A character home is one that has been around for over 50 years. Heritage homes are character homes with significant historical meaning and are recognized by the presiding jurisdiction. Often, cities will contribute funding to the homeowner(s) for the upkeep of the home. The terms "heritage", "historical", and "character" are generally used in the same way by most people, regardless of whether or not the house in question has been recognized.
Character homes are popular because they're attractive and their architecture will never go out of style, but there are many other reasons to invest (or not invest) in a heritage home. Below you'll find some of the positive and negative aspects of these properties.
- Pro: Walkability. The center of a city is usually one of its older parts, and therefore the area where you'll find more heritage homes. Because of the density of buildings in these areas, it's more likely that sought-after amenities will be within walking distance, compared to newly built homes in the suburbs. It would be difficult for the original residents of character homes to imagine that future owners would leave their cars at home on purpose, but more and more buyers are searching for dwellings close to the conveniences they use most.
- Con: Maintenance frustration. Because of the home's vintage, it's likely that wiring, plumbing, insulation, and other "invisible" (yet important) parts of the home will have to be replaced soon after you move in. This can be annoying because it's more of an insurance investment than anything else. There is no discernable difference to the home or improvements to the look/feel of the house. There can also be major faults in foundations or attics, but usually a good home inspector will be able to alert buyers to these problems.
- Pro: Great landscaping. Because of the less dense populations of times past, character homes are often surrounded by larger lots than newer homes. This is great if you have children, pets, or if you're an avid gardener. Of course there are always exceptions, depending on the area, but you'll usually find this is the case. Along with more room also comes more mature landscaping/vegetation. Character homes seldom have the freshly planted trees prevalent in new subdivisions.
- Con: Old building = old materials. Some older materials in a heritage home can be great. Who doesn't love original hardwood floors and vintage claw foot bathtubs? But there is a reason we are all living a lot longer these days and it has to do in part with the building materials we use now. Some hazardous materials to watch out for in old homes include lead paint and asbestos. In addition to hazardous materials, buyers should keep in mind that, when doing repairs on the home, it may be difficult to find matching materials produced contemporaneously. That could lead to an all-out replacement, instead of a repair, which would end up costing more.
- Pro: Help from the city. Don't bet the farm on it, but if your home is a designated heritage building, you could get help from your city or town with renovations and maintenance. They may offer a rebate on property taxes to help you afford to maintain the historical integrity of the area. The city might even offer you consultation time with heritage staff to decide on colors, materials, and design motifs for your home that are congruent with its historical background, which will increase the property's value.