Article: Time Capsule Homes

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A Page from the Past: Time Capsule homes are all the rage

Nostalgia is a powerful force. How else to explain America’s continued fascination with the 1950s, or the Camelot days of the Kennedy White House, or pretty much everything having to do with Christmas? In pop culture it can be even more powerful and profitable. While we wallowed in the misadventures of Don Draper ( whose most famous pitch was, in fact, about nostalgia), wasn’t it the aesthetic of 1960s New York that drew us to Mad Men? And sure, Stranger Things was great, but it wasn’t the writing or acting that drew us in – it was the faithful recreation of the 1980s entertainments that we loved so much.

And so it is with real estate.

Time capsule homes, the term for houses that have been meticulously preserved from a certain era, are popular for buyers of certain tastes and (typically) income levels, time capsule homes are often conversation pieces while they’re on the market. That is to say: If you find yourself listing one of these, plan an open house for what it is – a chance for a bunch of gawkers to get a look-see – and show it to serious buyers by appointment.

Here are some of America’s more prominent time capsule homes:

The erstwhile Realtor.com has a roundup of gorgeous time capsule homes available across the U.S., including list price. And, oddly, they all feel like pretty good deals. There’s a Civil-war era home in Bechtelsville, Penn., for $274,900 and a pink-carpeted number in Clearwater, Fla., (where else?) for just $159,900. But for our money, we’ll take the Mid-Century Modern with an indoor pool in Boise, Idaho, for a cool $349,000. The cool of California with the lifestyle of one of America’s most underrated cities? Yes please.

This article was published just last September, so it’s possible or even likely that these homes are still on the market.

The biggest repository of time capsule photos we could find comes from retrorenovation.com. While the site does seem to blur the lines between time capsule homes (those preserved in their original state) versus homes retro-designed to evoke a certain era, or even built new to appear that way, it’s a clicking-finger’s delight either way ( check out Judy’s kitchen!)

More into shag carpeting and wood panels? Then the 70s are for you. Buzzfeed has a roundup (natch) of homes that show off the charm of our funkiest decade. The days of psychotropic drugs and bellbottoms were, perhaps not coincidentally, also the days of avocado green and harvest gold appliances, pink-and-orange tiling and curtains that could double as a backdrop for Alice in Wonderland.

You stay weird, 1970s.

Just for kicks, HGTV published a slideshow in 2014 of a gorgeously preserved Toronto home that was finally being sold by its 96-year-old owner. From the outside it’s not much, but inside… wow. We hope you like Robin’s Egg Blue and pink. But if you’re looking for a ’50s time capsule, you probably do.

For you, the agent, there are a few things to remember:

  • There’s a difference between “old” and “retro,” and you’ll likely know the difference between a time capsule home and something that hasn’t been touched in 40 years before you walk through the door.
  • While charming, these homes have their quirks, which likely include small kitchens, bathrooms and closets, large living areas and formal dining rooms. Therefore…
  • Time capsule homes, even the best of them, will take a specific buyer, so be patient and urge patience on the part of your clients. That certain someone who has been dying for a sunken living room will turn up eventually… until then, fire up the lava lamp, turn on an episode of Andy Griffith, and enjoy.