Home Insurance For Heritage Or Historic Properties

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Home Insurance For Heritage Or Historic Properties

Written by Caitlin Wood

Updated June 23, 2021

Home Insurance For Heritage Or Historic Properties

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Historic Properties Home Insurance Insurance

There’s something about a heritage home that attracts homebuyers. Perhaps it’s the unique traits of these properties that you don’t normally see in more modern homes, or maybe it’s the rich history that they tie us to. 

If you’re planning to buy a heritage home as your primary residence, you’ll need to take out a home insurance policy to protect it, as your lender will likely require it if you’re taking out a mortgage to finance the purchase. But home insurance for heritage homes is slightly different from your average home insurance policy, given the historical significance of these properties. 

Check out if you need insurance for an unoccupied home.

What Is A Historical Or Heritage Property? 

A heritage home is a property of significance in the community and possesses physical, historical, and cultural value. These properties are typically quite old and have certain characteristics that you wouldn’t see in modern architecture. 

Heritage homes connect today’s world to the past and are therefore important properties that are deemed in need of some level of protection to retain some of their original traits. 

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Municipal governments usually designate heritage properties as having certain heritage interests and therefore place certain restrictions on how these homes can be updated or renovated. 

These homes often are not built according to today’s building and safety codes, so any work that would be done to them would have to follow a specific protocol to ensure safety while maintaining the integrity of the property. 

Find out if you need extra insurance when renovating your home.

Do You Need Special Home Insurance For Heritage Or Historic Properties? 

A heritage home requires specialized home insurance because these properties are considered a higher risk to insure compared to more modern homes. The local government will have specific regulations in terms of maintenance or modifications for these homes. 

When you take out a home insurance policy on a heritage home, you must declare its designation as a heritage property. Every insurance provider treats a heritage home a little differently. Some may even refuse to insure these historic homes altogether because they may perceive these properties as too much of a liability.

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Before your policy takes effect, the insurance company will typically send out an agent to conduct a full inspection of the property. Usually, this step wouldn’t be required for the average home insurance policy. Rather, all that would likely be needed is for you to provide all the pertinent information about your home, including its age, square footage, type, and so forth. 

But when it comes to a heritage home, the brokerage will probably want to see the property in person first before a policy is issued and your premiums are determined.

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Why Are Insurance Premiums More Expensive For Heritage Or Historic Properties?

When it comes to insurance, your premiums come down to how much risk the insurance company will be taking on. And since heritage homes are very old and may come with components that are out-of-date and potentially hazardous, these types of properties are more expensive to insure.

It’s easier to insure heritage homes that have been updated to some degree and regularly maintained, while homes that are in poor condition will be much more difficult to insure, especially if the electricals and pipes are very outdated. Since these structures tend to come with a higher risk, insurance companies will typically charge higher premiums compared to policies for more modern homes. 

Find out if you should bundle your home and car insurance policy.

It can also be difficult for insurance companies to ensure a heritage home because of its uniqueness. If the home is ever damaged and needs to be replaced, the insurer would have to replace the property with another structure that is similar to it. 

That means the home would have to be rebuilt as closely as it was before the damage was done. And when it comes to heritage homes, it can be very expensive and challenging to replace these properties and their components with materials similar to what the homes were made of.

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For example, the following issues can make replacing a heritage home more expensive to replace:

  • Plaster mouldings – These components require specialized craftsmanship to replace and cannot be created by just any builder. 
  • Planning approvals and by-laws – There are often more obstacles to overcome when it comes to getting the appropriate permits and adhering to by-laws when rebuilding a heritage home, which can make the process more expensive and time-consuming.
  • Claims settlement expenses – Since it’s more likely that rebuilding a heritage home can take a long time, the claim will be open for a longer period of time, which is more costly for an insurance company.
  • Appraiser expertise – Insurance companies will have to pay specialized appraisers who are qualified and experienced in appraising heritage homes.
  • Hazardous components  Materials like asbestos were commonly used in home construction decades ago, but are no longer used in today’s housing industry. As such, the odds of finding asbestos or other dangerous contaminants in a heritage home is more likely. If there is asbestos found in the home, there will be an added cost to safely dispose of it. 

Tips When Getting Home Insurance For Heritage Or Historic Properties

Since getting a home insurance policy for a heritage home can be more difficult and expensive, you’ll want to follow certain tips to ensure a comprehensive and cost-effective policy when purchasing these types of historical properties. Consider the following:

Choose The Right Type Of Coverage

In some cases, it might make sense to skip certain types of coverages that may not be necessary and would make the policy more expensive. But when it comes to heritage properties, you don’t want to have a policy that’s too skimpy on coverage. There are certain add-ons that may be worth adding to your policy to ensure adequate coverage, such as sewer backup for homes with old plumbing. 

The policy should also closely match the home’s value and promise an adequate replacement cost value. You’ll also want to ensure that the property meets the heritage home regulations in your jurisdiction.

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Comparison Shop

Like any other type of insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to take the time to shop around with different insurance providers to find the best rate without sacrificing coverage. To make this easier for you, enlist the help of an insurance broker who will do all the comparison shopping on your behalf to compare rates and find the best price on a heritage home insurance policy. 

Keep Records

When you buy a heritage home, make sure to retain copies of any documents that come with the home when the deal closes, such as the property’s legal designation. Store them safely so that they will be readily available if the home is ever damaged and you need to file a claim. 

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Mitigate Risks

There are certain steps you can take to lower the risk of damage to the property and even to reduce the price you pay on premiums. Things such as updating the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes can go a long way in making the home safer while helping to reduce the costs associated with insuring it. 

Make Note Of Unique Features

It goes without saying that heritage homes feature unique characteristics, such as plaster moulding, antique chandeliers, and hand-carved wood finishes. Make sure to document these unique traits with photos and notes so that if you have to file a claim, the insurance company will have more to go on when assessing the replacement cost of the home.

Check out the Co-Operators to help you find your home insurance policy.

Final Thoughts

All homes should be covered with a home insurance policy, and if the home is mortgaged, the lender will require insurance coverage. But an insurance policy may be even more important for a heritage home given its potentially increased value and higher costs to replace components that may be difficult to replicate. Just be sure to do your homework and shop around for a policy that provides you with adequate coverage at a price point you can afford. 


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Caitlin is one of Canada's leading personal finance writers. She is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. She has been part of the Loans Canada team for over eight years. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security.

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