Making the Grade
Listed homes may be challenging, but the rewards are plenty
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