Buying Historic & Heritage Homes

Perhaps the resale home that interests you is not a 3 year old preowned home but a 110 year old Victorian house, or a 126 year old farmhouse: in other words, not just an older house, but an old house. Especially in a newer town, homes that date back to the 1930s are also old enough to consider “old”.

It is certainly true that not all old houses are glorious examples of their particular architectural style. Some do not appear to have any particular style. However, one thing you can say for even nondescript oldies is that they are solid. After all, they are still here, aren’t they, after all these years? And while not all of them have stained-glass windows, medallion ceilings, and other grand touches, many of even the simpler ones have little nooks and crannies and design features that are just not that common in newer houses.

Some houses are just old: others are officially designated “historic”. In the latter case, the house may have been named by the local, provincial or federal government as a Historic Place and have architectural or historic significance. Frequently, they do not stand by themselves but are part of a historic district. Some old houses have historic status, and others are local landmarks.

Do these homes intrique you? Do you want on of your own? If so, there are some important points to consider. For example, don’t let your love for old houses lead you to buy a withering but charming wreck of a structure that is far beyond your financial capabilities for “fixing it up”. Mortgage payments, real estate taxes, fuel bills, plus a hefty home-improvement loan could be far too much debt for you to handle, especially if you are a first time home buyer and home ownership is new to you. Better look for a home that is old but in need of a smaller infusion of funds. Find a house inspector familiar with old, possibly historic, house construction. That should not be difficult in a town with a sizeable inventory of older residential properties.

Be very sure you know if the house that interests you has any historic designation: local, provincial, or federal. That can affect how much, or how little, hacking away you will be able to do with repairs or installations. This designation affects how you can treat the outside of the house – setback, paint colours, surface materials, and so forth. Inside, you are on your own, although an addition or bumping out a wall to create a bay window may have to be approved by the government who designated the home as historic.

Contact your provincial historical society or local landmarks preservation commission for more information. These offices are likely to offer preservation project guidelines that you can apply to your old house. In the main, they will help show you what is worth preserving and what can be seriously altered. You will find, and learn as you go along, that distinctive stylistic features should be treated carefully and sensitively.

Give yourself time to get acquainted with your house before you start any serious work on it. Most homeowners find that they change their minds several times about how they want the kitchen remodelled or whether they want that dining room wall knocked out. One of the advantages of not being able to afford to do everything at once is that you can alter plans mentally without making serious financial and/or design mistakes by moving too quickly.

You should think not only of remodelling or preservation but also of the market value of your place. Future buyers will not appreciate a dropped ceiling, for example, no matter how much you spent to put it in. However, they will appreciate the house’s original eleven-foot-high ceiling with handsome mouldings. You would be wise to keep the older ceiling, repairing the plasterwork if necessary. It may cost more to heat those high-ceilinged rooms, but you need to protect your investment in that house. “Wear sweaters” is the advice from old-house mavens!

Interested in one of the Edmonton real estate market’s older homes? You can find these homes in various Edmonton areas, and a top Edmonton Realtor can help you track down the perfect home for you.

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Evaluating Floor Plans When House Hunting

If you have looked at brand-new homes, you have probably seen floor plans. They can be found on builder’s office walls, and you may even have brought home a set for your “house” file. However, if you are planning on buying a resale home, a floor plan likely won’t be available. Therefore, mentally walk your way through any house that interests you. Imagine both your daily routine and a special situation, such as a party. Where will you come in from work? Where will you hang your coat? Where can you read quietly while the kids are playing video games?

You will have to make your own notations, in lieu of a set of plans, of where walls, windows, doorways and so forth are situated in the house. You do not have to make a fancy drawing, but it is smart to scribble some kind of floor plan, even though you can actually walk through the rooms of the house. This will help jog your memory later, and it will be useful for answering questions that you may have forgotten to think about the first time you walked through.

Few people really try out a house when they first inspect it. Most just glance around as observers and guests. That is fine for the initial “just looking” stage, but it is not adequate for a house that one is seriously considering.

If you draw and take home a floor plan, no matter how primitive, you can live in the house mentally. Questions will almost certainly pop into your head as you look at that plan.

Here are some of the most important traffic pattern questions:

Are there rooms that must be walked through in order to reach other rooms?

Only the kitchen is an acceptable walk-through room, and it is often located at or near the activity centre of the house. All other walk-through rooms are a detriment to a sale. You will want to be especially careful to avoid floor plans where you must walk through one bedroom to get to another bedroom. Such houses are very difficult to sell.

How do you get from the kitchen to the backyard?

This is especially important for families with young children who need to be monitored. But anyone will find it handy to be able to go from the lawn chairs to the refrigerator easily.

Where will guests enter the house?

