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As a prospective owner of a historic residential property, here are ten things to know that can help you in your decision-making process.

Historic homes are homes that are considered architecturally significant or representative of a local region’s history in some way. This includes homes that are in neighbourhoods designate as historic districts. Many historic homes have charm and are attractive visually but may have structural problems and unexpected expenditures that come with maintenance, repairs or taxes. Before you sign on the dotted line, here are some tips to help you be prepared in buying your desired historical property.

1. Get a home inspection with a qualified inspector who ideally specializes in historic homes. You may also want the assistance of a structural engineer who can point out areas that need to be fixed. Be willing to walk away if your house has too many structural problems.

2. For all necessary repairs, get several price estimates from contractors.

3. Ensure that the house meets safety standards for lead paint, asbestos, cast iron pipes, knob and tube wiring, smoke detection and carbon monoxide.

Image via Architectural Digest

4. Find out what tax incentives may be available to you through provincial and local government. This could be in the form of tax credits or rebates for increasing the overall efficiency of the homes including new heating, ventilation and air conditioning, windows, doors and roofing.

5. While the resale value may be higher in historic districts, be aware that tax levies in historic districts may be higher.

6. Historic homes may have restrictions on rehabilitation and renovation. You may need to acquire special permits to make changes to the house or property as the local region may have laws in place to preserve the neighbourhood’s character and style. Check on-line to see what restrictions apply. Find out if you have local zoning by-laws or ordinances about design standards or remodelling rules. For example, you may not be allowed to add more square footage to a historic home such as a new level or story. You may also be restricted in the design changes that you make to ornamental features, windows, shutters and roofs.

7. Find out if your home is registered officially as a historic property or is deemed to be a historically significant property. You may need to check with the city or town clerk for this information if you do not know this already.

Image via New Old House

8. Utility bills may run high if the home is not properly insulated and energy efficient. Check with the last year’s energy bill to get an estimate. See where you might improve the energy efficiency of the home.

9. Your modern-day goals may not work with the historic home’s architecture. Can you make the changes that you want without altering the home’s architectural value and character? Will the changes that you want to make alter the home’s resale value?

10. Depending upon the home’s historical classification, you may be eligible for limited financial aid ranging from tax incentives to grants and loans from the government through preservation resources that are intended to keep properties intact. A preservation easement essentially is an agreement between you, the owner of a historic property and either the government or a private historic preservation agency to preserve the property in exchange for a tax break.


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