How to Split a Victorian House Into Flats

Written by gail cohen
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If you loved the Mary Tyler Moore Show, you know that Mary Richards and her best bud, Rhoda Morgenstern, lived in a charming Victorian house that had been converted into flats. The show offered viewers a great example of how savvy restoration pros were able to turn old and charming into new and fun, while retaining the charm of the original structure. Maintaining the integrity of an architectural style can be tricky, but if you follow protocol, you'll wind up with more than a little village---you'll also have one sweet, old-fashioned moneymaker.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Permits and licenses
  • Blueprints and design plans
  • Funding
  • Doors and windows
  • Plumbing and electrical upgrades
  • Drywall/sheet rock
  • Paint and trim
  • Appliances and fixtures

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  1. 1

    Visit your local zoning authority to make sure the area in which the Victorian house you're planning to subdivide permits multi-family units. Request a variance if the board is willing to permit rezoning of the neighbourhood. While you're at it, ask if the house has been designated a national historic landmark, which would prohibit you from splitting up the property in any way.

  2. 2

    Ascertain the amount of square footage your community requires for studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Use these figures to determine how many flats you'll carve out of the existing square footage, assuming a kitchen, bathroom and closet in each unit. Think twice before considering apartments with more than two bedrooms when you tackle your Victorian house conversion, as these types of residences are not suited to large families.

  3. 3

    Bring plumbing and electrical contractors to the property to estimate how much it will cost to have ducts, wiring, piping and other infrastructure upgraded to provide service to the number of proposed flats. Get several bids, as you may be surprised to find the first quote isn't a benchmark.

  4. 4

    Apply for building and renovation permits and licenses, as well as funding. Bring plans and financial projections with you when you visit housing authorities and financial lenders, so they have an opportunity to see what you're planning to achieve. As soon as you get a thumbs-up on underwriting and permits, purchase insurance to protect your investment while the renovation takes place.

  5. 5

    Monitor all aspects of the project as it progresses to ensure deadlines are met and alterations are made according to plan. Periodically bring in local inspectors to check on the project so they can catch anything that may have been overlooked by the contractor and remedy it on the spot to bring it up to code.

  6. 6

    Choose doors, windows, paint, trim, appliances, fixtures, cabinets and vanities that complement the Victorian home so that the finished flats work in harmony with the original architecture. Make the converted structure stronger and better insulated than it was during its former existence, but never compromise on nostalgia if you hope to attract renters eager to live in both the past and the future.

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