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NORMAL - Heather Jordon experienced love at first sight - with her 1860s Greek revival home in Normal.

"The house has such a great essence," said Jordon, an associate professor of math at Illinois State University. "You know how you just feel at home in some houses? This house makes me feel at home."

A growing number of homebuyers around the Twin Cities have found a similar attachment to older homes.

Real estate agents sold 561 homes built before 1940 in 2006, 87 more than they did in 2005, according to the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors. Old home sales in 2006 were at the highest level since 1999 when agents sold 490 pre-1940s homes.

Experts say older homes are known for their craftsmanship and are popular for their sense of culture and history. Some people enjoy living in an established neighborhood because they have a lot of trees and they're often close to downtown areas, schools and universities. Interior features appeal to buyers, as well.

Sales have increased in Bloomington-Normal because of a resurgence in interest in a few older home styles and more public attention, said Kathi Zurkowski, a real estate agent who specializes in sales of pre-1940s homes in Bloomington-Normal.

Older homes also are less expensive than new homes with the same square footage, Zurkowski said. In April, 53 homes built before 1940 sold for an average price of $88,203, according to the realtors association. The average new home in April sold for $298,880.

Local neighborhoods also have been restored, so buyers have a better selection of nice homes in good neighborhoods, said Mark Edwards, executive director of the Old House Society in Bloomington.

Many older homes fell into disrepair after World War II as people and businesses moved into new developments, Edwards said. Within the last 25 to 30 years, people have moved back to and fixed up old neighborhoods.

It can be a challenge to maintain and update an older area, though, he said. Old neighborhoods need sewer updates, new plumbing and new electrical wiring, he said.

"It's the look and the feel of the older home that people want, but they don't want to live with old technology," Edwards said.

Zurkowski specifically has seen interest in bungalow, craftsman and four square houses increase. Buyers still like Victorian homes, too, she said.

The switch to more interest in other styles is similar to changes in fashion, Zurkowski said.

"It's kind of dovetailed with the interest in low-ride jeans," she said.

Popular media and other businesses have played a role, as well, Zurkowski said.

Martha Stewart, "This Old House" television show and catalogs like Pottery Barn showcase old homes and spark interest, she said.

Jordon fits the stereotype of someone who is interested in older homes for all the popular reasons.

Her new house - with its rosy, soft carpet and hardwood floors, curved archways, French doors, big windows and an attractive banister - had just the right amount of uniqueness she wanted when she bought the house last June.


Sold!

Interest in old homes - those built before 1940 - is growing around Bloomington-Normal. Here's a breakdown of the number of pre-1940s homes sold in recent years.

2006…561

2005…474

2004…478

2003…462

2002…422

2001…411

2000…384

1999…490

SOURCE: Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors

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