Mak­ing the Grade

Listed homes may be chal­leng­ing, but the re­wards are plenty

Cornwall Life - - PROPERTY - WORDS: Fiona Brand­horst

Ever fan­cied liv­ing in a listed house? Around 500,000 homes in the UK are listed build­ings cel­e­brat­ing their unique­ness and his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey of own­ers of listed prop­erty by His­toric Eng­land, 97 per cent of the homes were pri­mary res­i­dences and al­most half the re­spon­dents had been liv­ing in their homes for more than 20 years.

The older a build­ing is the more likely it is to be listed, be it a stately home, thatched cot­tage or for­mer inn. Most build­ings dated be­tween 1700 and 1840 are listed; how­ever, in­creas­ingly post-war build­ings are also be­ing in­cluded on the statu­tory list, which can be checked on­line at his­tori­ceng­land.org.uk.

In Eng­land and Wales, prop­er­ties are listed ac­cord­ing to their level of ar­chi­tec­tural or his­tor­i­cal merit, ranked as Grade I (ex­cep­tional in­ter­est), Grade II* (more than spe­cial in­ter­est) or Grade II (spe­cial in­ter­est), which is the most com­mon grad­ing, cov­er­ing some 92 per cent of listed build­ings.

So what should you con­sider be­fore buy­ing a listed build­ing? Peter Bell, Con­ser­va­tion Ad­vi­sor at the Listed Prop­erty Own­ers Club (LPOC), says to bear in mind that any al­ter­ations will be sub­ject to lo­cal au­thor­ity plan­ning con­trols. ‘Don’t fall into the com­mon trap of buy­ing the dream choco­late box cot­tage and then “im­prov­ing” it to the ex­tent that you ex­tin­guish the very char­ac­ter that you fell in love with. If the house does not suit your re­quire­ments as it stands then it may be worth look­ing else­where,’ he says.

Sen­si­tive al­ter­ations and ex­ten­sions are not out of the ques­tion; how­ever, Bell adds that build­ing a large ex­ten­sion onto a small cot­tage is al­ways go­ing to be a prob­lem. You may also need to get per­mis­sion for ex­ter­nal re­dec­o­ra­tion if this would change the char­ac­ter of the build­ing, for ex­am­ple by paint­ing out­side walls if they have never been painted be­fore, or wouldn’t match the pas­tel colours of an ex­ist­ing ter­race for ex­am­ple.

Neil Mack­wood bought a Grade II listed weather-boarded cot­tage in East Sus­sex over 20 years ago and says the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in a listed home is one of priv­i­lege. How­ever, he warns that re­pairs are ex­pen­sive and get­ting plan­ning per­mis­sion can be hard. ‘Re­mov­ing VAT ex­emp­tion from re­pairs also means some own­ers are more re­luc­tant to keep prop­er­ties in good shape,’ he adds.

Damp, cracks, lean­ing walls and un­even floors are all found in

listed build­ings, so us­ing a good sur­veyor ac­cus­tomed to th­ese prop­er­ties would be wise to see if they are just signs of age or whether re­me­dial ac­tion would need to be taken. Keep a look out for any al­ter­ations car­ried out by the pre­vi­ous owner. If th­ese did not have listed build­ing con­sent they can be sub­ject to an en­force­ment ac­tion and the new owner could be re­quired to re­verse the work at their ex­pense.

The LPOC ad­vises against skimp­ing on in­sur­ance, which can only be pro­vided by a spe­cial­ist. Any re­pair work will have to use tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als and skilled crafts­men ir­re­spec­tive of the cost. Reg­u­lar main­te­nance will re­duce the like­li­hood of leaks and floods, two of the high­est causes of in­sur­ance claims.

Trac­ing the his­tory of a listed build­ing can re­veal an in­trigu­ing past. Peamore House, near Ex­eter in Devon, was built in the 1500s by the Duke of Suf­folk, fa­ther of the ‘nine day queen’ Lady Jane Grey, and is men­tioned in the Domes­day Book. Plans of the Grade II house are held in the V&A Mu­seum in Lon­don. When the Duke was ex­e­cuted the prop­erty was re­built into a Tu­dor House, with Gothic el­e­ments added in the 1800s. It was re­mod­elled and ex­tended in the 19th cen­tury and run as a coun­try house ho­tel in 1952. To­day, it is divided into four sub­stan­tial prop­er­ties with num­ber two on the mar­ket for of­fers in ex­cess of £500,000, through Strutt & Parker. The grand, four bed­room, three storey home has a wealth of orig­i­nal fea­tures in­clud­ing shut­ters, sash win­dows, fire­places and a se­cret door hid­den in a book­case. Listed homes are al­ways full of sur­prises.

‘The older a build­ing is the more likely it is to be listed, be it a stately home, thatched cot­tage or for­mer inn’

LEFT:Up­hill is a five bed­room, Grade I listed house in New­ton Ab­bot, £975,000,Strutt & Parker

ABOVE:16th cen­tury, Grade II listed Knights Hall in Wind­sor, £2.995m, Knight Frank

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