Most buyers prefer some kind of foyer or front entrance hall in which to greet guests. From there, think about how a guest will get from the living room to the dining room. And where is the powder room or guest bathroom? If entertaining is your style, you might also consider where guests are likely to mix during a party.

What is the traffic pattern between the family living area (the kitchen or family room) and the most often used bathroom?

Some bathrooms are located off the foyer, which is convenient for guests but inappropriate for the family, especially when muddy children are told to wash up and must walk through the dining room to the bathroom.

What is the traffic patter for bringing groceries and other merchandise into the house?

As we mentioned earlier, it can be inconvenient to have to lug bags up from a downstairs garage. Check the stairs that must be climbed and the distance that must be walked to perform this task.

What is the distance and traffic pattern between the family room and the kitchen?

Often, buyers like them to be adjacent or for one room to serve both functions; others prefer separation.

Are any of the hallways particularly long or dark?

Many buyers object to long hallways. Lighting from a skylight can eliminate that objection, at a cost to the buyer.

How are bedrooms laid out?

Many buyers prefer the “split” bedroom layout, where the master bedroom and bath are on one side of the house and the other two or three bedrooms and one or two baths are on the other. This works particularly well for unrelated single buyers and for couples with older childrenL: it gives everyone some distance.

A good Lethbridge Realtor will talk you through some of these logistics while you’re viewing Lethbridge homes for sale, and make sure you’re thinking about them too.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Basements & Attics


Where they are commonly found, basements are high on a buyer’s demand list and high on the homeowner’s convenience list. Above all, they should be dry; good lighting is an added plus. Also very desirable is a direct exit from the basement to the outdoors.

In homes without basements, you’ll want to know about heat. You can’t always get gas heat, which might be your first choice because of its low maintenance requirements. Oil heat requires periodic delivery to your home. Electric is the most expensive heating style, although it, too is less maintenance. Beware of heat pumps in the north which don’t seem to provide quite enough warmth for residents in that part of the country. Heat pumps are fine in the warmer southern areas though.

When it comes to radiators versus forced air, the disadvantage of radiators or baseboard heat is that you’ll need a separate system if you want central air conditioning one day. However, heat is moister with circulating hot water, which is better for those with allergies. With forced air, you can use the same duct for heat and air conditioning, and you’ll have either quickly – within five minutes of flipping a switch. Radiators take longer to heat up a room.


The old fashioned attic, with real stairs, is certainly the most useful kind of home storage space. Such space often comes only with an older home. Today’s modern attics are far less accessible. Pull-down stairs in a hallway are acceptable to most buyers, and they do provide a means of getting to the holiday decorations each year. Less appealing to buyers, and downright inconvenient to homeowners, is attic access through a trap door in the ceiling of a bedroom closet.

Most homes in Airdrie have basements, but not all of them are finished. It’s a good idea to talk to a Airdrie real estate agent and find out the difference in value between finished and unfinished basements.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Dining Rooms

Articles have been written over the last few years on the theme of “Whither the Dining Room?”. Some folks do want a formal dining room, but others think just an eat-in kitchen is fine. They may turn a part of the dining room into formal dining when the occasion calls for it but keep the rest of the space as a sort of secondary living room, with books and easy chairs and lamps. When company arrives, out comes the folding dining table, around which chairs from that room, with more added from other living spaces, if needed.

If there is a formal dining room, it should have a direct doorway to the kitchen and another to the foyer or the living room. If it is separated from the kitchen by stairs or a hallway, as is often found in rehabilitated brownstones, for example, some buyers will turn away from the house.

When you’re touring Lethbridge homes for sale with your Lethbridge real estate agent make sure you consider not just the features of each individual room, but also the “flow” from one room to another, and how strange room arrangements could become frustrating over time.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Family Rooms & Living Rooms

Family Rooms

Today, family rooms are more important than living rooms and sometimes larger. In the south and west, family rooms are being combined with kitchen and eating areas into great rooms that most buyers seem to like. In contrast, basement family rooms are out of style and almost a detriment to a sale. In the north, family-room fireplaces are a major plus.

Paneling is still popular, but some homeowners prefer conventional wallboards that can be painted or papered. Others choose slats (actual boards cut thin for application to walls with bonding cement), artificial brick, or even vinyl panels. More important than any of that is enough room for furniture and major electronics.

Living Rooms

In a house without a family room, the living room should be as large as possible. But in houses with family rooms, most buyers are more concerned with the location of the living room than with its size. They prefer the living room to be formal and out of the path of day-to-day traffic. Living-room fireplaces are fine, but they rarely bring a penny more in offering price.


There are no negatives to this features. Fireplaces are popular with buyers even if they never light a fire, using the hearth simply as a decorative focal point in a room. Gas fireplaces that can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch are extremely popular, especially in colder climates.

