Local governments instituted eminent domain, which is the practice of converting private property into public land in exchange for fair market compensation, as a way to add necessary infrastructure to growing towns. During the past century, the use of eminent domain has often caused rifts in the communities in which it has been employed. In South Carolina specifically, the addition of highways, airports, and service roads has uprooted homeowners whose families had often occupied the land for decades.

These seized properties are usually located close to the center of downtown or between urban hubs. Relative urban density is also often a predictor of which homes may be subject to eminent domain. A row of single-family homes located near a zoning district with newly built multi-story buildings is more likely to be subject to the eminent domain than a single-family home located in a neighborhood with few tall structures.

Luckily, there are ways for homeowners to ensure that their property will not be subject to eminent domain. The most secure method is to purchase a property that bears an official historical designation. Homes and gardens that are especially beautiful or were constructed during a specific architectural period usually qualify for this historic status. Properties, where a specific historic event occurred, are also eligible for this designation.

Of course, owning a historic home usually requires specific maintenance practices and exceptional thoughtfulness. Unlike a contemporary home, a historic house will usually feature old-fashioned lights and plumbing systems. These older homes will also potentially have less energy-efficient insulation than a newer structure. Depending on the specific city ordinances, homeowners may need to petition a particular government official in order to update or significantly change these historic features. This can quickly become expensive and time-consuming. As an example, a homeowner may not be allowed to install an LED socket and bulb in what was originally a candle-powered lantern. Repairing a historic broken window can also require a specific type of glass not commonly found in the town’s central hardware store.

For those homeowners who wish to invest in a property they can securely call home for generations to come, the expenses related to the upkeep of a historic structure are worth the money. By occupying a house that has become a recognized and valued part of the larger community, a homeowner not only gains a desirable address but also belongs to a recognized local lineage.

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