Historic designation, retirement affordability


Dear David,

I’ve fallen in love with a century home in Kitchener. I don’t think it has an historic designation, but how do I find out before making an offer? – SMITTEN

DEAR SMITTEN: Contact the city’s Heritage Planning department. If the home is designated or located in an historically designated neighbourhood, they’ll let you know. Also check the city’s Municipal Heritage Register (from the link on the City of Kitchener’s Heritage Properties web page). The Ontario Heritage Act requires each city to keep a register of properties with cultural value or interest. If the home in question is on this list, it may be assigned an historic designation in the future.

There are two types of historic designations: Type IV, which protects specific attributes of a property, and Type V, which sets broad design guidelines for “Heritage District” neighbourhoods. Both of these may necessitate some extra steps and approval if you’re planning renovations. 

My wife and I recently restored a 138-year-old Kitchener home with Type IV designation. The project took two years and eight heritage permits. Although that sounds daunting, we found city staff to be incredibly helpful in walking us through each step of the process. We were surprised at what did and did not require heritage committee approval: in our case, there was little input regarding colour choice for the exterior trim, but repointing the brickwork required a precise mix and colour of mortar.

PRO TIP: It sounds crazy, but when it comes to restoring a century home, be prepared to double your budget if you plan on doing it well. Along with stone foundations and small closets, there will inevitably be a few surprises. Loving a century home is like falling for a vintage car — you’ll need to embrace its peculiarities and challenges.

Dear David,

I want to move into a retirement village. I think I have enough money, but my kids are giving me some pushback. – READY TO RELAX

DEAR READY: If you’re meeting unexpected resistance, there’s probably a reason. Adult children may worry that their parents’ retirement expenses will become unaffordable, especially if they are not in a position to help out financially. Many retirement communities appear to have significant monthly costs at first glance, but they likely include a variety of expenses your formerly paid on your own, such as house insurance, property tax and hydro. As with hotels, retirement communities offer varying levels of luxury, from efficiency suites to the Waldorf. If long term affordability is a concern, do the math: what is your property worth? How old are you? What will your expenses be in your new place, and how long will your funds last?

PRO TOP: Have a frank conversation with your family. Are they concerned that a potential reliance on them could impact their kids’ educations or delay their own retirement? Maybe they have other things on their mind. Lots of families are blending back together as they age; perhaps they were thinking about buying a bigger house and having you move in with them. #AskDavid #Advice