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House Names Making a Comeback. I’ll Call Mine ‘Shirley’

A house with a name intrigues buyers or renters since it often suggests luxury, and the concept is reappearing again on vacation-rental websites, such as Airbnb.

NEW YORK – To put their own unique mark on a home, some owners are naming their houses. The nation has a long historic tradition of named homes, and The Wall Street Journal reports that the practice is rising again.

A name for a home can add interest for would-be buyers and even generate more inquiries from those curious to learn more, according to the report.

Bernard Herman, the George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says house names have proliferated to reflect the democratization of estate ownership, saying, “House naming as we know it is connected to the emergence of modern sensibilities of property and land.”

“Most of our properties have house names,” says Story Litchfield, a broker with LandVest Properties on Mount Desert Island, Maine. “And if they don’t, we try to come up with them.”

But Litchfield says house naming is an art and suggests avoiding names that are “too pretentious or tongue-in-cheek.” She also suggests homeowners avoid nonsense words that are not memorable or are difficult to pronounce.

On Mount Desert, a large island in Maine known for grand old estates, residents and visitors often refer to homes by name. Martha Stewart’s estate overlooking Seal Harbor is named “Skylands,” for example; and the late banker David Rockefeller’s home is called “Ringing Point” because a navigational bell can be heard offshore.

The trend of naming houses is especially visible on properties listed on online vacation rental and real estate sites, the WSJ reports.

“Names here represent more than a house,” Story says. “They represent an area, a way of life, and are evocative of family and summer and happy times.”

Source: “More Homeowners Are Playing the Name Game,” The Wall Street Journal (July 3, 2020) [Log-in required.]

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