10 Signs a Heritage Home Is Right (Or Wrong) For You

How to Tell if a Heritage Home is a Good Investment

When it comes to purchasing a home, there are two options that you have. You can buy newer construction or an older landmark building with character from its original period of time on the property.

The style of architecture that makes up a home is often based on the time in which it was built. Historic homes are significant due to their association with important historical figures, decisive moments or events, and engineering achievements from different eras. Many people feel drawn to historic homes for this reason: however, it's important to be aware that historic homes may have hidden expenses that can make their purchase and upkeep daunting. Here are several signs a historic home is a good investment — or could cost more than it's worth to repair.

Signs a Historic Home is a Good Investment

There are many reasons why people want to buy a historic home, but one of the most popular is that they believe it will be a good investment. The truth is, not all old homes are worth buying, but there are plenty of gems ready for the enterprising homebuyer to find and restore to a state of glory. Here are some signs that a historic home is a good investment.

You Can See Historical Fine Detailing Still Intact

In an ideal world, the original character of a home is still there, and this is one of many things you should look for when buying a historic home. Restoring a home to its original state and style can be an engaging project because a good historic home is rich with details from the past. Pay attention to the fine details when touring a historic home, and make note of any that stand out to you.

Details are the little things that make a big difference. Crown molding, transom windows, and ceiling medallions can all tell you about what kind of home the historical owners lived in. They also add to its visual appeal and contribute greatly to historic integrity! But these features aren't just for show, even though most people don't take them too seriously at first glance, because regular maintenance tasks seem trivial compared to bigger issues like water damage or a damaged roof. The maintenance of these aspects can be a sign that the previous owners invested in the preservation of the home.

The Home Has Well-Maintained Period Windows

Well-Maintained Vintage WindowWindows might be the most reliable indicator of a property's upkeep. The windows, particularly if they are original to the house's construction period, may be one of the simplest ways to tell whether a historic home has been properly maintained. Look for copper (or metal) weather stripping and a tight fit on the window when it's shut, as well as signs that the wood is warping or water damaged. If it's not, it's a good sign that the windows have been kept up well.

The Staircases and Doors are Original Construction

It's wonderful to see the durability of older hardware, especially in light of today's highly engineered construction. Keep an eye out for original doors and staircases, as finding these in good condition is a sign of a well-maintained home. Traditional doors, including the mythical pocket doors, are undoubtedly a good sign — not to mention well-kept antique knobs.

A solid wood staircase is another fantastic addition. These are frequently removed during renovations and replaced with low-cost alternatives, so if the previous owner maintained the original staircase, it's a good sign indicating the quality of the home's previous care.

The Walls Are Intact Plaster

Having plaster walls isn't always a bad thing, provided the plaster has been well maintained. Plaster walls may appear to be a frightening prospect to some because you can easily imagine them crumbling at the slightest touch of a nail, but they're actually more durable than drywall, resist moisture, and are soundproof. If a home features plaster walls in excellent shape, you can tell it's been well maintained over time.

Buying a Historic Home Doesn't Have to Be a Nightmare

Make sure to look for other signs of well-maintained homes, too. If the previous owners maintained the home's appearance and offered good care over time, it will be apparent through the appearance of the home and the landscaping. It may take some work to get an old home into shape (and you may need all kinds of permits), but that shouldn't scare you off from having the historic home of your dreams.

Signs a Historic Home May Cost More Than It's Worth to Repair

There's no denying the charm, appeal, and solid construction that many heritage homes have. Of course, along with age comes a few issues that have cost implications that should be thoroughly considered before establishing a financial commitment. Like with any home purchase, it's essential to think long-term about the advantages and disadvantages. Continue reading to learn about five issues with heritage homes that can be expensive to repair.

