A listed building needs to be treated differently to a standard new build and many of the older features will need to be looked into before you decide to buy. Here we’ve covered the top issues you need to know about before buying a listed building and how a survey can help prepare you for the cost of such an investment.
What is a listed building?
A listed building is any building that the National Heritage List for England deems to be of special interest for architectural or historic reasons. The building is treated as being of national importance and is protected under British law.
Because of this, there are certain restrictions placed on listed properties. For example, you may not be able to extend or renovate without prior planning permission. An in-depth survey should highlight these issues so you are aware of any limitations before you buy.
Listed buildings will usually have a category of ‘significance’. These are Grade I, the most important, followed by Grade II* and Grade II. Grade II is the most common and 92% of all listed buildings fall under this category.
But whatever grade your new property is listed as, or even if it’s not listed but still pretty old, there are a number of things that your surveyor will need to watch out for.
Breaches of Listed Building Consent:
One of the most important things a survey might pick up on is any breaches of Listed Building Consent. This is where the previous owner has carried out works to the inside of outside of the building without applying for Listed Building Consent. When you buy a listed building, these problems become your problem and if the local Conservation Officer comes around, it will be up to you to rectify the situation.
The most common of these is the addition of UPVC double glazed windows or the removal/addition of inner walls. These will be fairly obvious to your surveyor but could cost up to £100,000 to fix.
Timber framed buildings:
Timber frames are most commonly seen in countryside cottages, barns and old townhouses. While these are not problematic in themselves, modern attempts to repair them can be detrimental.
Timber that has been treated with chemicals, or seals that have been filled with cement rather than traditional lime mortar can cause damp and rot in the wood which will need seeing to. Bug infestations are rare but also a possibility, and again should not have been treated with chemicals in case of damage to the timber.
While thatched roofs aren’t hugely common, they are around, and your surveyor will need to check for any damage to the thatch. Some basic issues like re-ridging will usually cost less than £10,000 to fix, but a complete re-thatch can often cost in the region of £50,000 – so it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying before you sign that contract.
Of course, repair costs will depend on the size, age and special features of the listed property, but without a survey, these expenses could turn out to be much more than you’d first budgeted for.
It’s always important to get a survey done, whatever the age of your property, but with old buildings, in particular those on the National Heritage List, extra factors need to be considered. A survey can point these out to you and ensure you are ready to take on such a project and dedicate time and money to keeping it in a good state of repair and in its original state.
We recommend an in-depth Home Condition Survey for listed buildings, which will also include details on the structure of the property. To find out more, call 08000 387 007.