Heritage home enthusiast Nick Russell stands outside his Toronto Street home.

For the love of heritage homes

Victoria resident Nick Russell, a heritage home enthusiast, brought his 1891 Toronto Street house from sad to stunning

You’ve had that dream.

Driving past the old house, somewhat neglected but with all those interesting old features: stained glass, wood floors, dormer windows.

What if you bought it, fixed it up, returned it to its former glory? Not just a home but a unique historic home.

Then the questions start.

Will it be too expensive? What renovation challenges will we face? What are some hidden problems lurking we may not know about?

What does a heritage designation mean?

Can we do the work ourselves or will we need expensive contractors?

Victoria resident Nick Russell, a heritage home enthusiast, lives in a Toronto Street house built in 1891 that he changed from sad to stunning.

He’s an advocate of of older homes, attracted by the ambience and atmosphere of such structures.

“If the basics of the structure are solid it can be restored,” Russell said.

A few of the features that Russell enjoys in older homes are the high ceilings, large windows, pocket doors and original fixtures. He is especially drawn to old window glass.

“The imperfections that creates a slightly distorted look, an almost magical view (of the world),” Russell said.

Russell is also aware of the problems that a buyer can face when purchasing an older home. He advised to look for “good bones” and to imagine what the house will look like when renovated.

New buyers in the older home market are often put off by stories they’ve heard of unexpected repairs that crop up after moving in.

A home inspection should find any problems in a home before you make the decision to purchase.

That information will alert you to work that is needed and extra budget issues you need to factor into the home purchase.

Russell’s house, when first seen, had ugly and potentially hazardous asbestos shingles on it. What seemed like a big problem was “much easier to fix than feared.” A specialist roofing company removed the shingles in a single day.

If there’s a misconception out there, it’s that age alone creates a heritage home, which is in fact a designation from the city.

The designation can actually provide a financial benefit, as there are incentives available though the  Victoria Heritage Foundation (online at victoriaheritagefoundation.ca) to assist with renos to those properties.

Some buyers fear such a designation will prevent needed changes to a house. Russell said that isn’t so. A heritage designation prevents wholesale changes to the look of a building but doesn’t stop you from upgrading a kitchen or fixing old wiring and plumbing issues if they exist.

Russell said you have to remember that  “a house is not a museum, it is a place to live in.”

editor@saanichnews.com