Given Ontario’s history and the settlement patterns of the 19th and early 20th century, historic homes in the province are numerous and eye-catching.
Heritage homes are residential properties that the government, typically at the municipal level, designate as having a “special heritage interest”. Heritage homes are frequently adored for their unique design and rich character.
Owning a century or heritage property is like owning a piece of Ontario’s history and purchasing one can be an exciting proposition. Doing so however can also put you at risk of inheriting some issues. An experienced registered salesperson or broker can help you through the detailed and unique process of purchasing such a property; and help to ensure you practice due diligence before making an offer.
The best way to determine if a property is a listed property, designated heritage property or in a heritage district is to ask your salesperson or real estate lawyer to check the local municipal register, which will contain a list of properties in the area that are deemed culturally valuable. The register may include important details about listed homes, such as: a description of the property; and whether the property is listed as a designated heritage property or within a heritage conservation district. It may also provide a statement explaining the cultural heritage value or interest of the property and a description of its historical attributes.
It is important to note that many older homes were not built to meet today’s building and safety standards. As a result, older homes are typically more expensive to insure due to higher repair and maintenance costs.
From a safety perspective, you will want to confirm heating, electrical, and plumbing systems are in good order, inquire regarding what type of plumbing and piping exists, and have the home’s structural integrity assessed.
If you are considering renovating a heritage home, there will likely be restrictions in place that govern the design and architectural changes you are permitted to make. The house may need special expertise and nonstandard materials, so it is a good idea to have a contractor inspect any potential properties to discuss renovation limitations and costs. A real estate lawyer is also an invaluable asset to help determine what is permitted under municipal by-laws.
While it is clear that purchasing a heritage home requires a high level of diligence and careful consideration, living in one of these older homes may be a labour of love, and a source of pride.
When purchasing a designated heritage property, the new owner must also give the clerk of the municipality notice of the change within 30 days of taking possession.
Contributed By: Joseph Richer – Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).