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The Weather Network
Nov. 12, 2019 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Don't fear historic designation
Buying a home that carries a heritage designation doesn't mean you absolutely cannot renovate the building. It depends on many factors. (Brian Marshall/Special)

Soon after starting my post-retirement gig as a realtor, I sat down with a couple who wanted a “historical character home as long as it wasn’t designated.” 

During our discussion it became apparent their position was derived from the vague impression that designation adversely effects the resale value of a house and would limit what renovations they could do.

Off the top, let’s deal with value. Academic research has conclusively shown the rate of appreciation on stand-alone, designated homes is at least equivalent to the market and, during a market downturn, depreciates at a slower rate than the average house. Further, when located within a heritage district, the property will tend to appreciate between 4 per cent and 12 per cent more than other homes.

Next, let’s consider designation and renovation. The process of having a property designated requires a detailed explanation of any “cultural heritage value” and a list of “key heritage attributes,” which may include association with important historic figures or events, exterior architectural style/elements, original interior appointments, and/or a combination of significant factors that meet the threshold for designation.

Careful due diligence of the designation documents will define specific limitations associated with a particular house. For example, a house might be designated based purely on the exterior form and details, while the interior has no heritage value. In that case an interior renovation is perfectly acceptable.

So, is it more expensive to reno a designated house? Yes … you can’t, for instance, simply yank out heritage windows and replace them with cheap vinyl windows.

Can the renovation process be longer? Again, yes … plan approval is more rigorous, although in my experience, proper up-front consultation with a town’s heritage planner will ease this hurdle.

However, at the end of the day, you’ll have a unique house with a great return on investment, the option to access (availability dependant on jurisdiction) renovation grants and/or property tax rebates, and many decades of proven livability.

Moreover, designation means that a piece of living history is safeguarded for future generations, thereby establishing a Canadian legacy.