Buying a listed building
Many of us are put off from buying a listed building, as we worry that owning and renovating them can be more complicated. However, DO NOT FEAR! With the right advice it is absolutely possible to buy your own little slice of history, whether it’s a gorgeous Georgian manor house, or a pretty little countryside cottage.
What it means is that If a property has architectural or historical importance, it is protected by law for future generations, and therefore it is placed on a national register. Age is the key factor and means that pretty much anything built before 1700 is certain to be listed, and anything pre-1840 is highly likely to be listed also. If a more modern building is believed to have particular historical significance or to be under threat, it may also be listed.
As these buildings are protected by law it means that homeowners will need to obtain consent before making any changes to their property. Having said that, it shouldn’t put you off buying a listed building, as long as you are aware of the challenges which may be involved.
What are Listed building restrictions?
Listing covers a whole building, including the interior, unless parts of it are specifically excluded in the list description for that particular property.
In some cases, the protection can extend to external structures and gardens. But all listed buildings are different, so you need check with your planning authority what is covered in the listing of the property you want to buy.
Any features that are specifically mentioned in the building’s official listing documents cannot be changed. So, make sure you read the property’s description and know what you can’t change before you buy it.
How does listed building consent work?
This doesn’t mean you can’t do any alterations or improvements to a listed building. If you want to alter or extend a listed building or alter its character or appearance in any way you need to seek consent from your local conservation officer. If you are considering buying a home that is listed with a view to making alterations, you might want to speak to the local conservation officer before you exchange contracts and are legally bound to buy.
Is listed building consent required for repairs?
This really depends on what you are doing. Technically, ‘like for like’ repairs wouldn’t require consent, but this may vary between authorities. For example, replacing a few tiles on your roof with matching ones is unlikely to be a problem. But if you plan to replace a window even with an exact replica you are likely to need consent.
If you own a listed building you should get to know your local authority’s conservation officer and check with them as to whether any repairs you are planning need consent.
What if the house doesn’t have listed building consent?
You need to do your research properly when buying a listed property as if there are previous works that have been done without consent, as the new owner, you may be liable to put them right. You may also struggle to get a mortgage on a listed property that has had work done without consent. Lenders tend to check for this during the application process.
It’s important to also be aware that listed building consent is not the same as planning permission. Work done without planning permission may not be a problem after a period of time. But, work without listed building consent is illegal and no amount of time changes that.
If you aren’t sure whether works have listed building consent or not you could speak to your solicitor about whether indemnity insurance could offer protection at the time of purchasing the property.
Do you need specialist insurance?
It isn’t essential, but you do need to make sure you choose your insurance policy carefully. If your home was to be damaged in a fire, for example, then it wouldn’t just be between you and the insurer to work out what work was needed and what it would cost. With a listed building your conservation officer would be involved and maybe even English Heritage, and it wouldn’t necessarily concern them how much it will cost to return the property to its original state.
Make sure you have insurance in place that will cover the full cost of repairing your property. Even if that means specific materials or building techniques have to be used. It may also be wise to choose a policy to cover you for pre-existing unauthorised works.
Will a listed building cost more to maintain?
Repairs on listed buildings can be more expensive due to the need for specialist tradesmen. They have to perform repairs to a certain standard, often using natural materials and traditional techniques.
On the plus side, if you need to carry out urgent repairs to a listed property you may be able to get financial assistance. There are grants available from Historic England.
What extra research should I do before buying a listed building?
The first thing you should do is read its description on the National Heritage List. This will tell you the date it was first listed, the grade of the listing, and a description of the listed property. This description is crucial as it tells you what has been deemed significant about the property and, therefore, what cannot be changed.
You should also check the planning history and speak to the local conservation officer. They can tell you what alterations you may be able to do. Also, check whether any unauthorised alterations have been made in the past.
Do I need to get a survey when buying a listed building?
With listed buildings, more than any other property, it is essential that you get a full buildings survey. Ideally, you want to get this done by a surveyor who specialises in historic properties.
A Final Word on Buying a Listed Building
There are certainly extra hoops to jump through if you take on a listed building, but in return you get to own a unique property and a beautiful slice of the country’s history. Furthermore, listed buildings are likely to retain their value more than any other type of property.