Everything You Need to Know about Buying a Listed Property

Mon 12 Sep 2016 by Ellie Pierpoint

Written by Ellie Pierpoint

Listed properties can make beautiful homes, but there are some things you need to be aware of before you buy. One of these is the potential restrictions that these properties can come with, and what you should do when faced with repairs on your delicate new home.

So what do we mean by a ‘listed building’?

A listed building is a property that the National Heritage List for England has named as being of specific historic or architectural interest. This means that the building is protected by law and must be maintained according to a set of rules.

There are different levels of listed buildings. Grade I is the top level – there are less of these but they require the most care. Grade II* is the next level, followed by Grade II which is the most common with 92% of listed buildings falling under this category, though more common, even these require a level of maintenance which can be higher than a standard property.

What does that mean for you as a homeowner?

If you’re thinking of buying a listed property, you should know that any renovations or extensions you have planned will have to be approved with ‘Listed Building Consent’ first, otherwise you could face a hefty fine.

One example of this is the property developer who was fined £300,000 by courts for completely renovating his 16th century Grade II* Welsh home. While this is a particularly extreme case, and the property developer in question did much more damage than just changing the décor, it’s a good reminder that living in a listed building means you don’t have as many options as you would in a standard unlisted building, regardless of the fact that you technically own it.

What problems can a listed property bring?

While listed properties can seem a charming option, and many of them are, like any property they come with their issues. Due to the age and ornate style of many listed buildings, they can suffer from structural problems, damp or other expensive issues.

The best way to make sure you don’t buy a listed property with problems, is to get an in-depth survey done. This will show if there will be any potentially problematic expenses to deal with before you commit to buying.

One of the most common issues, and one the future owners of that Welsh mansion we mentioned earlier will be familiar with, is previously unapproved renovations. These are called ‘Breaches of Listed Building Consent’, and are most commonly seen in the removal or addition of inner walls, or the changing of original wooden windows to UPVC double glazing.

You might not mind or even notice the changes, but if a local Conservation Officer sees them, as the new owner you will be liable to return the property to its original state at your own expense, so it’s definitely worth finding out about this before you buy.

What’s the maintenance like for a listed building?

While it might seem like a listed property can come with extra maintenance, if you’ve had a survey done and there aren’t any pressing issues, you should be ok, and might even find that a listed property is built to be stronger and warmer than some new builds.

Prevention is better than cure

One of the main issues that we see with listed buildings is actually caused by the owner, rather than through any fault of the building itself.

Wooden features:

When someone has tried to treat wood features with chemicals, for example, this can actually lock in moisture and eventually cause rotting. The best way to maintain any original wooden features is to leave them alone! As long as they are dry, they can last hundreds of years, and period properties don’t take to modern chemicals very well.

Resealing gaps:

Another common fault is when someone has resealed gaps in brickwork with cement, which many old buildings aren’t used to. This can eventually cause moisture to become trapped and the bricks to crumble. Most period properties require specialist lime mortar in these instances, and you’ll need to hire someone who is experienced in this method.

Ask the experts

If you’re worried about any aspect of maintenance on your listed home, it’s best to consult an expert rather than attempting to fix it yourself, as many problems could be prevented from happening in the first place with the right advice.

So while it may seem like a listed property is hassle, and it’s true that you are restricted on what structural changes you can make, if you already like the property how it is, it should actually be very simple to care for, and as long as you’ve had a positive survey back, you should have no more expenses to budget for than a non-listed building.

If you want to find out more about conveyancing for listed buildings, give us a call on 0800 038 6699.

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