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10 Things to Know About Buying an Older House in the Lower Mainland

Blog by Mike Alleyne | October 30th, 2014

Imagine yourself living in a Victorian home from the late 1800s in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. It’s like travelling back in history and taking part of it in the modern times. Old houses, when adequately maintained, are beautiful in a melodramatic sense that are often lacking in modern houses. Owning one of them can make you the envy of your neighbours. But don’t let the hapless romantic in you cloud your judgment when making an older home purchase. As always, there are has pros and cons.

The Lower Mainland, refers to the region around and including Vancouver, British Columbia. The Lower Mainland also includes South Surrey, Langley and White Rock. Although Vancouver hosts new developments in terms of real estate, Surrey has also its own set of buildings, townhouses and condominiums rising up against the skyline. Vancouver and Surrey are dominant in the Lower Mainland, but the surrounding areas are catching up. Newer homes dominate in these communities, but there are still a lot of older homes.

Should you be interested in moving into an older time home in Surrey, Langley and White Rock, let the following things about Lower Midland area help you decide.

  1. According to the Real Estate Investment Network, Surrey has ranked as the top area for real estate development in British Columbia for four years in a row now. This is a booming investment market in the area and means that the lower entry price of certain older homes may be attractive, if maintenance issues are minimal.

  2. Although Surrey, Langley and White Rock are cities much younger than Vancouver these three areas also have their share of charming houses which were preserved despite the modernization in real estate. Just for trivia purposes, Langley’s oldest home was built in 1888 while Stuart Farm in South Surrey was established in 1894. Enclaves with the old-world charm still exist in Lower Mainland.

  3. Statistics have shown that homeowners below 30 years old have increased in the area. Thus, the Lower Mainland communities are starting to be populated by a younger generation of people who have a stronger drive to own properties than the generation before them.

  4. Old house purchases are cheaper compared to buying modern homes but be prepared to spend on renovations. Old houses have all the charm but they fall below the standards in terms of compliance with the required safety features and maintenance procedures.

  5. Please take note that some insurance companies are hesitant to insure old homes because of the high safety risks. For example, some insurers will not cover old homes that are still fitted with “knob and tube” wirings which is no longer compliant with the modern electrical and safety codes. This means that buyers will have to upgrade the electrical circuits before signing up with home insurance providers.

  6. Old homes also noticeably lack adequate storage spaces. Times have changed and people nowadays tend to buy more possessions that are stored and used for a long time. Realigning spaces to make way for storage is one of the renovations that need to be done in old homes especially if these will be used by large families. But since all these renovations and installations often need to be done by professionals, renovation cost will eat up a sizable amount of your budget.

  7. Old homes, because of their age, will decay in the long run. This means that buyers should be ready with a big budget for restoration if they still want to maintain the look of the old house in the next few years. However, restoration may be done one portion of the house at a time depending on the availability for funds. Buyers should get the services of an expert to conduct a home inspection to know which part of the house will be given priority.

  8. The good thing about old homes is their proximity to the center of the town so that almost everything is accessible – schools, hospitals, groceries, etc. Everything is almost within walking distance or just a short ride from your home.

  9. Another thing about old homes is that many of them already come furnished. This could be a positive or negative depending if the buyer likes the taste of the old owner and the price. A deal could be struck so that the furniture already comes with the purchase at a minimum additional cost. For many home buyers, getting an already furnished place lessens the headache of having to look for every piece of furniture yourself.

  10. And finally, ensure you have several viewings of the old house of your choice before deciding to buy it. In those visits, conduct a thorough home inspection of the premises inside and outside. Check out all doors, cabinets, rooms, storage, basement, roof and all nooks and crannies. You also need to take a look at the trees growing outside the house and whether their roots have possibly reached the basement. Consider bringing additional professionals into home inspection process so that they can give you an estimate of the renovation costs.

Buying old houses in the Lower Midland area has pros and cons. If you love the charm of older homes, and can afford the necessary upgrades, insurance and maintenance, then take the historic plunge. It’s like owning a piece of history that will enrich you, your family and the community.