With its settlement roots going back to the mid 19th Century Nanaimo is blessed with a colorful past and an inventory of some truly beautiful character homes. As a general rule of thumb any property dating back to before the Second World War is classed as a character home, and the Harbour City has been blessed by a wide assortment of properties that have stood the test of time.
But, as gorgeous as some of these older homes can be, and Nanaimo has many homes a century old and older, there are a few things to consider before investing in a classic property. The following are just a few items to consider before signing on the dotted line.
Old Tech: The expression ‘they don’t build them like they used to’ remains very true. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing, especially when it comes to the technology found in your home. While elegant wainscoting, hand-hewn dove tail joints, coved ceilings and other hallmarks of a classic home add to the appeal of the property, the ancient wiring and plumbing will not.
Bringing a century old home’s electrical wiring up to the standards required to power a modern family could become an expensive and time consuming undertaking. The same is true when it comes time to replace vintage piping, or inefficient hot water systems. If the home you’ve fallen in love with has not had a recent upgrade of its services expect that will be one of the first investments you might be making to your new acquisition.
Insulation: When the designers and builders were constructing Nanaimo’s earliest properties the terms energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly were simply not part of their vocabulary. Any character home that has not had a modern upgrading will invariably be drafty, expensive to heat and could have damp or even moldy areas. Single pane windows were the norm in days gone by, and insulation would have been used less diligently than it is today and could contain harmful asbestos. Many local builders specialize in bringing local charmers into the 21st Century in terms of energy efficiency and insulation levels, but it will not be a simple or cheap undertaking.
Prior to buying your home, always have it thoroughly inspected to determine beforehand the condition of the property and to identify those areas that will require contemporary enhancements. The last thing you’ll want when settled into your classic home is to find it a cold and drafty barn in the winter.
Remodeling: Back at the turn of the 20th Century indoor plumbing was considered a luxury more than it was a necessity. As a result many character homes will have but a single bathroom, and one that could be smaller and less well equipped than modern homeowner’s have come to expect. Extensive remodeling might be required on an older home, especially with the bathrooms, kitchen and in the bedrooms. Bedroom closets, while expected today often were not part of the plan in 1901, when wardrobes and other furniture items typically served that purpose.
Don’t be surprised to find that many of the rooms in a character home will seem smaller and less well lighted by windows than a modern home typically is. If you have the budget a classic property can be expanded and rejuvenated, but it will not be easy, fast or cheap to do so.
Restrictions: While not likely to be an issue some local properties are viewed as historical in nature, and have restrictions placed on them in terms of the sort of updating you can do. Always check with the City of Nanaimo to ensure that no such controls are in place before beginning your updating efforts.
These are just a few considerations to have before buying a character home. The properties constructed in earlier times can be undeniably beautiful and charming, but could also present insurmountable obstacles if extensive updating is required. Always do your research before purchasing. But if at the end you’re stilling wanting to own a piece of local history, there are many to choose from, just contact your favorite real estate sales professional to begin your search.