Owning a character home can be a dream, especially for Vancouverites who love classical architecture. Buying a character home, however, comes with its own range of challenges. In October we spoke about these challenges and more at the Vancouver Home Show’s Ask the Experts panel. Now, we want to share some of the key information we discussed about character homes with you.

What is a character home?


Character homes are houses that the City of Vancouver staff deem to have character merit but that are not listed with the Vancouver Heritage Register. They must have a unique character that positively contributes to the neighbourhood. For the most part, these homes are older and have been built with good quality, local materials.

The character homes in Vancouver are famous for their beauty. Many include one-of-a-kind features, like stained glass windows. These features make character homes highly desirable for buyers.  

What to consider before buying a character home


Before buying a character home, it is important to consider the additional challenges it can bring. Character homes often have issues with old wiring, plumbing, drainage or more, due to their age.

If you do not ensure the house is up to standard before purchasing, significant upgrades may be required. These repairs may need to be handled by professionals with character and heritage home experience, raising the cost of them. Before long, you may feel like your home is becoming a black hole of time and money.

In order to avoid this, we suggest following these steps before you buy a character home:


  • Get the house inspected by a professional contractor and home designer. Look for experts who have experience with character homes. Most importantly, make sure you only work with professionals you trust.
  • If you plan to build any additions, make sure you will be able to do this. There are certain restrictions on character and historic homes. Speak with someone at the City about a planned addition and ensure that it will be possible.
  • Double check that the electrical and plumbing systems are up-to-date. These are two of the most costly areas to upgrade, requiring additional Permits. Therefore, we recommend making sure they are up to standard already in any character home you are looking to purchase.
  • Look into the home’s renovation history. You should have a clear sense of what has been done to the house in the past – and its impact on the building’s historical and character value.
  • Have a building envelope engineer inspect the home’s insulation. Insulation standards today are radically different than they were even 50 years ago. Therefore, when buying an older home, it is always vital to have the insulation checked to make sure it is safe and healthy for you and your loved ones.
  • Confirm if the home will need any safety or energy efficiency upgrades. This will allow you to go into your purchase fully aware of the implications.
  • Keep in mind that any renovations you plan may trigger upgrades, like adding Sprinklers or insulating the Attic, so make sure to find out how

We also suggest using these tips if your home will need significant repairs.