House Downsizing

Property Finder Advice: Buying A Listed Building

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Full of unique charm, singular features and years of history, a listed building could easily be your dream home. Often found in prime locations, they tend to be larger than modern homes with wonderful proportions. However, a degree of realism and objectivity is required when buying such properties. Unlike with standard homes, you cannot necessarily alter a period property to suit your specific needs. With years of experience behind them, a property finder knows exactly where the advantages and pitfalls lie.

What are listed buildings?

The UK’s 500,000 listed buildings are subject to a great degree of regulation and local planning authorities tend to lean towards the side of caution when enforcing them. These regulations have been put in place to ensure that a building’s character is retained for as long as possible. Any alterations that you wish to make will need to be fairly conservative in nature.

The level of regulation a building faces depends on its official grading. In England and Wales, these are as follows:

  • Grade 1- Buildings of outstanding or national architectural or historic interest
  • Grade 2*- Particularly significant buildings of more than local interest
  • Grade 2- Buildings of special historic or architectural interest

Under the Scottish system, the categories are named A, B and C, but are based on similar parameters. 92% of listed buildings are classified as Grade 2.  Grade 1 and Grade 2* make up the remaining 2.5% and 5.5% respectively. If you’re unsure about your grade there is a national register that you can consult, or alternatively, check with the planning department of your local authority. A property finder can easily do this on your behalf.

What is the impact of owning a listed building?

With a listed building even the simplest work, such as painting a front door, can require planning consent. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence. Unusually, you may have a greater chance of success in gaining consent for a sympathetic extension rather than any changes to the present building e.g. removing an original fireplace. The most important and protected features are likely to be detailed in the planning authority’s listing documentation, which a property finder can identify for you. Getting permission to alter any such features is highly unlikely.

Listed buildings can require a lot of maintenance and upkeep. Depending on what is being repaired, you may need to hire specialist tradesmen and buy particular materials. For example, matching the roof hatch or using a specific mortar for re-pointing. The conditions of consent will normally insist that you replace items like-for-like. Unsurprisingly, these special skills and materials come at a premium cost.

Check before you buy, ask a property finder

In order to establish what exactly you’re letting yourself in for, we could recommend that you have a thorough survey completed by a highly experienced surveyor. Ideally, they should specialise in historic buildings and have strong local knowledge as different conservation officers tend to have slightly disparate opinions. A property finder will be able to recommend a surveyor they trust.

You need to seriously consider your priorities before purchasing a listed building. If you are dead set on being energy efficient, it might not be the route for you. One complication that arises time and time again is the issue of double glazing which is not typically allowed on the majority of listed buildings.

Before you buy, check that no unauthorised work has been undertaken on the house as upon purchasing the property you will become responsible. You can further protect yourself by securing specialist insurance which covers the cost of re-building the property, rather than just its market value.

A County Homesearch property finder can find your perfect period property and advise you on any possible alterations. Contact us on 0333 939 8300 to discuss how we can help you.