Considerations When Buying an Older Home

Wednesday Oct 26th, 2022


Exploding with character and charm, older homes can be found in many desirable neighbourhoods across the city of Ottawa. With larger yards, mature trees, more traditional floor plans, and varying styles of architecture, they are often ‘one-of-a-kind’ compared to a newer built home. While there are many advantages to purchasing an older home, there are important factors to take into consideration depending on its age and condition. 

Mature Trees

Older homes are found in older neighbourhoods, meaning you’ll often find tree-lined streets of beautiful, mature trees. While these provide shade, a picturesques fall, and are home to many birds and animals, it’s important to keep in mind a few things. The established root systems of mature trees that have grown too close to a home can potentially cause damage to foundations, landscaping, and driveways. Trees growing too close or towering over homes also make convenient pathways for squirrels to get onto your roof and potentially find their way into your attic. There could also be a risk of falling branches or limbs, so be sure to have anything that looks concerning assessed and removed by a professional after you’ve purchased. 

Rules & Regulations

Rules and regulations regarding setbacks have changed over time, so you’ll often find older homes situated closer to the road or a garage built on a property line, which wouldn’t be allowed if you were to build new today. While this may maximize space for your property, it’s important to note that new rules apply to anything that is torn down and rebuilt. So, if you’re planning to add an addition or rebuild a garage you may want to consider renovating the existing footprint instead. Some older areas may also have unique easements, such as a rear laneway that is city property. Your realtor can help you navigate some of these unique circumstances and how the rules may have changed over time. 


Depending on the age of the home, you’ll want to consider electrical work as electrical materials and safety standards have evolved. Homes built before the mid 1930’s used a type of wiring called knob and tube. This type of wiring can become brittle and damaged by pests, causing insurance implications because of the increased risk. This type of wiring may also not be able to handle the load of electrical requirements today. If you’ve got your eye on an older home you’ll want to investigate whether the older wiring has been updated at some point and have a professional verify that this work was done correctly. 


Depending on the vintage of the home and whether any larger scale renovation was completed you may need to consider insulation. Compared to more recently installed types of insulation, older insulation can compress and sink overtime leaving walls and roofs with very little protection. A home inspection can help to identify some areas of concern, such as in unfinished basements and attics, while other areas of concern may become more apparent when the seasons change. The material of ceilings and walls can also be an indication of whether lack of proper insulation could be a concern. For example, homes with plaster ceilings and walls, generally homes built before the mid-1950’s, is a sign that insulation in the walls is much older and may need replacing. 

Building Materials

Generally safe when left undisturbed, asbestos can be found in older homes around heating/cooling ducts, within flooring tiles, within some types of insulation, and within some plasters. The age of the home can sometimes narrow down what materials asbestos may have been used in. If you’re planning to purchase and then renovate an older home, it’s critical to hire a professional who can test for asbestos. In addition to testing, professionals also have the expertise to safely remove and dispose of any asbestos for you should some be found.

Older homes are appealing for many reasons. Not only are they unique and brimming with architecture and charm from a particular era, they can be found in some very desirable Ottawa neighborhoods. When looking to purchase an older home, it’s especially important to partner with a knowledgeable realtor who can help guide you. When working with Melanie Wright Real Estate, Melanie will not only help to highlight any potential areas for consideration but can also connect you with a vetted specialist in that area. 

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