This Old House
Many paranormal enthusiasts and researchers, myself included, are drawn to old buildings--the more historical, the better. Unfortunately, the upkeep of these older properties can be costly, with requirements that may not be feasible. This inspires many on the paranormal scene to try and save these homes, and it is often done with genuine intent. That being said...there are some questions that need to be asked before donating time or money to that restoration project.
Restoring older homes or businesses requires much more than the funds to purchase and a clean-up job. Now to be fair, there are some of these efforts that are well thought out and planned, so this is not to say that all of these projects are useless. This is intended to educate those who want to help on what needs to be asked. Ones who have done their homework will encourage questions and be able to provide documentation to back up their answers. Those whose plans are well intended but ill-conceived may be happy to learn more, and those who are flat out scamming may get the message that people are not going to fall for bullshit without question.
1) First and foremost, find out who owns the property. Even if it is a bank or the city, all property is owned by someone, and if the intentions to help are on the up and up, the owner will be aware of all parties involved. If the project includes claims of buying the property, this too can be confirmed.
2) Inquire about inspections and ask to see documentation. When buying a home, especially an older one, the first step is a full inspection of the property. Structural issues that need to be addressed include: foundation, roof, interior, exterior, water and insect damage, mold,lead, and asbestos. Requirements vary by city/county ordinances and prices range from $150-$500, with some areas reaching close to $1000 for a full inspection.
3) Ask about permits. This is true of any home repairs but especially historic properties. Most cities or counties have historic commissions that decide exactly what can be done, which requires additional permits. These permits can be costly, however it is much more so to have to pay fines for not having them. One incident that is a perfect example of how wrong a renovation project can go happened here where I live. A historical property was purchased that needed a lot of work. When the first efforts to fix the place up began, it was one day--and the city was slapping fines for not having the proper permits. The project was eventually abandoned, and it was all due to ill-conceived planning.
4) Inquire what else has been done to try and raise money. It is true that attempting to save historic yet run-down buildings can be a catch-22. Banks won't loan the money if the property is not up to code, but money is needed to obtain permits and make those repairs. If the home is going to be occupied as a residence as well as a tourist attraction, an FHA 203K loan might be a possibility. These loans are specifically for restoration projects and can either be standard to cover more complicated repairs or streamlined for projects less than $35,000. It should be noted that additional qualifications for the 203K loan include the home being a one to four family dwelling, repairs that total at least $5000, and a six month time frame competition. Another possibility is applying for a historic restoration grant, which would not have to be paid back. Requirements for grants also vary by city, county, and state.
5) *and this is most important*...Use common sense. If you ask pertinent questions and get the runaround this is a red flag indicating either bad management or deceit. Find out what the area's requirements are by checking the local Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings. Is the project that is being hawked following those guidelines? Also, research the team or foundation that is pushing the effort to see if there has been any deceit or bad management in the past. (trust me, in this day of the world wide web, if there are complaints..you will find them). Ask if the property is going to be insured with added 'ordinance coverage', which is extra protection for additional ordinances that might occur. The important thing is to ask any question that comes to mind and to voice any concerns you may have.
If all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed, fundraising for a restoration project can be a good thing. There are properties that have been saved because people cared enough to make it happen. However there are also projects that have completely fallen through with time and money down the drain or worse yet..scams that never intended to use the money for the renovation in the first place. You can avoid a lot of disappointment if a little research is done and hard questions asked. Anyone in charge should be ready and willing to answer those questions.