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This post is sponsored by Esurance

When we bought our first home last year, I had one big “must-have”. I really wanted to live in one specific neighbourhood. We looked at a few other ones, but it was really about this one specific neighbourhood. But living in one of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods means also that you have to live in one of Calgary’s oldest houses, which has a first time home-owner can be daunting.

But if watching HGTV for 15 hours a day has taught me anything, it’s that some times you need to go with a fixer upper to end up getting what you want. Which, as a homeowner can be terrifying.  In terms of tools, I have some that my 93-year-old grandmother bought me a few years ago. So the idea of buying a house that was built before she was born is scary.

Esurance can help relieve some of the stress of buying an older home. They have a convenient, hassle-free approach to home insurance and some of the most affordable rates around. Their claims service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (because that’s when life happens). It’s perfect for home-owners of old houses, because trust me, old houses don’t wait for office hours to remind you just how old they are!

But over the past year, I did learn some tips about buying an old out:

Bring your contractor with you.

There’s no shortage of old houses in Calgary, but their conditions are all over the map. Some are pretty much turn-key and others, the key is the only thing that works. One of the best things we did was tour the house with the contractor.  He immediately knew what to look for, what were the real issues and what were just cosmetic.  Since he would be the one doing the work, it’s important to hear from him and about what he actually thought he’d be able to tackle.

Shop around.

Speaking of contractors, they really are more important than buying the house. We were lucky that we had one referred to us through family friends, and he was really fantastic. But I’m sure you’ve heard that that’s not always the case.  Never rush hiring a contractor, but I bet that always comes back to bite you. Ask around, speak to references, maybe even go see the work they’ve done. Buying an old house is stressful enough, you need to trust who you’re handing the keys to.

Get a second, third, fourth opinion

You can also never hire enough experts.  On top of the inspector, we also hired a structural engineer. Building older homes can spell instant doom if the house’s foundation isn’t taken care of.  We actually had so many experts come in, the inspector said he had never seen homebuyers so on top of things. And you know what? All of those experts still missed some things. Nothing that wasn’t manageable, but if we didn’t know about some of the surprises, we could have purchased a lemon that we would have been stuck with for years to come.

It’s old for a reason

Setting reasonable expectations of what buying a hundred-year-old house actually means.  Some of the rooms will be smaller, or in a weird shape. They were built for a different time, which is probably one of the main reasons you want to buy one. But getting ready to live a smaller life. We had to get rid of so much stuff just to be able to fit comfortably into our house.  But then again, there’s nothing wrong with decluttering, especially when you’re forced to.

Save where and when you can

While we did a pretty big renovation, with a focus on energy-efficiency, we still have lots of things to do like replacing the windows and finishing the basement. So in an effort to save some money and energy, we’ve also focused on making sure we use things like Hue lights to use the least about of power as possible. We also use Nest, which helps us keep track of our usage, and even provides us tips and tricks to reduce our consumption even more.


Mike Morrison