Guelph is home to many beautiful historic homes. Exhibition Park, Old University, St. George’s Park, Sunnyacres, St. Patrick’s Ward… the list goes on and on when it comes to Guelph neighbourhoods where we see an abundance of century homes.
For many of us, the allure of a historic home is too strong to ignore. We’re willing to sacrifice on size, storage, parking, and so many modern conveniences… all in exchange for that connection with history, old-world character, and the upsides of urban living. My own home, built in the 1800s, is far from perfect—but it’s very hard for me to imagine ever letting it go.
Still, sometimes the time is right to sell and, when you’re listing a century home, there are many considerations, and right at the top of the list are disclosure. Yes, these beloved old homes come with lots of history, which typically means old materials and construction standards not up to today’s building code.
As a Seller, the correct and ethical way to present your home to the buying public is with candor and openness about any deficiencies of which you’re aware. It’s the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do. Consider this… buyers who feel like they’ve gotten the full picture of a home’s upsides and downsides will always enter into a purchase with more confidence. They are more likely to firm up on that purchase, and indeed more likely to pay market value (or more) for a home that they feel they know, inside and out.
Here are some of the most common culprits that I see in older homes and that should be disclosed (and/or repaired) prior to selling.
Structural Issues. To a degree, some wonkiness in an old house is to be expected. We can go so far as to think of creaky floors and out-of-square walls as historic charm. However, in some cases the underlying cause is a structural deficiency. If you are aware of this kind of deficiency, you should disclose it. And by the way, it’s not the kiss of death for sale. You can always get a structural report on your home, and provide buyers with a quote on resolving the issue. Or, consider fixing it yourself (if it’s not overly complicated,) prior to selling.
Water in the Basement. Most basements in century homes are damp and musty. Mine is several feet thick of stone and I not-so-lovingly refer to it as, “the spider room” (and go there as seldom as possible!) Stone foundations are culprits for letting water in over time; especially if common issues like improper grading or clogged eaves are culprits. Don’t hide the fact that water comes in the basement. I’ve taken buyers through old homes with a random piece of new drywall stuck in the corner of a basement. It screams, “they’re hiding something.” Rather, get in front of the issue and explain the circumstances. A buyer may be prepared to resolve a grading issue, or install a sump pump, or weeping tile system… or otherwise fix the problem. Or, they’ll accept a bit of basement dampness as par for the course with an old house. Either way, you’ll have been clear about what buyers are inheriting with the home.
Plumbing Deficiencies. Lead and galvanized piping are still commonly found in historic homes in Guelph, and both need to be removed. In some cases, these things are easy to spot; in other times, they are hidden. Certainly, if they are not readily obvious, and if you’re aware of these deficiencies, let people know. Alternately, you could have these updates completed prior to listing your home. It solves a problem for buyers and you’ll recoup your investment in the repairs.
Electrical Deficiencies. Not long ago, I had an electrician look at the panel in my home. He told me it was so old he’d never seen one like it. In related news, last week I had new electrical service brought into my home and a shiny, new panel installed. Buyers (and their insurers) will want to know if there is any live knob and tube in the home, as well as the percentage of aluminum vs copper. Here again, just disclosing the knob and tube makes sense; removing it prior to sale even more so. Some savvy sellers elect to get an Electrical Safety Authority certificate prior to listing, to provide buyers with assurance that the home’s wiring is up to code.
Termites. Yes, Guelph has several termite zones and a good number of century homes are located within those areas. Any Realtor selling a home within a termite zone should disclose that fact openly, but I’ll be honest, I very seldom see it on listings. For those within the termite zones, it’s a good idea to have a termite inspection done prior to listing, in order to alleviate any concerns a buyer may have. Inspections are free and handled by the City of Guelph.
Lot Lines. Lot lines and boundaries are fairly straightforward when it comes to newer homes. With historic homes in Guelph, not so much. Surveys, if a home owner has one, may be very old. Easements, right of ways, flood plain considerations… you name it, it can be found. Again, it’s important to disclose correct proper boundaries and any potential limitations, so that buyers have a clear picture of what their yard actually consists of.
Other Nasty Stuff. Lastly, a variety of building materials over the years have come on and off the public health radar. Currently any current or prior existence of UFFI should be disclosed, although that is likely to change, since experts agree broadly that old UFFI is a non-issue for public health. Other common nasties that we find in old homes include asbestos (in tiles, insulation, wrapping pipes, etc.) and vermiculite (often in attics.) These are cancer-causing substances that can often be abated through removal by a licensed agency. Costs for removal are less than you might think, and again by resolving the issue in advance of sale you can take that off the list of things that buyers (or their insurers or their mortgage lenders) might object to.
The Selling Process for Historic Homes in Guelph
Remember, there is nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about historic homes in Guelph… and that includes the process of marketing and selling them. Always work with a Realtor who has in-depth knowledge of historic homes and understands how to market these old beauties. A true professional will work with you to ensure disclosures are handled, and they’ll also know how to expose your property to the many buyers who, like myself, can’t resist the charms of historic homes.
In closing, a note about the notion of ‘buyer beware.’ It’s true; buyers have a responsibility to conduct due diligence and take charge of the process of educating themselves on any home they buy. However, buyers are not expected to be mind readers, and fortunately, neither are their Realtors. Just because someone closes on a home doesn’t mean they don’t have legal remedies to pursue, should they feel they were deceived in the buying process. Get in front of potential disclosure issues and enter into the home sale process openly and strategically, to get as many buyers as possible excited about your home.