How to insure a heritage property

Purchasing a heritage property is a big deal – it’s investing in a historic part of your neighbourhood. They’re charming, full of character and sometimes unpredictable, so it’s important to know how to insure them properly.

What is a heritage property?

Heritage properties are older, historic buildings in your community. They have to be “designated” as a heritage property by the municipal, provincial or federal government. When the property is designated, it’s protected from demolition or alterations.

Tips for insuring a heritage property:

  1. Make updates to reduce risk. Update things like the wiring, any heating and plumbing systems that are out of date, or an old roof. While these old systems might still be working, they won’t be the most cost efficient on both your energy and insurance bills. Updating these will make your home safer and will help reduce the chance of having to make a claim.
  2. Keep records. Make copies of any paperwork that comes along with the property (like the designation and current maintainence records) and store them elsewhere. That way if there’s damage to your property, these documents will be safe and will make the claims process much smoother.
  3. Shop around. Go with an insurance company who understands the nuances of owning a heritage property.
  4. Choose the right coverage. With heritage properties, it’s best not to skip out on any coverages. For example, with older plumbing systems, it might be worth adding sewer backup coverage to your policy. You’ll want to make sure that your insurance reflects the value of the property (choosing the correct replacement cost, etc), and that it meets heritage property regulations.

Note: While insurance is not required by law, you may have to purchase a certain amount of insurance that is set within your mortgage.

What about renovating a heritage property?

Some people may tell you to steer clear from renovating a heritage property as it’s a longer process (you have to get any alterations approved by a local legislative committee) and can cost up to 50% more. But, there are some benefits to making a heritage property your dream home. You might be eligible for heritage grant programs to update your property, municipal heritage staff can give you advice on how to properly renovate it, and there could be rebates on property taxes. There are even a few renovations that could benefit your insurance premium!

What if there’s damage to a heritage property?

If there is significant damage to your heritage property, the claims process is a bit more complex than usual. Your insurer will figure out the replacement cost for rebuilding the property and will have to consider any historic significance, special materials and unique features. Because of this, a heritage property expert is usually brought in to appraise the building. Also, specialty contractors might be hired so that they can recreate any special features of the heritage property.
Before you dive in, do your research and of course, contact your insurance company to make sure you’ll have the right coverage.

Protect your home and the things you love most.