Renovating A Character Home In Vancouver

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Typically dating back to the ‘40s, character homes in Vancouver have continued to retain their popularity and even make for great investments. A historic character home retains its old charm but can also be updated to include all the modern conveniences. For those who love and appreciate classical architecture, buying a character home can come with a challenging set of guidelines and can ultimately be a dream come true. 

What is a character home?

Homes that are not listed under ‘Schedule A’ or ‘Schedule B’ in the Vancouver Heritage Register are considered ‘character homes.’ The City of Vancouver deems these homes to have character merit, a unique character that positively contributes to the neighborhood. 

Character homes are built with local, good quality materials and often include unique features like stained glass windows and a vintage-eclectic style.

How is a character home different from a heritage home?

Vancouver is home to multiple buildings and structures erected before 1940 with heritage-style features. The fundamental difference between a heritage home and a character home is that the former is registered with the City and holds significant historical value. 

While there is no formal registry of character homes in BC, the City of Vancouver has implemented new guidelines for pre-1940 homes under the Heritage Action Plan in 2014. The ‘Character Merit’ assessment helps preserve these character homes and ensures that property owners take the proper measures before renovating or refurbishing these homes. 

Features of a character home 

For a home to be granted character merit, the City of Vancouver requires the house to meet the following criteria:

  • Period Features: Retain original period features such as open front porch, veranda, roof form, and foundation. 
  • Massing: Remain recognizable to the original structure and retain massing 
  • Windows: Retain original size, shape, and location of period windows 
  • Cladding: Retain original or replacement cladding consistent with the ‘40s
  • Trim: Retain original casings or trim around facades and envelopes 
  • Decorative Elements: Retain period details such as beams, joints, brackets as decorative elements

The character merit assessment system was put in place to encourage buyers to renovate instead of demolishing these homes that are rich in history. Buyers looking to rebuild character homes may qualify for incentives from the City, such as the Character Home Retention Incentives Program. 

What to consider before buying a character home

Before purchasing a character home, it is vital to ensure the house is up to standard while keeping in mind the potential upgrades it may require. Some of the common repairs handled by professionals revolve around plumbing, drainage, electrical wiring, and insulation. 

Due to their age and requirements, character home renovations may need to be handled by a professional contractor with experience with old architecture. Ensure your pre-purchase checklist includes the following:

  • Check with the City before you plan any additions to your character home
  • Ensure electrical, and plumbing systems are up-to-date 
  • Review the home’s renovation history to understand its historical value
  • Inspect the home’s insulation with an envelope engineer
  • Double-check for any safety or energy efficiency upgrades

Looking For Your Historic Havn?

If you’re ready to buy (or sell), talk to an expert Stilhavn REALTOR® for guidance. From Metro Vancouver to the Sea to Sky, a trusted Stilhavn REALTOR® can help you find your havn.