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11 Things You Should Know
Before Buying A Heritage Home

Many people who love all things old dream of someday finding a heritage home to restore or possibly renovate.  To the uneducated, preserving historical housing stock, perhaps with some modern improvements, seems like a worthy endeavour.  The educated know the difference between an old house and a heritage house; as well as the difference between renovation and restoration.

Australia  as a country is dedicated to preserving its natural heritage and many significant homes end up listed on the National Register of Heritage Houses. Once there, rules apply as to what can be done to the home and what can't.  Restoration projects generally involve restoring a home as closely as possible to its original condition. 
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On the other hand, renovation projects involve improvements to the home that frequently result in major changes to its existing condition.

If you have the time, the patience, and the available funds to renovate an Australian heritage home, you need to educate yourself before you even consider buying such a property.

1. Before you buy a heritage property, make sure that it is generally suitable to your requirements in terms of size and arrangement.  Be clear on why you are buying it and know what use you wish for the property now or in the foreseeable future.

2. Check with the planning department of the local council to see if the subject property is zoned in a heritage overlay.  

3. Check with the council or Heritage Victoria as to whether the building has been the subject of any 'Heritage Studies' or is identified as a 'Building of Significance'. This may not appear on the council heritage overlay documentation.

4. Check with the council to see if your planned use for this property in permitted under local guidelines and character

5. Check with the council to see if there are any restrictions about what materials or paint colors can be used on that building when considering any renovation or freshening up the building.

6. Check with a qualified building inspector or Archicentre if the building is structurally sound, watertight or has any issues which may not be obvious but may need expensive repair works.

7. If you are considering a change to the front facade, fence or garden areas, you may need to seek special permission or advertise to the neighbours

8. Check with the council or local water authority if the building is in a flood zone or is low to the ground and is likely to be subject to inundation from water from nearby properties during heavy rain.

9. Heritage homes have bluestone footings, which are susceptible to movement from summer to winter. It is wise to have a geologist check the soil conditions and footings to ensure you won't get too much movement which can show up as cracks in wall.

10. Rising damp in old homes with solid brick walls is another issue which should be checked.

11. The electrical wiring in heritage homes does not meet current safety codes. You need to see if the system is safe or if it has had any unlicensed upgrades over the years which would be a danger to the occupants.

Have your preferred designer work with you to draw up a feasibility study which outlines your proposed renovation or development of the home.  This study can be a very useful when speaking with the council and heritage Victoria about your plans.  Additionally, this is useful to show to builders or estimators when seeking an estimation on cost of building works.