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Preserving ‘free’ Metro Vancouver heritage homes proves to be challenging

WATCH: In a deal that sounded too good to be true, a couple got the heritage home of their dreams but as Jill Bennett reports, preserving it didn’t turn out to be as easy as they thought.

Two of the oldest homes on a North Vancouver street have been given away and are about to be moved to Maple Ridge.

“I really loved the detail, you’ll never get that again in a new home.” said Heather Patterson, the owner of the “free” homes. “You’ll never get hand-carved or hand-cut wood…it was kind of an opportunity to save just a little piece of that.”

The houses were on a property that is being developed. Rather than tear them down, developer Charan Sethi decided to see if anyone was interested in taking them.

“We had over 120 people turn up who wanted the homes and then you have to kind of narrow the search down to somebody who is passionate about it and…who can financially do it and have the know-how.”

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Patterson says she and her boyfriend were prepared for the costs of moving the homes. They ended up spending about $250,000, but there was a disagreement with the developer as to who should pay for things such as asbestos removal and excavation work at the site.

READ MORE: Free heritage house in North Vancouver looking for a good home

“This is something relatively new,” said Patterson. “Not a lot of people do it, so there aren’t set standards as to who covers what or what those contracts mean.”

Saini sees no such ambiguity.

“Our contract was very, very clear as to what her costs were and what her responsibilities were,” he said. “She had other people talking to her and, in my opinion, misleading her to what it is and that’s when she got a little upset.”

Their experience serves as a reminder that when it comes to housing nothing is really free and costs can add up quickly. There are two free houses in downtown Vancouver, for instance, but moving them would be a logistical nightmare.

Peter Miller of the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society says he wishes more incentives were in place to save older homes.

“The most expensive thing to do both for the environment, as well as just cash, is demolishing a building and we would dearly love to see many of these old-timers kept and restored even if they have to be moved,” said Miller.

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Despite the headaches, Patterson says moving the homes was worth it.

“If you’re passionate about heritage, put your time and energy and money into that and do something active to help heritage continue,” she said.

-With files from Jill Bennett