Owning a heritage home
This article will explore the pros and cons of owning a heritage home in Ottawa. Some people feel that heritage properties are like windows into the past while others see them as real headaches with development restrictions and price depreciation.
Yes there are risks involved in owning a heritage home, but, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
I think these buildings are monuments to craftsmen who have gone before and should be treasured. The romance and emotional pull of an older home hold enormous appeal. Many are attracted to fully renovated heritage homes while others relish the idea of completing the restoration/renovation themselves and bringing back to life a jewel of the past with all the bells and whistles of a modern interior.
In Ottawa a home can be registered on title as a heritage home and be adorned with a plaque or simply be on the Heritage Registry without the plaque.
So what are the pros and cons to be aware of?
• Heritage properties often attract higher resale values because they, and often the surrounding areas, are protected. Buyers may assume this means a property can’t be changed at all, but in fact work is encouraged to ensure a house is properly maintained and modernized. Buyers just need to know what aspects of the original building are especially important in maintaining its character.
• If you own a heritage property in Ottawa you will be able to apply for grants to help fund its restoration. Grants can be used for restoration and repointing of exterior brick masonry, restoration of original porches, and windows. Grants are NOT for ongoing maintenance or interior renovations, landscaping etc. unless deemed a heritage feature. The maximum grant is $5000. It is a “matching” grant; the City matches every dollar the owner spends to a maximum of $5000. The minimum grant is $1000. These grants are subject to availability of funds. You can apply for a grant every second year so owners often space out the work to maximize the grant money available.
• It is unlikely that the area surrounding your house will be rezoned or developed.
• If the property is well looked after it will retain its appeal and will only grow in value with age.
• Heritage homes were built in prime central locations. They often occupy larger lots and have more and larger rooms than the average modern home. They also tend to be well-built structures with thick walls, stone foundations, wooden floors and old-school attention to detail and craftsmanship.
• There are more restrictions around the development of a heritage property.
• The cost of renovating a heritage property can be up to 50% higher with surprise costs for remedial electrical work, chimney restoration, removing hazardous building materials like asbestos or UFFI (urea formaldehyde foam insulation) or replacing roof trusses etc. Often surfaces have been covered over so many times that you don’t know what is underneath so restoration takes longer therefore costs are higher.
• Complete demolition of a property isn’t usually allowed.
• Home insurance may be harder to obtain so it’s best to do some research before making an offer to see if the present policy can be transferred to the new owner.
• Heritage properties are old so buyers must organize thorough building and pest inspections.
• Finding a contractor for the renovation/restoration will be more difficult. They need to have a passion for older homes and understand how they were built.
We live in a neighbourhood abounding in heritage homes. Only you can decide if this type of ownership is right for you. Ottawa has a very active heritage council that can advise and assist potential and current owners of heritage homes: www.heritageottawa.org.
Real estate update since January 22
The condominium market is leading sales.
Residential activity: Sold – 4; Sold over list price – 1; Conditionally sold – 2; Active – 7
Condominium activity: Sold–12; Sold over list price – 2; Conditionally sold–7; Active –34