How to Sell a Heritage Home

Take a look at any list of top neighbourhoods in Canada, and you’ll find many of them share common elements: character-filled dwellings, tree-lined streets, and dense walkability. Given these characteristics, it’s no surprise that many of these neighbourhoods are also home to heritage properties. Heritage neighbourhoods have an allure that comes with decades or centuries of establishment, and newer developments rarely match their charm, character, and desirability.

But heritage homes aren’t for everyone, and the features and charm that make a neighbourhood great might spell trouble for the individual homes. Restrictive covenants, outdated plumbing, inefficient heating systems and questionable structural stability are problems that plague heritage properties and make them a little harder to sell than the average home.

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to make your heritage home a welcoming and charming part of a sought-after community. Keep reading to find out the steps you should take when selling your heritage home in the Hamilton real estate market (a region with an abundance of Victorian-era homes) and beyond.

Disclosing Heritage Status

The first thing you should do when selling your heritage home is disclose its status. There are three different ways a property might be subject to the Ontario Heritage Act. First, it could be listed in the heritage register, which is a list maintained by your municipality. This listing restricts the buyer from demolishing the building without notifying the register at least 60 days in advance.

Second, the home could be a designated heritage property. This designation is more restrictive and prevents the buyer from making certain alterations to the property without the consent of the municipality. For example, a potential buyer looking to convert a large heritage home into a series of condos in Hamilton might not be able to do so if this conversion would alter the exterior façade of the home. To remove any confusion, make a list of what can and can’t be altered so that your would-be buyers aren’t scared off by this designation.

Finally, your home could be part of a heritage conservation district. Conservation districts are designated on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis instead of a home by home basis. For example, Cabbagetown in Toronto is a designated heritage conservation district, and any home that falls within specific parameters of this neighbourhood is subject to that designation. If your home falls within a heritage district, would-be buyers are restricted to the alterations they can make to the property without the permission of the municipality. There is often a list of what changes can be made without a permit, and providing that list to buyers could be helpful.

Be Transparent About Renovations and Upgrades

There are two primary types of heritage homes: those that have been lovingly maintained by their owners, and those that haven’t. Those that have been maintained by their owners will have wiring, plumbing, and heating systems in line with modern-day standards. Their roofs will be in good condition, and their foundations are maintained.

Heritage homes that haven’t been properly maintained can be a nightmare for potential buyers. Outdated electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace, and roofing and structural issues can be deal breakers for many home hunters.

To fetch top dollar for your heritage home, you should position your heritage house as a well-maintained and updated property. Provide as much information as possible to any would-be buyers about what upgrades you’ve made, when, and why. Show how the home conforms to modern day safety and living standards, and highlight any structural improvements that will keep the home safe and comfortable for decades to come.

Has weeping tile been added to the century-old foundation? Does the home have blown-in insulation in the walls, new windows, or a modern HVAC system? Is the plumbing cast-iron or has it been upgraded? These are all questions that will jump to any would-be homebuyer’s mind, so it’s best to address them up front.

If your home does need work, provide the contact information of contractors you’ve used in the past, especially if they are known to be skilled in the renovation of heritage homes.

Tailor Your Sales Strategy to a Specific Audience

Finally, keep in mind that the average homebuyer isn’t looking for a heritage home. These homes need extra love and care, and they need an owner who can offer that, which results in a smaller buyer pool. But don’t look at this limited market as a constraint, instead, consider it a niche market. Use the services of a real estate agent who has experience highlighting the positive aspects of a heritage home and who can target the right buyers for your unique home.

About Jordann Brown

Jordann Brown is a freelance content marketer and owner of the popular personal finance blog My Alternate Life. She has been featured in major publications and by news outlets including CTV News, the Globe and Mail, Moneysense and the Huffington Post. You can follow Jordann on Twitter at @myalternateblog.

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