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 unforeseen issues. One of the main concerns with purchasing a heritage home is lack of knowledge surrounding special conditions that come with owning a heritage property. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about heritage homes, the Ontario Heritage Act and possible restrictions you may come across.

What is the purpose of the Ontario Heritage Act?

The Ontario Heritage Act gives the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture industries the power to designate a property of provincial significance. This designation prohibits the demolition or removal of any building or structure and requires ministerial approval for alterations of the property.

How do I find out if it’s a heritage home?

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. It will contain a list of properties in the area that are known as ‘culturally valuable’. The register may include important details about these types of homes. This includes a description of the property and whether the property is listed as a designated heritage property. It will also state if it is 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.

Is a heritage house worth more than a non-heritage house?

Almost always, yes. Heritage properties often attract higher resale values. The new owner knows that certain parts of the home are original. Further, the value of the homes around it is also likely to increase faster than the average. Heritage designation can also lead the way with gentrification within a neighbourhood which, in turn, leads to rising property values

Should I have a heritage home inspection done before buying?

Buying a 100-year-old house is not different than buying a 30-year-old home when it comes to having a home inspection done. Every home should be inspected by a professional before putting in an offer. A home inspection will highlight repairs, their costs, and give you a better sense of your overall financial investment.

If I do not own the title to the heritage home, is it eligible for insurance?

If you are renting a heritage home, you are eligible for tenants insurance. We encourage you to speak with one of our knowledgable insurance brokers to learn about your options and how you can maintain proper coverage for unforeseen events.

Houses over 100-years-old can also require special considerations. Balancing your insurer’s requirements with the renovation guidelines for heritage homes in your area can be a challenge. Since a renovation can cost up to 50% more with the title, it’s important you fully understand what the designation means for renovations.

What should I look out for when renovating a heritage home?

When renovating, some of the internal aspects of your home may need an update. These updates must comply with the National Building Code of Canada. It is also necessary to obtain the proper insurance. Some safety threats of heritage homes include galvanized iron pipes, knob and tube wiring, and old furnaces and heating systems. Making these upgrades to your home will not only keep you safe, but will better help your insurance protect you in an unforeseen event.

What are you allowed to do to a heritage-listed house?

Generally speaking, owners of heritage-listed homes can always renovate the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry to suit your taste. While you can renovate the back rooms of a heritage property, you must preserve the original style and structure of the front rooms.

Is it possible to get a third-party opinion on my heritage home appraisal?

While you can certainly get multiple opinions on your appraisal, it’s important to go to someone who is familiar with heritage properties and their uniqueness. Your insurance company may recommend trusted vendors that meet their standards, but you can do your own research or find someone on your own. Be sure to talk with your isure broker about your options!

What about renovating a heritage property?

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.

What if there’s damage to a heritage property?

If you suffer significant damage to your heritage property, the claims process will be a bit more complex. Your insurer will figure out the replacement cost for rebuilding the property and will have to consider any historic significance, special materials and unique features. Heritage property experts usually consult and appraise the building. To recreate any special features of the heritage property, specialty contractors may also be called in.

A heritage designation bestowed by federal, provincial or municipal governments protects the features of the property that are of special heritage interest.

Can you put solar panels on a historic building?

Whether to allow solar panels on heritage buildings is an ongoing debate in many cities. Some places allow solar panels on the roof of a heritage property, but most rules require that they not be visible from the street. You may need to apply to the local heritage commission for approval. On a flat roof, this can possibly work. A sloped roof, however, might show the solar panels and will have a visual impact on the property.

Will my homeowner’s insurance cover replicating damaged heritage features?

If you want the original features of your property to be replicated in case of damage, you should ensure you have appropriate insurance. Coverage depends on the risk the owner and insurance company are prepared to share. The age, quality and condition of the building will affect the premium and available coverage. As with any home insurance plan, it’s best to research insurance providers to find the most competitive rate and best service.That’s where isure comes in!

What is the difference between a heritage home and a designated home?

A heritage house holds no specific architectural significance except that it’s old; this is the key. Designated homes have significant or unique architectural design. Many homes with heritage value or interest are eventually recommended for designation. Formal designation of heritage properties is one way of publicly acknowledging a property’s heritage value to a community. At the same time, designation helps to ensure the conservation of these important places for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Will I pay more for insurance if my home is given a designation?

No. Your premiums should not increase as a result of the designation. The Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports states, “The designation itself does not place additional requirements on the insurer and therefore, should not affect your premiums.” Your insurer may raise premiums for other reasons related to risk. A higher risk level may include outdated wiring or an old heating system. Still, other insurance companies will not insure buildings over a certain age.

Do I need permission before starting general maintenance on a designated heritage property?

General maintenance work does not usually require heritage approvals. This may include:

  • Repainting exterior trim
  • Replacing or repairing an asphalt roof
  • Altering and repairing property features not covered by the designation by-law

As the owner, you may still need a building permit and should check with the local building department before doing any work.

Is a designated property more difficult to maintain or renovate?

If you want to buy and renovate one, you’ll need to have patience. Designated heritage homes tend to have legal protection, so homeowners don’t always have the ability to make upgrades to their property without approval and the correct permit. You’ll likely need to seek municipal approval for many of the updates you’ll be considering. Then, you may have to use specific materials that complement the home style. However, these materials may not even exist, so you’ll need to find an expensive alternative or specialist to recreate them. A designated heritage house is a step higher in neediness than a heritage, or simply, old home.

Is a buying an older home going to be a money pit?

This can be true. Which is why it’s important to get the municipal heritage division on your side. Ideally, both before AND after purchase. Working collaboratively with them can help you save money and time.

How do I go about selling a heritage home?

When selling your heritage home, having the “Description of Heritage Attributes” or a similar report on-hand is helpful. This, along with details about any renovation work you undertake as the owner, will help dispel any myths and concerns.

Buying a 100-year-old home can be a large undertaking, especially homes with a heritage designation. There is a lot to consider when buying one. While you are likely thinking about renovations and interior design, what your policy can cover should be at the top of your list. If you have questions about the special conditions that surround buying a heritage home, our representatives at isure can help. We’re here to help you navigate all your insurance needs so you can enjoy a little piece of history with some peace of mind!

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