Heritage Homes: Top Tips | Everything Property
01 October 2023

Heritage Homes: Top Tips

Heritage homes

Heritage properties can make extraordinary homes, but be sure to do your homework and wise up on what’s involved before making your purchase.


Heritage properties can make extraordinary homes, but be sure to do your homework and wise up on what’s involved before making your purchase.

Heritage homes are a great allure for homeowners in search of the style and romance of bygone eras. But, while heritage properties often make excellent long-term investments, owning a piece of history carries with it a few responsibilities and potential challenges that should always be kept in mind.

Heritage homes

Premium price point

David Jacobs, Regional Sales Manager for the Rawson Property Group, advises that, “There are three main areas of concern that buyers considering heritage properties should be aware of – the first is pricing. A lot of heritage homes carry a premium price point that might be off-putting from an investment perspective.” Jacobs adds that the same factors driving some heritage properties’ above-average price points can make them surprisingly successful long-term investments.

“A lot of heritage properties occupy prime locations on larger-than-normal grounds,” he explains. “They also tend to have more spacious rooms, with elegant proportions and high ceilings, and often feature architectural detailing in extremely expensive finishes by today’s standards – things like wide plank hardwood flooring or sheets of exotic marble.”

Even South Africa’s more modest and affordable heritage homes found in suburbs like Cape Town’s Harfield and Chelsea Villages tend to have charming, and hard to replicate, design features that present a certain timeless appeal. As a result, if they are properly cared for, their desirability and value typically appreciate very well.

Property maintenance

Maintenance is often a concern for heritage buyers. “Not just because older homes can sometimes require more care than their modern counterparts, but also because their construction methods are often a little different,” says Jacobs.

There can be a learning curve when getting know the quirks of a historic property, and figuring out the right approach to repairs and maintenance projects. In general, however, heritage homes are built to last, and are therefore often remarkably sound and solid for their advanced age. Nevertheless, he suggests that it is still essential for buyers to do a professional home inspection, “to make sure they know exactly what they’re signing up for.”


Heritage grading

While heritage properties don’t always require significant maintenance, buyers need to be aware that any building work on them may be regulated. All properties over 60 years of age are protected under the National Heritage Resources Act. The extent of these protections varies depending on a property’s heritage grading – something Jacobs encourages all prospective buyers to investigate before signing on the dotted line.

“Broadly speaking, there are three heritage grades that can be assigned to a heritage property,” he says. “Grade I applies to heritage resources of national significance; Grade II to heritage resources of regional significance; and Grade III, which is broken into IIIA, IIIB and IIIC, to resources that may or may not have strong historic significance on their own, but have contextual significance as part of an area or neighbourhood.”

The lower the grade, the tighter the regulations, with the majority of heritage properties on the market in South Africa falling into Grades II and III. Just because a property is regulated, however, that doesn’t mean its owners will need to give their home a fresh coat of paint, or install a few discreet solar panels.

“The entire purpose of heritage regulations is to preserve historic properties for future generations,” says Jacobs. “That means there’s no benefit in preventing owners from doing the necessary maintenance or improvements to keep them in good, liveable condition.”

In most cases – as long as alterations don’t detract from the historical importance of a property or that of its neighbours – it’s not too difficult to get the necessary approvals.

“At the end of the day, heritage homes are best bought by heritage lovers who are going to cherish the same characteristics that make these properties national treasures. Preserving a piece of our country’s past is a responsibility, but it’s also an honour. If you’re willing to respect that, a heritage home can be an excellent – and very fulfilling – investment,” he concludes.

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