Ottawa’s real estate market includes all sorts of homes — single-family houses, semi-detached, townhomes, and condominiums. There are plenty of new-build tract houses, as well as older fixer upper homes. Buying or selling an old home is a unique experience. To make that experience a success, check out Paul’s six tips.
First, What Is an Older Home in Ottawa?
The definition of an older home in Ottawa depends on the area. If you’re looking at the suburbs (like Barrhaven, Kanata or Orleans), something built in 1995-2000 could be considered an older home. In other areas, (downtown, Old Ottawa South, the Glebe or Westboro), you might be looking at homes that are 50 to 60 years old and even older. But if you want a general term, I would say that anything built in 1980 or earlier is considered an old home.
1. Hire a Real Estate Agent
Whether you’re going to be buying or selling an older home, hire an experienced real estate agent who’s in touch with today’s market conditions. They’ll smooth the process, and their negotiating skills will help potential buyers get the best deal at the best sale price.
My team sells a large number of homes in Ottawa — about 700 a year — including many in the downtown core. So my agents have a vast knowledge of every type of home. They’re very educated when it comes to subjects like foundation, structures, wiring, plumbing, insulation, looking for faults, setbacks, and zoning. All of those are important factors when you’re selling or buying an older home downtown.
When you’re selling, we’ll advise you on how to prepare your home. Usually, we recommend that you do only the basics — get rid of clutter, add a coat of paint, replace light fixtures, tidy up the front yard, and make sure minor repairs are taken care of. We don’t encourage major renovations or improvements when selling your home because you won’t get back your investment. We’ll also give you a realistic figure as to how much your home is worth in today’s market. Accurate pricing is a must so that you can sell your home fast for the maximum amount.
2. Location Affects Pricing
Price is determined by location, location, location rather than the age of the home. Potential buyers in the downtown neighborhood know they will be getting an old house rather than one of the tract houses of suburbia. In fact, that’s part of the appeal of the downtown core. A lot of buyers are specifically looking for that character and that charm, and many of the older homes are in great locations in Ottawa’s top neighbourhoods. Some people have what I’d call an appetite for older homes, a personal preference.
Your Paul Rushforth agent will provide you with “comps”– recent selling prices of comparable Ottawa homes in the same location, so you will have an accurate picture of how to price your home.
3. Common Issues With Older Homes
Using a home inspector is highly recommended for buyers, though occasionally, you’ll need a structural engineer to do a home inspection on some of the older houses. It’s super important to look at the foundation before you buy a home. Some old houses in Ottawa have rubble foundations, which are difficult to deal with. Often the wiring needs repairs, especially if it’s aluminum or knob-and-tube. Sometimes the plumbing needs to be upgraded as well. All these issues could be hidden costs when buying an old home. It’s funny; often, my agent can spot potential red flags even before the home inspector.
But as for the construction of an older home, often an old house is built a lot better than the newer homes today. So it’s just some of the features that you have to worry about with an older home.
In terms of layout, old homes will be very compartmentalized, with separate living rooms, separate dining rooms, separate family rooms, and so on. They don’t have the new open floor plan that many people like these days, so it’s something buyers might want to modernize.
4. Old Homes Can Be Less Energy Efficient
Another potential issue is that older houses often tend to be less energy efficient. For instance, if the house has its original windows, they’ll be old and not as well insulated and need replacing. Or it might have electric baseboard heaters instead of a gas furnace. If this is the case, your energy costs will be a bit higher once you’re living in the older home.
5. What to Consider Before Buying a Heritage Home
Some older houses, especially ones located in the downtown core, are designated as heritage homes. Since they’re protected by municipal bylaw, it can be difficult to do anything to them. Certain central Ottawa neighbourhoods have specific guidelines and zoning issues that you have to look into if you’re planning to either rip down or renovate. Of course, we give our clients a heads up before they even go to view a heritage property.
For example, my team recently sold a house near the canal downtown, where the buyers wanted to rip it down and rebuild. But because it was a heritage home, they were only allowed to extend it, but not tear it down. We made sure that they did their due diligence before going ahead with the purchase.
To make sure you know what to expect when buying a home, whether it’s a heritage home or not, hiring a realtor when you’re buying is the best way to make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
6. Don’t Make Major Renovations Before Selling
When you’re selling an older home in Ottawa, I offer this advice: “Sell as is; don’t renovate.” A lot of times with older homes, sellers will start opening up walls and then realize that one job leads to 10 jobs. If, say, you replace just the kitchen before selling but not the bathrooms or the floors, it’s almost like putting lipstick on a pig. So don’t do the renovation work before selling; it’s not worth your time and money, and the value of fixing or replacing your roof for example, will not be returned … but do price accordingly.
Find An Experienced, Savvy Agent
Navigating the Ottawa real estate market post-pandemic is not simple. That’s why you need our experience and know-how on your side. So whether you’re a buyer or a seller, contact us to find a skillful, savvy realtor.