What to Know before Buying a Historic Home

Heritage homes are sought after by homebuyers for a number of reasons including serious curb appeal, unique designs, and keeping history alive in the community. Older houses can be an excellent investment – as rental properties for those who find heritage homes appealing but prefer to rent; have better resale value; and often occupy prime real estate. If buying a historic home feels like a dream come true, here are some things you might like to know before signing on the dotted line.

What is a historic home?

A heritage home is a residential property that a governing body such as a municipal (local) government or a historical society deems to have historical and/or cultural significance and therefore is worth preserving. A single house or a group of buildings on the same street or in the same area can be designated as a heritage property due to unique landscaping, significant architectural features, or a specific connection to historic figures.

Historic homes have good bones.

Historic homes were built to last. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are exemplary. They were constructed using tried and true building methods and quality, handcrafted materials, resulting in a heritage home that has good bones.

Renovations are subject to rules.

A homebuyer renovating a heritage home has to follow bylaws, rules, or regulations that have been established in order to preserve the historic value of the home. These regulations could limit the colour choices of the home’s exterior; the materials used for siding and gutters; or restrict changes that can be made to the design of the house or to its architectural detail and decoration.

Historic homes can be challenging to renovate.

Whether you DIY or hire a contract, a heritage home can be challenging to renovate. When purchasing products for repairs or a home renovation project, it might be difficult to find contemporary materials that will maintain historic sensibilities. If you’re not DIYing, it can also be challenging to find a contractor who is familiar with materials and methods used in different historical time periods.

Historic homes often need upgrading.

While a heritage home might be structurally sound, they often need upgrading. Because they were built decades before current building codes, systems such as electrical, plumbing, and heating require upgrading to bring them up to code. Older homes also have other issues that will need to be addressed either before finalizing the sale or after you own the home. Before buying a heritage home check the following:

  • Faulty wiring
  • Poor plumbing
  • Inefficient heating
  • Asbestos and lead paint
  • Mold
  • Water damage
  • Drafts

Historic homes typically cost more.

Depending on the history of the home or its historical significance, the house itself might cost a homebuyer more than a similar-sized house in another neighbourhood. Particularly if the historic home has been well-maintained throughout the years, the sellers could ask a premium price.

You will want to factor in home renovation costs and upgrades, enough to cover the costs of special or higher quality materials for window, roof, entry door, or exterior trim replacements.

Maintaining a heritage home is generally more labour-intensive than that of a modern home.

You will most likely pay more for insurance due to higher repair and maintenance costs.

Get a home inspection.

A home inspection is essential for the homebuyer of a heritage property. A good inspection from a reputable company that is familiar with historic homes will eliminate the number of surprises that might be revealed when you want to replace the chandelier in the dining room or renovate the upstairs bathroom.

Financial incentives for homebuyers.

For homebuyers that are interested in buying a historic property, there are financial incentives available. Possible incentives include grants, tax breaks, and lower interest loans. What bonuses will be awarded largely depends on where the home is located.