Want to buy a property with history and prestige? A listed building might be for you, but there are a range of issues to consider when buying a Grade I, II or II* property. The Resident asks William McCarter, a listed property insurance specialist with lycetts.co.uk, for some expert advice
What is a listed building?
A listed building is one deemed of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ by the National Heritage list. Once a building is included on this list, it becomes subject to a number of rules and regulations that govern how it must be maintained and preserved.
How does a building make the list? Automatically, any property that survives in its original state from the pre-1700s is a listed building. Most built between 1700 and 1840 are also listed.
Special attention is paid to buildings post-1945, as it’s rare for them to be included. Regardless of its historical or architectural importance, a building has to be at least 30 years old to be listed. There are different ‘grades’ of listed buildings which pertain to their architectural and historic interest, with Grade I the most important, followed by Grade II and II*.
Listed buildings come under special rules and are protected against demolition and development that changes their character. It’s a challenge to know what exactly this really means, so the public will have to consult with their local authority and have a planning officer advise them on any changes to the building.
Put simply: you can’t make any changes that affect the look or historical significance of the building without express permission.
Looking after a listed building
The age of a listed building means special consideration must be paid to the maintenance and upkeep of the property. You’ll have to contend with damp, which is more difficult to deal with thanks to the regulations the building is subject to.
Simple measures, such as clearing guttering and letting the house air out in warmer weather, can help deter damp – but problems such as rising damp will need to be spotted by a surveyor. How you deal with it is more difficult, as you can’t use modern measures such as filling a wall with cement to prevent rising damp. This will prevent the older property from breathing and make matters worse. Instead, consult with your planning officer to deal with the problem.
You’ll also need to consider external factors if you’re dealing with flooding. Many listed buildings in the countryside or rural areas are prone to flooding – but altering the garden to avoid water being directed towards the property may not be allowed. If any repairs need to be carried out, you’ll again need to seek advice from the conservation officer.
You can’t put off any repairs that need carried out – as the government can issue an urgent works notice and if you don’t comply, they can carry out the work themselves and issue you a bill for the services. Staying on top of basic maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs.
Saving energy in listed buildings
Listed buildings, again due to their age, can be inefficient when it comes to energy. If you’re going to either own or rent a property you’ll want to make the most of its energy abilities. Fitting a modern boiler in a property like a listed building will offer a fairly immediate benefit – so is one measure to consider as a priority.
Other energy measures can be more complicated thanks to planning permission issues. Double glazing is a common way to boost the energy efficiency of an older home, but is regularly met with concerns from planning officers as it alters the appearance of windows. Fortunately there are ways around this, such as special glazing that doesn’t alter the original window and adds a second pane – which is far more likely to be approved.
Any planning decision can be challenged if you don’t agree with the conservation officer – but this is a lengthy process. As a final consideration, you’ll also need specialist listed building insurance from a company such as Lycetts, which can be more expensive than standard home insurance but is vital for protecting your investment.
The Listed Property Show comes to London Olympia on 18-19 February 2017. For tickets and further information, see lpoc.co.uk/property-show