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Preservation Week, condos, and manufactured housing

Many people dream about buying a brand-new house. But what about the many possibilities for restoration of an older building or house with possible historic significance?

Next week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, promoting Preservation Week, is urging individuals and organizations to think about renovation and restoration opportunities, particularly as the 1981 Tax Recovery Act made possible significant tax advantages for those rehabilitating historic property.

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Renovation has been meeting a growing part of American housing needs, particularly as the recession slowed new housing growth. A study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that:

* Twenty-eight percent of all units added to the housing supply between 1973 and 1980 came from conversions - or nearly 5 million housing units that were developed without new construction.

* Housing preservation and rehabilitation helped to house about 30 percent of 16 million households that were formed from 1970 to 1980.

* Americans spent $46.4 billion on home improvements during 1981. The value of new housing construction came to about $50 billion.

In addition, points out the National Trust, preservation can lead to a reduction in arson crimes. Arson most often occurs in boarded-up, abandoned buildings which could have been restored. In the mid- to late 1970s, an estimated 523,000 units were lost each year due to arson, vandalism, and neglect.

''We hope to let people know about new incentives,'' says Nancy Light, who is orchestrating many of the Preservation Week activities for the National Trust.

''We want others to know why preservation is housing America. It's a feasible way to afford housing, and it's some of the sturdiest housing in the country. These buildings that exist are good investments.''

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Activities include such things as walking tours, historic tours, and potluck dinners to bring suburbanites into urban neighborhoods.

(Information on events nationwide is available either from local preservation societies or the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. The phone number is (202) 673-4000.)

In a different kind of conversion, it seems that the ''conversion mania'' of switching apartments into condominiums or cooperatives has dropped off considerably.

Nationwide, according to US Housing Markets, there were 80,000 to 85,000 condo and co-op conversions on the market last year. New York City and its suburbs accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total. Only Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth reported more conversions last year than in 1981. Beyond these , only Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul had more than 1,000 conversions. In other areas, converted units were either nonexistent or in figures of 100 to 200.

The conversions peak was reached in 1979-80, when the total hit an estimated 130,000 to 135,000. Now, says Walter C. Klein Jr., president of Advance Mortgage Corporation, publisher of US Housing Markets, it is harder to find properties with the location or price advantage needed for a successful conversion.

Further, the financial return on rental properties is improving. Klein predicts a comeback in the market in five or six years when new rental developers, having benefited from tax breaks, convert their units.

As many renters join the house-hunting crowd, manufactured homes are looking like an increasingly attractive option. According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, 36.6 percent of all new single-family homes (manufactured and site-built) in 1982 were factory-built.

Sales were up 21 percent in the first two months of 1983, after a flat year in '82. One major reason for the growth, says the institute's Patrick de Chiro, is that ''people are looking for affordable housing.'' He adds that design improvements have made many manufactured homes indistinguishable from site-built homes.

According to Mr. De Chiro, a buyer can get anything from a ''simple, small house to the Taj Mahal.'' Costs run from as little as $9,000 for about 600 square feet of living space to $100,000 and up. The typical range is from $20, 000 to $37,000. Factory-built houses also offer a variety of floor plans, siding , and roofing.

A boon for the industry is the availability, as of early April, of Federal Housing Administration 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Previously, many manufactured homes were sold as personal property and thus were not eligible for mortgage loans.

Now such long-term loans are available as long as the house is placed on a fixed foundation and is sold as real estate.

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