Living room and family room styles come in and out all the time, so it’s important to review the trends with a Realtor. Value is also different from city to city, so real estate in Fort McMurray will be priced differently than similarly-featured homes in Edmonton or properties in Airdrie near Calgary.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Bedrooms

Well, we would all like large bedrooms – three large ones in a three-bedroom house and four large ones in a four-bedroom house. Unfortunately, generously sized rooms seem to rank on the luxury level when it comes to home construction, and it is rare to find more than one large bedroom per house. If some of the bedrooms are small, look at least for good wall space for furniture arrangement and easy access to a bathroom.

Attic additions or Cape Cod style bedrooms with sloping ceilings and dormer windows are not buyer favourites. But they do rank higher in appeal than basement bedrooms, which no one seems to want.

Make sure you take into account your growing family when you buy a Fort McMurray house and consider whether it’s better to get that extra bedroom now so that the home will work for you longer term. Otherwise, if you’re planning on adding to your family, you may be looking at Fort McMurray real estate again in just a few years.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Closets

There are never enough of them. Large bedroom closets are a selling point and a better-living feature. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom is on most buyer’s must have list. But while going through homes, look for these closet features too:

  • A foyer or front-hall closet where you can hang guests’ coats.
  • A linen closet (ideally, one closet – perhaps in a hallway – for sheets and blankets, and another in the bathroom for towels).
  • A broom or utility closet, preferably near the kitchen.
  • A back door closet or at least some place to hang family coats, store boots, and the like.

If it’s your first time buying a home in Airdrie, a house in Chestermere, or a Stathmore property, make sure you work with a Calgary area Realtor who knows the market in these bedroom communities well.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Bathrooms

The days of a desirable one-bath house are long over. Today’s sellers, it seems, must offer, if not two full baths (or two and a half baths), then at least one bath and a powder room. Bathrooms with outside windows are far more appealing to buyers than interior baths with vent fans – but better an extra bathroom in the interior than none at all.

Walk-in shower stalls are preferable to shower-over-the-tub arrangements, but most people want at least one bathtub in the house. Double sinks are a plus, too, as are full-wall mirrors behind the sink or vanity. Wallpaper or paint doesn’t usually make a difference, but wallpaper that has been poorly installed is more likely to bubble and peel in a bathroom’s moisture-rich environment.

When you’re looking at Lethbridge homes for sale make sure you check what happens to the shower water pressure when you flush a toilet or run water elsewhere. Your Lethbridge real estate agent can help you spot these kinds of problems before you fall in love with a Lethbridge home.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Kitchens

Most homebuyers have eat-in kitchens on their list of must-haves. In contrast, long, narrow “pullman-style” kitchens are least popular and will often keep a house on the market a long time.

Centre islands are positives, as are sinks (especially double sinks) under a window. Counter space is important, and gourmet cooks often look for a minimum of 4 unbroken fet of work space. And plenty of cabinet space is always mentioned in a sales pitch.

And what of the old-fashioned kitchen, in the older, perhaps very old, home? Sellers are advised not to spend the time and money renovating an old kitchen in search of a buyer. Buyers generally can expect to spend that money themselves if they want an updated kitchen.

Many buyers forget to look for a broom closet, and many houses do not have one. Ask yourself where mops, buckets, brooms, and the vacuum cleaner will be kept. Some substitutes for the broom closet are the back-hall coat closet, the laundry room, the garage, and the pantry.

If you’re wondering what kinds of upgrades and renovations will give you the best return on investment when you put your Edmonton home for sale on the market, it’s best to have an Edmonton area real estate agent walk through your property and offer their professional advice.

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Home Features & Resale Value: Entranceways

A nice front entry is, well, nice. Many owners, after the first few weeks in a new house, begin using the back door almost exclusively. Still, that front entranceway is an important factor in the salability of a home. It is, after all, a potential buyer’s first impression, and first impressions are hard to dispel.

Back entranceways do not have much effect on salability, but they certainly play an important role in owners’ enjoyment and comfort, especially if there are children or pets in the household. The “ideal” back door opens into a mud room, a back hallway, or cubicle where there is space to hang coats, remove wet boots, or wipe dirty paws. In the best-planned houses, this back hall is adjacent to or combined with the laundry room, which saves carrying the dirty clothes, rugs, and rags very far.

Back doors that open directly into the kitchen can be bothersome because of the increased traffic and clutter that they generate, but they are preferable to family-room back doors, especially if a patio or outside eating area is serviced by the door. Sliding glass doors are popular and will not hurt resale.

If you’re looking for a home for sale in Airdrie and aren’t sure what the market value of homes in Airdrie are, your first call should be to a Airdrie real estate professional who knows the area well.

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