Buying a listed property affords you the very limited opportunity to own a real piece of history, but it’s not without its challenges. You’ll still be required to adhere to the legalese governing listed buildings and the upkeep and restoration definitely costs a bit of money.
What is a listed building and what you can do to it?
A listed building is one which has been added to the National Heritage List since it has ‘special architectural or historic interest.’ If you own such a building, you’re responsible for maintaining its character, which may include the outside such as the garden too.
For a building to be listed, it would have to be more than 30 years old. Selection for listing gets a bit pickier following the period of 1700 to 1840, a period from which most buildings are generally listed. A surviving building which was built before 1700 is listed if it resembles something close to its original state.
Planning guidance is needed from the government, otherwise you can alter and extend the building to your heart’s desire if you purchase it. The listed building is otherwise protected from harmful development or demolition. Historic England offers some good advice for listed building buyers considering making alterations.
The conservation officer will be your go-to person, an employee of the local council whose role is to maintain your building’s character. They can give you advice on the techniques and materials you can use to effect any changes on the property. No fees are involved in obtaining the required consent for any and all work, however it is a criminal offence to effect alterations to a listed building without obtaining consent.
Caring for a listed building
Run a check for overflows and broken and blocked downpipes and gutters to combat what has proven to be the very common problem of damp with old buildings. A surveyor might be needed for more serious problems.
For possible flooding, preventative maintenance can be carried out, like perhaps adding air brick covers and door guards.
For part-unused or unused properties, you could be forced to make building repairs if deemed necessary for the building’s preservation, otherwise any renovation or repair work which has anything to do with decay or damage must conform with the regulations as per your conservation officer.
Saving energy in a listed building
You can add a more efficient modern boiler to upgrade the heating in most listed buildings and you could perhaps also add insulation to the attic and other rooms. Planning advice would be required for larger works, but you may not be allowed to install more modern double-glazing as this could quite considerably alter the appearance of the building.
Insurance for listed buildings
To provide adequate coverage for a listed building, specialised insurance would be required. Most standard home insurers don’t cover listed buildings, but specialists in insurance for listed buildings such as the likes of Lycetts have some practical advice surrounding the legal protection of a listed building.