Updated at 6pm Wednesday with comments from city spokeswoman
The historic Silva-Kuser House on DeLong Avenue has a new owner.
The downtown home was built in 1903 for a prominent Novato family, but has sat vacant for more than eight years after it was deemed structurally deficient in 2004. The city has not had enough money to rehabilitate the property and looked for someone to take over the home and preserve its exterior.
Now that person has been found in a longtime Novato resident Elayne Miller.
“I have always loved this house—from my first drive down De Long Avenue 40 years ago,” Miller said. “My goal is to make it visibly pleasing again, and restore it to its Victorian cottage stature.”
Miller is a member of the Novato Historic Guild and paid $11,000 for the transfer of the title. Under the terms of the sale, she must restore the home to the historic standards and not use it for any commercial purpose.
The renovation must be completed by the end of 2018, or ownership will revert back to the city. Novato will have first priority to purchase the home for 10 years after the work is completed, if Miller or another family member decides to sell.
Peggy Flynn, the city spokeswoman, said it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring the historic home up to code. The home is tiny, a mere 800 square feet, has only half a bathroom and no kitchen.
"We need to do the renovations before the house falls in on itself," she said. Flynn praised Miller's involvement in local preservation efforts, adding that the city "could not have found a better person to take this on."
The 80-year-old Miller has said that she plans to live in the home once it's completed.
Local politicians were also enthusiastic about the sale, lauding it as a way to save the historic property in such a visible spot in downtown Novato.
“With the sale of this house to a local resident who is passionate about historic preservation, we are able to preserve a prominent piece of our historic past and improve a neighborhood asset for the benefit of future generations,” said Councilman Eric Lucan.
“This is a significant private investment worthy of a key corridor in our city.”
Asked about why the city did not hire a realtor for the sale or list the property on MLS, an online property listing, Felicia Wheaton, an analyst with the city handling the transaction said the city wanted to save money.
"We didn’t use realtors for the transactions since they typically charge a fee of 5-6 percent of transaction sale," she said.
The Silva-Kuser House was built in 1903 for Dr. and Mrs. John Kuser and was inhabited until the late 1960’s.