If you ask us, Vancouver Special houses have an unwarranted “bad reputation.” People turn their noses up at their working-class roots and boxy designs, but underneath the utilitarian layout and exterior, there’s a home with lots of potential.
We often encourage people to be careful about discounting these more affordable, older homes – especially if they’re looking for a great renovation project. There’s work to be put into these houses, but also great value to be found.
An estimated ten thousand Vancouver Special homes were built between the years 1965 and 1984. They’re a quintessential part of the city and its surrounding areas, and today, they present a unique opportunity to eager home buyers and renovators.
TQ Construction President, Henri Belisle, spoke to Global BC about Vancouver Specials. You can check out the video here.
In this blog we take a deeper dive into what makes Vancouver Special homes, well, special. We’ll talk about why these homes are superb candidates for old house renovation projects.
What Is A Vancouver Special?
Vancouver Special houses were mass-produced homes, predominantly built in the 1970s and early 1980s. They didn’t cost much to build and really maximized their 33 square foot lots, sometimes offering as much as 2,800 square feet of living space.
Their utilitarian design was crafted to meet growing needs for family housing in Vancouver. Today, you probably know them for their distinct low-pitched roofs, metal rail balconies, and cookie-cutter external appearances. Whether you hate them or love them, they’re a well-known part of many Vancouver neighbourhoods.
Most also contain a shallow balcony on the second floor, as well as a front door on the side of the house that allows for flexibility in living arrangements. As a result, they were (and still are) often used for multi-generational living or rental spaces.
Now, nothing about what we just said has probably tempted any potential buyers – but don’t stop reading just yet. As contractors and builders, here’s what we love about Vancouver Specials and their renovation potential.
1. Older Houses Are Usually More Affordable
It’s no secret that the Vancouver housing market has exploded in the past decade. In fact, our beloved city has been dubbed as the least-affordable city in North America for renters and buyers alike.
Therefore, most buyers are looking for a more affordable way to own a home, and Vancouver Specials can offer that.
As older, less-updated homes, these often go for cheaper – which is important considering that the average home price of the housing market in Vancouver was over a million dollars. By saving money on the upfront purchase cost, you can put more toward renovations and hopefully turn a profit in the future, should you decide to sell the home.
Purchasing a Vancouver Special home, with plans to renovate it, is an excellent way to enter the real estate market with a relatively minimal investment.
2. They’ve Got Good Bones
The next (and arguably most important) reason to consider renovating a Vancouver Special: they’re surprisingly well-built.
Back in the 1960s to the 1980s, these homes were built simply but effectively. Should you decide to start renovations, you won’t find hidden weaknesses or structural oddities. This is especially true if you purchase a house that’s older but that has a well-documented history.
Furthermore, the large size of most Vancouver Special houses gives you plenty of square footage to work with. You’ll deal with fewer load-bearing walls than many newer homes, so the process of gutting and modernizing is relatively straightforward.
3. They’re Predictable for Remodeling
Another great thing about Vancouver Specials is their predictability. As we said earlier, they’ve got good bones and simple structures – some might even call them “minimalistic.”
That means you, as a remodeler, don’t need to worry about getting creative with your updates. It’s like starting with a basic, understandable pallet rather than stepping into a house that already has a lot going on.
At TQ Construction, we see countless clients work with Vancouver Special houses to change up the shallow deck, extend living rooms, and conduct house exterior renovations. Designers love the creative freedom, but as contractors, we love the simplicity of an older Vancouver Special.
Want to add a laneway house or separate the floors into separate living spaces? That’s relatively simple to do thanks to this kind of house’s predictability.
4. Old Homes Connect Us to Our Roots
Lastly, there’s a sentimental reason to purchase and renovate a Vancouver Special – they’re a part of Vancouver’s culture.
In recent years, there’s big a big emphasis across Canada to salvage and preserve historical houses, rather than tearing them down and building modern houses in their place.
Just recently, an American architect by the name of Jonathan Barnes shared his opinion that preserving components of old structures is a great way to keep a house’s character and be friendly to the environment. It’s both sustainable and admirable.
Sure, homes from the 1970s don’t necessarily scream “historical,” but they are a part of Vancouver’s story. In fact, this architectural style can’t be found anywhere else in the world and is truly considered to be a part of the city’s heritage.
Back in the day, many immigrant families were more than happy to call these spacious, well-built houses home. These are the houses in which many long-term Vancouver families began their roots, and that’s something that many of us like to look back on with fondness.
Even if your own family never owned a Vancouver Special or had ties to one in the past, there’s pride to be found in restoring one of the only true Vancouver architectural styles.
To Wrap Things Up
According to the most recent Vancouver housing market news, we’ll likely only see the housing supply shortage continue through the rest of the year and into 2022.
It’s not easy to buy in this seller’s market, but there’s still an opportunity to make the most of Vancouver Specials that others might be overlooking. Don’t ignore these older, boxy homes that might be full of renovation opportunities.
Thinking of updating a Vancouver Special in the near future? Reach out to the TQ Construction team. As Vancouver residents ourselves, we know exactly what it takes to bring these older homes to life – without destroying their original character and value.
To learn more, call 604-430-9900 or send us a message online. We look forward to helping you transform an old “special” into something special for generations to come.