Homes & Gardens

BUYING A LISTED HOUSE The pros and cons of owning a heritage property

It is wise to be well informed when purchasing a listed home. We reveal the upsides and downsides to heritage properties


FIND a picture-perfect house on the market and the chances are that it might come with a listing. This means it’s a building that has been judged to be important in terms of architectu­ral or historic interest. Buying such a home brings with it the responsibi­lity of owning a piece of history – it’s a reality for nearly half a million UK homeowners. ‘Just be aware that whatever the grade, the whole building is listed inside and out,’ advises surveyor Tom Scott of property consultant­s Woodforde Scott.

IS IT WORTH BUYING A LISTED HOME? As a result of limitation­s on alteration­s, listed homes will never compare to new builds when it comes to preventing heat loss. However, steps can be taken to lessen the impact, including installing ground source heat pumps. ‘The fact that most listed buildings have stood the test of time proves that materials have lasted,’ says Dawn Carritt of Jackson-stops. ‘There is no reason they will not last for centuries to come, unlike many homes built in the mid-20th century.’

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS?Owning a listed property involves looking after a part of Britain’s heritage – they are often buildings which enhance the overall aesthetic of an area. As custodians, owners take pride in looking after these historic buildings. However, one of the downsides is maintenanc­e, which was made more expensive in 2012 when the government removed the zero-rate VAT for repairs to listed buildings. Bear in mind that the local authority can serve a repairs notice if they think the building isn’t being conserved. This can result in a compulsory purchase order for non-compliance.

WHAT DO THE GRADES MEAN? Buildings are listed because of their age, rarity or the strength of their architectu­re but sometimes a building can also be listed because of the role it has played in the life of someone famous (the childhood home of John Lennon has been listed, for example). Grade I (just 2% of listed properties) are deemed to be of exceptiona­l interest; English Heritage need to be consulted on any proposed alteration­s. Grade II* covers 4% of listed buildings while the majority are Grade II and consent is granted at local authority level.

CAN YOU GET CONSENT FOR CHANGES? You are permitted to make like-for-like repairs, but these must not change the appearance of the building in any way, says architect Hugh Petter of ADAM Architectu­re. ‘At the outset of any project, commission a detailed account of the building and how it has evolved over time together with an assessment as to the importance of each element of the structure. This will then inform how the project is developed and will be helpful when making the case to justify the alteration­s to the local authority.’

CAN YOU ADD EXTENSIONS? If you want to add an extension which doesn’t alter the main property it is likely to be easier than removing an original feature, however small. If a feature is specifical­ly mentioned in the listing document, you haven’t got much of a chance in changing it, so check this carefully. If the property

has already been extended, it’s often easier to get consent, adds Edward Cunningham of Knight Frank.


A key factor in applicatio­ns is the survey so it’s possible to run into difficulty when using a surveyor who is not familiar with listed homes. They might, for example, use a method of testing damp treatment which results in higher than average moisture readings, regardless of whether or not damp is a problem. This may prompt the mortgage provider to demand that the building is injected with a chemical damp proofing, which is often unsuitable for old homes. It’s worth using a surveyor experience­d in listed houses.


A good solicitor and surveyor will check that consent was granted before alteration­s were made, but it’s not uncommon to find that some have been made without it, says Charlie Gaines of the Listed Property Owners’ Club. As the new owner, you can be required to correct the changes, so it is best to ask the vendor to apply for retrospect­ive consent. ‘The Club has worked with insurers to enable buyers to protect against this so long as they were not aware of the unauthoris­ed work at the time of taking out insurance.’


Bearing in mind that rebuilding costs are likely to be higher than for new homes, it’s vital to get an accurate value of these costs for insurance. Also remember to alert your insurer when carrying out any work. Most household policies will cover for work up to a value of £50,000 but once you exceed this level, you risk invalidati­ng the policy. ‘Insurers can provide advice for the protection and security of existing buildings and possession­s while building work is in progress,’ says Alec Moore of specialist insurance brokers Weatherbys Hamilton.

CASE STUDY Victoria d’avanzo spent four years sensitivel­y upgrading Henge Estate, a 10-bedroom Grade Ii-listed house in Wiltshire, which she lets out for holidays and corporate groups (hengeestat­ ‘We inherited the house, which hadn’t really been touched for 40 years. The electricit­y and plumbing needed to be replaced and we had to secure listed building consent to reorganise the layout. When it comes to listed buildings, my overriding advice is that you cannot be too detailed with your surveyor, architect and builder in terms of what you’re aiming to achieve. Also be prepared for surprises. During a site visit, the conservati­on officer noticed an ancient cob wall had been repaired incorrectl­y in the past. He demanded it be reinstated using traditiona­l methods – at a cost of around £10,000 per metre it was a large unexpected expense.’


CRISPIN HOLBOROW, director, Savills Private Office

 ??  ?? On sale for £2.45m at Jackson-stops is Grade Ii-listed Warblingto­n Castle in Hampshire
On sale for £2.45m at Jackson-stops is Grade Ii-listed Warblingto­n Castle in Hampshire
 ??  ?? Grade Ii-listed Henge Estate in Wiltshire can be booked for stays
Grade Ii-listed Henge Estate in Wiltshire can be booked for stays

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