by Susy Alexandre May 17, 2023

What You Need To Know About Buying a Historic Home

Credit: Unsplash

In Toronto, historic homes are not hard to spot and scattered throughout the city. These homes are typically stately and full of architectural character. Being that they represent some of the longest-standing properties in the city, they are also rich in history. 

These properties are true pieces of Toronto history and can be a great avenue of property investment - for the right buyer. As these types of structures come with a unique set of additional considerations, prospective buyers will need to ensure they are informed and prepared to take on a home of this nature before committing to purchase. 

What is a historic home? 

So, what is a historic home and what defining characteristics does it posess? 

According to

A historic house generally meets several criteria before being listed by an official body as "historic." Generally the building is at least a certain age, depending on the rules for the individual list. A second factor is that the building be in recognizably the same form as when it became historic. Third is a requirement that either an event of historical importance happened at the site, or that a person of historical significance was associated with the site, or that the building itself is important for its architecture or interior.

In the U.S., a property must be aged at 50 years or older in order to qualify as a historic home. In Canada, the requirements differ in that this designation is approved by municipal, provincial or federal government, who must first deem the home significant in either a historic or cultural sense. 

Also referred to as heritage homes, the Canadian designation process relies more on cultural and/or historic impact over age, but the definition and eilibility qualifications can vary slightly from one area to another. 

Types of historic homes 

Just like modern homes, heritage properties come in all shapes, sizes and with their own architectural distinctions. 

While there are many styles of architecture and design in the realm of historic homes, some of the most popular and coveted styles are as follows: 


Under this category, subcategories of colonial home styles include: 

  • Colonial Georgian
  • Dutch Colonial
  • French Colonial 
  • German Colonial 
  • Spanish Colonial
  • Victorian


Under this category, there are two subcategories:

  • Edwardian Classicism 
  • Neo-Mannerism 

Arts & Crafts


Old Ontario

Historic homes typically require some work 

Credit: Unsplash

Not surprisingly, historical homes will generally require buyers to invest some time and money into sprucing up the interior and exterior.

But buyer beware: with heritage comes come very specific rules and restrictions as far as what you can - and cannot - do to the property.

The scope of the work needed may fall under restrictions or require approvals

When it comes to doing any work on a historic home, you’ll need to ensure that any maintenance or renovation plans you have in mind don’t conflict with any restrictions on the property. Your real estate agent can help to investigate what specific restrictions a property might have, as well as whether or not the home’s facade must stay as-is, which is a common requirement with historic homes. 

The right property inspector can make all the difference in your historic home experience

Regardless of the property type, a trusted and experienced home inspector should always be part of your home-buying process. For historic homes in particular, you’ll want to do some research on property inspectors who specialize in this property style to ensure you have the best qualified professional handling your inspection. In the case of historic properties, typically aged significantly higher than most homes, buyers are also encouraged to enlist the services of a mold and air inspector as well. 

Historic homes can come at a higher cost 

Heritage homes can end up costing buyers more than newer properties once factors like modernizing the interior, conducting additional and specific inspections and the ongoing preservation of the home’s facade (as well as any other aspects of the property that obligate purchasers to ongoing maintenance). 

While these costs must be factored into any purchase considerations, the added value in terms of owning a piece of history is often a big selling point for buyers interested in this specific property type. 

Some benefits of investing in historic properties 

There are many benefits to taking the plunge on purchasing a historical property, including:

  • The unique experience of owning a heritage home, and the rich history and cultural significance that often comes with these properties 
  • The knowledge that you are actively contributing to the preservation of heritage buildings within your community
  • For the purpose of investment, these properties will often offer added cache in the eyes of renters who are interested in unique and character-rich properties 

Additionally, for buyers who are renovation-savvy and are able to effectively modernize and update their home within the permissible areas of property-work allowed, they may be able to sell in future at a significantly higher price than purchased. 

Popular historic homes of the GTA

These are a few well-known historic properties within the Greater Toronto Area: 

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