Pe­riod dra­mas

Buy­ing a listed prop­erty in need of restora­tion is not for the faint of heart, but fol­low these few sim­ple steps to avoid be­com­ing a ner­vous wreck (ing ball), says Ara­bella Youens

Country Life Every Week - - Property Comment -

FUND­ING for the mul­ti­mil­lion-pound re­fur­bish­ment of Buck­ing­ham Palace was ap­proved by MPS ear­lier this year (March 15), af­ter of­fi­cials had an­nounced in Novem­ber that £369 mil­lion was needed to avoid ‘cat­a­strophic build­ing fail­ure’. The works be­gan in April.

For­tu­nately, most coun­try­house buy­ers will not face the re­place­ment of 100 miles of 1950s elec­tri­cal ca­bling and 20 miles of heat­ing pipework. How­ever, there are some caveats to be di­gested be­fore em­bark­ing on a large restora­tion—par­tic­u­larly if the house is listed.

One of the first to con­sider is in­surance, which is of­ten-for­got­ten. Most good house­hold poli­cies will in­clude restora­tion, ren­o­va­tion and ex­ten­sion works up to £50,000 with­out the need to no­tify in­sur­ers, but once you ex­ceed this level, you risk in­val­i­dat­ing the pol­icy. ‘Ex­pert ad­vice at the start of the project is es­sen­tial,’ says Alec Moore of bro­kers Weather­bys Hamil­ton (07503 671649). ‘In­sur­ers can pro­vide ad­vice for the pro­tec­tion and se­cu­rity of ex­ist­ing build­ings and pos­ses­sions.’

Sto­ries of projects over­shoot­ing their bud­gets abound. ‘Restora­tion to a cer­tain Grade Iilisted coun­try house re­cently started at £30,000 and is now £200,000 and count­ing. The owner dis­cov­ered un­ex­pected is­sues—many as a re­sult of the list­ing,’ cau­tions Mr Moore. One way to avoid the pit­falls when it comes to listed coun­try houses is to read the de­scrip­tion of the prop­erty on the Na­tional Her­itage List. This nor­mally de­tails why the build­ing was listed in the first place and will help to ex­plain the el­e­ments that make it spe­cial.

‘An­other step would be to re­view the plan­ning history of the prop­erty,’ ad­vises Richard Wins­bor­ough of City & Coun­try (01279 817882), a de­vel­oper that spe­cialises in the restora­tion of listed build­ings, in­clud­ing the King Ed­ward VII Es­tate near Mid­hurst, West Sus­sex. ‘It’s worth con­sult­ing old Ord­nance Sur­vey plans of the area and search­ing the local ar­chive of­fice for doc­u­ments and pho­tographs, as this can re­veal lay­ers of history hid­den within your prop­erty.’

As each coun­cil varies in its ap­proach to what is and isn’t ac­cept­able in terms of ex­ten­sions or ren­o­va­tions to listed houses, own­ers should look at the coun­cil web­site to see what’s been al­lowed else­where. ‘Your local Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer might be happy to dis­cuss plans in­for­mally be­fore you sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion, too,’ adds Mr Wins­bor­ough.

Where own­ers have the op­por­tu­nity, they should try to fu­ture­proof their house as much as pos­si­ble. ‘It’s not al­ways easy, but in­tro­duce as much light as you can; just like the Ge­or­gians, we crave light rooms and that trend is un­likely to change,’ says Ru­pert Law­son-John­son of Strutt & Parker (07464 673904). ‘Lower floors in cot­tages to cre­ate taller ceil­ings and paint dark beams. Key among all things these days is to fo­cus on the tech—it’s a lovely sur­prise to find a 16th- or 17th-cen­tury farm­house with su­per­fast broad­band.’

Last but not least, con­sult COUN­TRY LIFE’S Top 100 list of rec­om­mended ar­chi­tects, land­scap­ers, builders and in­te­rior de­sign­ers (March 3, 2017, and http://bit.ly/coun­try Life­top100) for ex­pert ad­vice.

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