Historic Main Line estate Dolobran to be auctioned off
Premium content from Philadelphia Business Journal by Natalie Kostelni, Reporter
Date: Friday, August 31, 2012, 6:00am EDT
HAVERFORD For 22 years, Amy Nislow made her home at the historic Dolobran Estate off Laurel Lane here, tending to the 19-room Frank Furness-designed structure and raising her four children.
Now with the kids all grown and living in different parts of the country, Nislow decided two years ago to sell the house at 231 Laurel Lane for $3.9 million. Though Nislow came close to unloading the house, it never sold and is now up for auction.
Robin Gordon of Prudential Fox & Roach has the listing and decided an auction would give some certainty that a sale would take place. Anyone interested must conduct any due diligence, such as completing a home inspection and arranging financing, before the auction on Oct. 6, which helps get over some of the biggest hurdles affecting the sale of some homes in this difficult housing market.
The suggested opening bid for the house is $750,000 and a $30,000 deposit is required. An adjacent one-acre lot is also up for sale and will be auctioned separately.
So far, we have had tremendous interest, said Gordon, though some seem like they are looking at the house more as a curiosity than for a sincere interest.
In what initially looks like a last-ditch move to get a house sold, its not unusual for homes such as Dolobran to come up for auction.
When we think of an auction in real estate, we think its distressed, said Gary Geston, a historic home specialist with Long & Foster Realtors in Maryland. Its not that way at all with historic homes. Its like auctioning a piece of art. Its hard to establish price. There are four factors: price, condition, location and historical significance. That is very hard to monetize and an auction will help determine that.
Just shy of 17,000 square feet, Dolobran was designed by Furness beginning in 1881 for Clement A. Griscom, a shipbuilder who operated American Steamship Co. and the Red Star Line. The design is Victorian Gothic revival and includes ornate brick chimneys, irreplaceable millwork and original fireplaces that standout as Furness trademarks. Dolobran is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house includes such details as a Delft tiled fireplace, an architecturally significant staircase, a solarium done in a Moroccan motif, as well as original roof and window treatments.
Its a rare kind of buyer who appreciates this type of architecture, said Michael Gordon, who teams up with his wife Robin to help market homes along the Main Line. Its a smaller market than those looking to buy a new house.
You are buying a continuum of history, Gestson said. Most people who are in this niche see it as an experience. They are buying a lot of intangibles like a work of art.
These buyers, for example, get excited about moldings and nine-over-nine window panes that may have names from a bygone era etched in them.
The market for historic homes is narrow and it doesnt suffer from the fluctuations an investor or new home market may experience. Most people who buy historic homes pay the mortgage down and, in general, live in them for 15 to 25 years.
While an individual is a likely buyer for the house, the structure also has the potential to be converted into a bed-and-breakfast or even offices. The undeveloped lot is zoned residential for a single-family dwelling.
While overall in good condition, Dolobran could use some updating, Gordon said. For example, the kitchen was renovated 20 years ago and not every part of the house is air conditioned.
I like the detail, the beautiful carvings and history, Nislow said. The house is so interesting and its a fantastic location but I really want to move on with my plans, and having a date that it will sell.
Real Estate, Economic Development
Natalie Kostelni, Staff Writer
Philadelphia Business Journal
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