Four key questions to ask about a listed property

Written by Posted On Monday, 01 April 2019 06:14

Many people looking at buying a property are drawn to the character of listed buildings. But if you are thinking of purchasing one, it is important to do your research and know what you are getting into. Here we take a look at the four key questions that you need to ask before you buy a listed property.

What grade is property listed under?

Buildings are listed because they are considered to make a contribution to local or national heritage. However, each listing is unique and there are a diverse range of reasons that a building could be considered for listing. And because of this, the UK’s heritage listings are divided into a number of different grades.

The grading system varies depending on which specific UK country the property is in. In England and Wales, buildings fall into three categories: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. The vast majority of listed residential properties (around 92 per cent) are awarded Grade II, and only 5.5 per cent of properties are listed at Grade II*. For buildings to achieve a Grade I status, they generally need to be considered extremely historically or architecturally important. It is typically reserved for well-known and iconic structures such as Warwick Castle, Nelson’s Column, and Buckingham Palace.

The system is similar in Scotland but with some subtle differences. Here properties are divided into Category A, Category B and Category C. While in Northern Ireland there is a slightly broader system, with properties grade A, B+, B1 and B2. If you are buying a listed property it is absolutely essential you understand the differences between the grades.

What kind of maintenance will the property need?

It should be noted that, for all of their charm and character, listed properties can be a handful to maintain. They are typically older than non-listed properties and have ageing materials that were not designed to stand for as long as they have, especially when having to also accommodate the full range of modern conveniences such as electrical installations and central heating. These factors can cause properties to deteriorate.

Additionally, when you own a listed building you have a legal obligation to maintain the condition and character of the building, as well as making long-term improvements where realistically possible. Unsurprisingly, this can get very expensive – although there are grants available through Historic England.

So, when you consider making a purchase of a listed building, you need to be aware of the financial implications of taking on such a property. According to architectural conservation specialists Hutton & Rostronthe works required on listed properties often necessitate specialist contractors who the skills necessary to work on period features”.

Have unauthorised changes been made?

With listed properties it is important to get specific permission to make any changes to the property – even if you believe that these are in-keeping with the style and design of the building. If the previous owners of the property have not followed the letter of the law to obtain the correct Listed Building Consent and you buy the property from them, you will then be legally responsible for the work that they have had carried out. Making changes without consent is considered to be a criminal offense – this means that you would not only face fines and be required to have corrective works carried out, you could even be imprisoned.

It is essential, then, that you take the correct steps before you exchange contracts and have the building professionally surveyed by a company experienced in listed properties. Not only will this survey reveal the general condition of the property, it will also ascertain if any unauthorised changes have been made.

Can you get consent for the changes you want?

Many people look at listed properties and love the charm and character of the building, but would prefer to make a few alterations to make it more suitable for their lifestyle. However, as noted above, this process can be quite complicated. No matter what grade your building is listed under, you would need to obtain permission to make any kind of change through your Local Conservation Officer.

Even something as simple as giving the property a fresh coat of paint requires special permission, so if you are serious about a property but feel that some changes would be necessary, you should speak with your Local Conservation Officer before proceeding with the purchase.

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