Since Nanaimo was booming through the Victorian, Edwardian, and pre/post-war eras, we have a huge stock of period homes that have been lovingly maintained and/or restored.

A lot of old-growth forest was being harvested and processed when these homes were built, which means that the highest-quality lumber was available. The result is that old character homes in Nanaimo were built with good materials - and with the builders' costs being low, they were able to invest in other areas of the construction, such as interior details and grand porches. See below for my curated list of character homes currently for sale.

If you're selling your old home in the Nanaimo area, I'd love to help you get the price your home deserves. My home was built in 1912 and I can't imagine selling it to a buyer who doesn't appreciate its unique qualities! If you want my help, please contact me.

Character Home Listings

City of Nanaimo's Heritage Register and Heritage Designations

There are multiple ways that the City might look at a heritage property. Buildings with municipal heritage designation have the greatest degree of regulation and protection; these are a handful of big-ticket buildings such as the Bastion, Beban House, and the train station - there are less than 10 of them. 

Next-most regulated are about 46 buildings in the Downtown Heritage Conservation Area in the lowest part of downtown, roughly between the Oxy, the Globe, and the old firehall. Special permits are required for altering many of the older buildings here, with allowances and tax breaks when alterations will preserve the character while meeting other goals like adding residential units. 

But for our purposes here (buying an existing heritage home) we are interested in Nanaimo's Heritage Register, which includes about 87 houses, mostly "up the hill" from the downtown core. Some of them are out in places like Chase River, Harewood, and Brechin/Newcastle. 

Being on the Heritage Register does not protect the homes from re-development except to the extent that the City has the right (under BC's Local Government Act) to stall the permits for 2 months while they explore voluntary conservation options with the property owner (including a $2500 grant option, see below). The goal is to maintain the exteriors of the buildings in such original condition as might be achieved. But in about two-thirds of cases (when there is no "covenant" as discussed below), the homeowner can do what they like after those two months, within the bounds of normal municipal zoning/building requirements, without any regard for the heritage value. 

An owner of a heritage house can apply to the City for a grant (up to $2500) for help with structural improvements (if they prolong the building's life) and/or exterior improvements that would "enhance the streetscape". There are stipulations I won't list here, but one thing to know is that in order to qualify for the grant, the owner must agree to a covenant being placed on their land title, restricting future development. Anyone considering buying such a home, or applying for the grant/covenant for their existing home, should be certain they understand the implications.

In other words, many houses on the Heritage Register (most of them) do NOT have the covenant in place, which means they are not ultimately protected against normal alterations and re-development. But some of the heritage houses DO have the covenant in place restricting alterations, because their owner agreed to it, perhaps in exchange for the small boost to their renovation budget - but most likely because they genuinely love their "character home" and can't imagine it standing up to a bulldozer!

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