little as $1 and last at least twenty years.

In an article in the Financial Post, Patrice Kish, director of the state’s Office of Cultural Resources said, “We have a number of wonderful historic properties, but lack the financial means to take care of them, so they sit vacant or underutilized.” She went on to describe the project as a “preservation tool”.

It works for the state, but does it work for the buyer?

Some say, yes. While there are strict national and local building codes and the cost of renovating the house can be up to a million dollars, several curators see the chance to live on historic property as a huge opportunity.

One of the curators, Maureen Clarke says that it gives her the chance to live in a house she wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. According to the Financial Post, Clarke said: “We anticipate our costs will end up being about the same as paying two years-worth of rent in New Jersey. Then we’ll have 23 years of living rent-free in this amazing home we might not be able to afford otherwise.”

Seems like pretty good reasoning, but we’re still not sure this is the deal for us!

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