You Find Aged Masonry Chimneys

Many older homes feature grand masonry chimneys, and while they are beautiful, they can eventually deteriorate and cause a myriad of issues. One of the most significant risks is that water will seep into gaps and cracks as the masonry breaks down, resulting in interior damage. Another potential problem is that these fireplace chimneys might not meet current safety requirements and need to be rebuilt. On average, prepare to spend $1250 or more on this project. Furthermore, failure to identify masonry chimney issues can lead to even more expensive issues later on, making it one of the top reasons to get a home inspection.

There's Termite Damage in the Structure

Termite damage can be a problem in any home, but it is more common to discover in older homes with wood installations and framing. Depending on the severity of the infestation, termite remediation can be costly should the pests arise in critical areas or take over entire walls. On the flip side, a small infestation caught early might not require intensive or expensive treatment. Some signs of a termite infestation include:

  • Buckling or sagging floors
  • Hollow-sounding wood floorboards or supports
  • Pinholes in drywall
  • Bubbling or peeling paint
  • Wood shavings around foundation areas

If buying an older home, take proactive steps to prevent their presence by filling in the low ground around the foundation and ensuring the drainage system is functional. Install treated lumber for decking and other wooden attachments. Be sure to seal any visible foundation cracks to prevent termites from getting in. Should termites crop up, call in a professional for eradication and remediation.

The Home Needs Plumbing and Sewer Replacement

Older or historic homes with the original plumbing in place can also pose challenges for new owners. Galvanized pipes from the 1960s may contain lead, and as they decompose over time, the fragments can be dispersed into drinking and bathing water. Polybutylene pipes installed between the 70s and 90s tend to corrode due to chemicals that can burst.

Of course, clogging and residue buildup in pipes can result in water backups, leaks, smells, low pressure, and stoppages. Lead and polybutylene pipes are against current building codes, so be sure a home inspector investigates the issue. While old sewers and plumbing installation replacements can be costly, the expense is not comparable to the benefits of having good quality water available. Additionally, updating plumbing fixtures is one of the best home improvements to modernize heritage homes.

Deteriorating Roofing Needs Replacement

One of the most common problems that older homes have involves roofing deterioration. Depending on the material and the last time it was replaced, small portions may require work, or the entire installation may need to be replaced. Metal roofing can last for decades, while shingles tend to last about 10 to 15 years, depending on the grade of the materials. Signs to look for before buying an older Toronto home include:

  • Sags in the roofing
  • Missing shingles
  • Bows in gutters
  • Leaks or moisture in the attic or on the topmost floor

Replacing an entire roof can cost upwards of $10,000, but the expenses of postponing roof repairs can be exponentially higher.

Extensive Asbestos or Mould Remediation

While asbestos is a naturally occurring material, it has been proven to contribute to the proliferation and development of certain cancers and respiratory problems. Unfortunately, it was widely used in commercial and residential environments due to its low cost and fire-resistant abilities. However, by the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency had banned its use in most applications.

That being said, many older homes still have walls, crawlspaces and pipes that have asbestos insulation and panels. Direct long-term exposure is a risk for visible contact surfaces, while those tucked away in inaccessible spaces and walls are unlikely to pose serious risks. Yet, if home additions or knocking down walls during a renovation is in the works, it is best to remove any asbestos-laden materials.

Mould and mildew damage can result from slow leaks or sudden ones, but these water pools and moisture are often hidden from sight in the foundation, under sinks, in basements, and within attics. The issue is that these moisture-loving microorganisms can grow and flourish anywhere and get worse quickly unless detected through routine home inspections.

Often, a slight musty smell is the first sign of mould or mildew. Sensitive persons may experience breathing problems, congested airways, itchy skin and allergy-type symptoms. This is more problematic among respiratory issues, so it's a problem not to be ignored. Small amounts of mildew and mould growth can generally be resolved relatively quickly with eradication efforts.

Find Your Perfect Heritage Home

While historic and older homes can be excellent investments, buyers should be prepared to make a few renovations before moving in and be ready for surprises as the home ages even more. However, they have benefits such as solid construction and natural energy-efficiency perks that appeal to many homebuyers. Be sure to evaluate all the pros and cons of a Toronto heritage home before making a purchase.

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