There’s nothing quite like the romance, charm and grace of a heritage property, but many people are wary of buying into the historic market for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s the expectation of high prices and excessive maintenance that puts them off; for others, it’s the seemingly endless rules and regulations governing their preservation and care. According to Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, however, the realities of owning a heritage property are not always as imposing as they may seem.

“There are a lot of benefits to owning a heritage property,” Clarke reveals. “Some of them are intangible – the pride and prestige that comes from owning something truly one-of-a-kind; of living in, and taking care of a real piece of our country’s past – and some of them are actually quite down-to-earth and practical.”

He goes on to explain that many heritage properties in South Africa occupy prime locations on larger-than-normal, well-established grounds. Their rooms tend to be more spacious and elegantly proportioned than their modern counterparts, and their high ceilings and architectural detailing are often complemented by luxury finishes like hardwoods and exotic marble.

“It’s these factors,” says Clarke, “that influence the desirability – and therefore the price – of heritage homes. The fact that they have heritage status is often completely incidental – any beautiful, spacious home with expensive finishes on a larger plot than its neighbours will command a higher price than one with less to offer.”

Of course, not all heritage properties are grand manor houses previously owned by the colonial elite, and South Africa is dotted with suburbs boasting collections of characterful – but comparatively affordable – historic homes in various vernacular styles. When buying into one of these suburbs, it’s important to be aware of the heritage status of the whole area, as well as the status of your own home, especially if you intend to do maintenance works or any kind of renovation.

“Heritage properties are protected by law at national, provincial and local levels, and you’ll need to check with your municipality to get the specific details applicable to your exact property,” says Clarke. “Broadly speaking, however, there are three tiers of rules that apply to anyone who owns a heritage property, or a property in a heritage area.”

Tier One is a Heritage Overlay Zone, usually found in historic suburbs like Chelsea Village in Cape Town. It protects the unique character and style of an area as a whole, and affects all the properties in the zone, regardless of their individual heritage statuses. Tier Two is specific to individual properties, and applies to any building older than 60 years or of particular architectural value, and Tier Three applies only to buildings officially classified as National Monuments or Provincial Heritage Sites.

“If your property falls into any of these tiers, you’ll need to get approval for any building work you plan to do,” says Clarke. “The higher the tier, the more stringent the rules, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have to bend over backwards to put a new coat of paint on your home.”

As Clarke explains it, the entire purpose of the heritage regulations is to preserve buildings of historic importance for future generations. That means preventing you from doing the required maintenance and improvements to keep your property in good repair is not in the best interests of anyone involved. “As long as you aren’t trying to make changes that will detract from the historical importance of your property or the properties around you, you shouldn’t have trouble getting the necessary approvals,” says Clarke.

As for the amount of maintenance required on older properties as opposed to newer constructions, Clarke believes this depends entirely on the state of the home and the care of the previous owners. “I always advise buyers to have a professional inspection done before making any property purchase, and that advice is twice as valid for historic homes. If it’s been properly cared for, your heritage home shouldn’t cost significantly more to maintain than any other, but if it has severe defects that need to be seen to, it could be an expensive endeavour to rectify them without contravening any regulations.”

To the right owner, a heritage home can be a unique treasure to be cherished not only for its cultural importance, but also its unique character, charm and style. If you’re considering buying a heritage home, however, it’s important to go in with your eyes open, fully aware of the potential restrictions that come with the responsibility of protecting a piece of our country’s past.

Heritage property ownership – Source – Rawson



Read this before buying a Heritage home

Some people feel that Heritage-listed properties are fascinating windows into the past and that their owners are lucky. Others say that a Heritage listing is a real headache with development restrictions and price depreciation.

There are risks involved with buying a Heritage home, but, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the cons.

In South Africa all structures older than 60 years – including fixtures and fittings – are protected by the National Heritage Resources Act, 25 of 1999. All properties in a conservation or heritage area are also protected. Parts of Cape Town are listed as being of heritage value, like Wynberg Village, Observatory, Little Mowbray, St James and the City Centre.

According to Graham Viney, award-winning designer, author and expert on historic property in South Africa, the preservation of our country’s architectural treasures is frequently due to the collective clout of self-appointed local “watch dogs”, like those established in St James, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg.

However, Viney points out that there are grey areas when it comes to “defining history”: “There are some who view so-called Colonial architecture as testament to a repressive era and therefore unworthy of safeguarding,” says Richard Day, Pam Golding Properties National GM. “Really, though, these buildings are monuments to craftsmen who have gone before and should be treasured.
“Whether bought fully renovated or still in need of some love and care, the romance and emotional pull of an older home holds enormous appeal for many.”

The argument for….

Heritage properties frequently attract higher resale values because they, and often the surrounding areas, are protected. People may assume this means a property can’t be changed at all, but in fact work is encouraged to ensure a house is properly maintained and modernised; you just need to know what aspects of the original building are especially important in maintaining its character.

If you have a Heritage home you may be able to apply for grants or loans to help fund its upkeep or maintenance. For example, the City of Johannesburg Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage offers a 20% rebate for properties declared Heritage sites.

It is unlikely that the area surrounding your house will be re-zoned or developed.

If the property is well looked after it will retain its appeal and will only grow in value with age.

The argument against….

There are more restrictions around the development of a Heritage property, including how they can be renovated, the design and what building materials can be used.
The cost of renovating a Heritage property can also be higher. In addition, you will have to look out for surprise costs for remedial electrical work or replacing roof trusses etc.

Approvals for renovation or development will take longer. Not only do you need to deal with your local council, but Heritage bodies will also need to approve your plans. People wanting to buy and/or renovate a Heritage property should work with Heritage authorities and council from the start.
Complete demolition of a property isn’t usually allowed.

Home insurance may be harder to obtain so it’s best to do some research before making an offer.

Heritage-listed properties are old, so ensure you organise thorough building and pest inspections.

Take a look at neighbouring properties to see if any of them have been renovated or extended. If so, your local council/Heritage authority is receptive and perhaps you will find good contractors that are experienced in dealing with Heritage homes.

“Many historic homes were built in prime central locations, or close to attractive natural features such as rivers and mountain backdrops,” says Day. “They may still occupy significantly larger erfs and have more and larger rooms than the average modern home. They also tend to be well-built structures, with thick walls, wooden floors and old-school attention to detail and craftsmanship.
“It is often such features, and if they form part of a well-maintained, fully renovated historic property, which may command a premium price, more than any intrinsic heritage value or significance.”

Day says an ill-maintained historic property, or one requiring insensitive renovations, will often fetch a lower price than an equivalent modern home, given the cost of restoring it to its former glory. “Buyers who dream of renovating old homes should also be aware that they cannot just move in and start building,” he says. “Before taking on an historical property, make sure that it is generally suitable for your requirements in terms of size and plan. Sometimes people buy buildings because of their historical charm, only to completely alter them or to remove all patina or sense of past history.

“Find a house you like, and consider its pros and cons objectively, as well as emotionally. The more logically you approach buying the house, the more you’re going to love living in it.”

Source – Home Times