Buying a Historic Home: What You Should Know

historic home

A historic home is a unique opportunity for homeowners to live in a local piece of history and maintain a beautifully built house. But they also come with issues that newer homes do not have. Before you commit to owning a historic home, it is crucial that you understand what you are getting yourself into and are prepared for the care that your home will require.

What is a Historic Home?
Historic homes are residential buildings that have some form of heritage value. This category can include private homes, commercial buildings that contain residential units, landmarks, and entire districts and neighbourhoods if they meet certain criteria.

To be considered “historic,” a home needs to be at least 50 years old (with some exceptions) and meet one of four criteria:

  • It is connected to significant historical events.
  • It is connected to the lives of one or more significant individuals.
  • It is considered an embodiment of a particular master or historic style.
  • It has provided or is likely to provide important historical information.

You can find historic buildings anywhere, though there are entire neighbourhoods that are designated historic. Historic areas can be a competitive market, so you will want to ensure your finances are in order before you begin looking.

Benefits of Owning a Historic Home
Owning a historic home can be a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in history and culture. Here are a few benefits of investing in one:

You’ll own a unique piece of history. For some, a historic home is an emotional investment. Many homebuyers seeking a historic home have a passion for history and architecture and are seeking a unique home that they connect with. Their perfect home will have one-of-a-kind features and structures that are appealing to them.

You’ll be joining a community committed to preservation. If you buy a home in a historic neighbourhood, you will be joining a community of homeowners aiming to preserve the character and history of the district, even if it will cost them more money and limit certain property rights.

There is financial assistance available for renovations. If you are concerned about renovation costs that come with owning a historical home, rest assured that there are programs available to help fund them. Look into a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), purchase plus renovations mortgage, a second mortgage, or refinancing your mortgage.

Things to Consider Before You Buy

While there are many benefits to owning a historic home, there are also several important factors that you should consider before taking the plunge:

Historic homes are hard work. Because they are older and often built before modern construction techniques, historic homes often require more tender love and care than newer homes, though this will depend largely on how the home has been maintained through the years. Regular maintenance will be necessary, and you will likely spend a lot of free time on upkeep, so it helps to be a handy-person.

You will likely pay more. Homes and properties located in historic districts often have a higher price tag, especially if they are equipped with modern amenities like central air conditioning. Even if you find a historic home at a good price, you will likely end up investing a significant amount into upgrades and renovations since the materials will cost more than normal.

There could be renovation restrictions. Historic homes have their own set of real estate laws and regulations designed to preserve local history, such as not changing the interior layout, preserving outdoor spaces, and only using certain materials on the house’s exterior. With the stipulations, you may find it more difficult to do maintenance and renovations.

Not every part will be completely modernized. Since a historic home has lasted through numerous decades and owners, there will often be a clash of décor elements inside the house. This is because the historic preservation laws that impact interior and exterior elements often don’t apply to décor. So, you may find styles from several decades through the home that need to be modernized.

Owning a historic home is not for everyone, but it can bring much satisfaction if you are willing to do the work. If you work with a reliable home inspector with experience in historic homes, they will be able to detect bad signs that other inspectors might miss. The real estate agents at RE/MAX can help you find your perfect historic home.

Originally published on the RE/MAX Canada Blog.

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