The charm of owning a listed building is hard to resist. That is why so many homebuyers contemplate the idea of owning a beautiful slice of UK history whether it is a countryside cottage in a rural village in the Cotswolds, a grand Georgian manor house set in acres of land, or an Edwardian townhouse in some of most desirable central London postcodes.
In England there are approximately 374,081 listed buildings and the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England – listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks, registered parks and gardens, and battlefields.
Classifications of listed buildings in the UK
Different classifications of listed buildings are used in different parts of the United Kingdom:
- England and Wales: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II
- Scotland: Category A, Category B and Category C
- Northern Ireland: Grade A, Grade B+, Grade B1 and Grade B2
Focussing on England and Wales, there are 3 levels of listings: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II
- Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest and sometimes also considered to be internationally important (only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I)
- Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest (5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*)
- Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest (92% of all listed buildings belong to this class). This is the most likely grade of listing for homeowners.
It is also worth highlighting that some gardens and landscapes such as parkland in front of country houses can also fall into the listed category. Listings cover 1,601 registered historic parks and gardens, 19,717 scheduled ancient monuments, 9,080 conservation areas, 43 registered historic battlefields, 46 designated wrecks and 17 World Heritage sites across England.
Many beautiful old and historic buildings are listed and therefore come with additional sets of implications and complications, making owning them and renovating them a potential minefield. For example, Grade II listed buildings are subject to various regulations which protect their historical and architectural significance. These buildings are of special interest, meaning alterations and building work cannot be carried out without written consent from the relevant authorities.
Listed buildings consent
Listed buildings are protected by law. This consequently means homeowners will need listed-building consent (in addition to planning consent) before making any alterations to their property. This heritage protection is designed to preserve important buildings from alterations that aren’t ‘in-keeping’ and to maintain the unique character of the building.
Homebuyers of listed buildings should consequently be aware of the challenges and associated costs involved before buying:
- Consent must always be applied for through local authorities and before any material changes are made to the listed building.
- Speaking to a local conservation officer before exchanging contracts is essential. Conservation officers will guide you through the process.
- Listed buildings can be particularly tricky to survey and usually require a higher degree and level of expertise.
- Always appoint a local chartered RICS building surveyor with demonstrable experience of listed buildings to carry out a comprehensive survey of the building. The survey report will provide a detailed analysis of the building defects and any required work identified.
- Once consent is granted, owners are required to pay a listed building consent fee (based on the scale and scope of the project).
- Renovation costs on listed buildings can be very costly, therefore listed building insurance is essential to make sure that home owners can respond to the specialist needs of their property in a responsible manner.
- Failing to get listed building consent before starting building work is a criminal offence that can carry serious penalties.
- It is possible to apply for retrospective listed building consent, however if denied one may be penalised for any unauthorised work.
Listed buildings restrictions – when is listed building consent required?
If you wish to carry out some significant changes to your listed property then building consent will be required. This includes:
- Listed building repairs
Repairs to listed buildings may require consent depending on the nature of work and, importantly where the work is considered to affect the character of the building. Like-for-like materials will be required so it is best to seek advice from local authorities.
- Internal alterations
Listed building status applies to the entirety of a building, therefore planning consent will be required for internal work and alterations too. Not only does this apply to changing the layout of rooms by removing a wall for example, but also when demolishing and rebuilding period features, exposing timbers and brickwork, installing double glazing or removing internal features such as fireplaces or panelling.
- Regulations about windows
Windows can have a huge impact on the appearance and character of a building, and this is even more the case with listed buildings. Therefore owners of listed buildings should be particularly aware of the dos and dont’s when it comes to windows repairs.
Window detailing such as the type of timber used for construction or even historic glass panes used are often protected under listed building regulations. This can potentially be a source of problems, challenges and headaches for owners of listed buildings wishing to address issues of rotting frames or draught with the view to bring their property up to modern energy efficiency standards.
- Extensions and renovations
Undertaking renovations or extensions to a listed building is a painstakingly long process that requires patience, planning, attention to detail and a solid budget (including contingency).
Consulting the local authority is paramount as the process will entail looking into the history of the building. Obtaining listed building consent is a lengthy process requiring the submission of detailed plans along with amendments before the application gets approval.
Redesigning your home in-keeping with its traditional and historical character can also be costly as it will require appointing specialist professionals such as architects, designers and builders with experience in working with historic listed buildings.
Finally contracting to an adequate and comprehensive building insurance (or renovation and extension insurance) is essential to protect your interests throughout the building process should anything go wrong.
The cost of maintaining a listed building
Repairs and maintenance on listed buildings are often more expensive due to the need for specialist skilled tradesmen who have to perform repairs to a certain and specific standard often using natural materials and traditional techniques, all under the supervision of English Heritage.
Staying on top of all maintenance and repairs of your listed property is important. It is advised to allocate money into a sinking fund to meet any required and necessary schedule of work to keep the property in its best condition.
Particular attention should be paid to the roof, guttering, downpipes, drains and windows as water and damp can cause dramatic damage to a listed building.
As buying agents, we are not strangers to assisting homebuyers with the sourcing and acquisition of listed buildings. In fact, one of our recent clients purchased a stunning property in one of the most iconic addresses in the historic city of Bath. The comprehensive building survey highlighted a fascinating number of historical facts about the property. But the catch was an equally large number of potential repairs and maintenance work to be carried out over the next 10 to 15 years to preserve the property.
Extract of building survey on Grade I listed building (construction date: 1754)
“Rear elevation stonework
The original Georgian rear elevation is of squared, coursed rubble stonework construction approximately 600mm thick with Bath stone ashlar quoins and dressings around windows. However, there have been some alterations made during the Victorian period by way of a 3 storey rectilinear bay added to the rear of the stairwell and what appears to be an even later, 3 storey semi-hexagonal bay window added to the rear right hand side of the building. The rectilinear bay is built off of the rear jack arch at upper ground floor level and was probably added to provide indoor sanitation for the building. The semi-hexagonal bay is built from lower ground floor level upwards and may be original to the Georgian structure. The plan in Walter Ison’s authoritative tome “The Georgian Buildings of Bath” would seem to confirm this.”
Grants for listed buildings
Historic England states that “repair is preferable to replacement” and is very supportive of owners of listed buildings who genuinely care about their property and want to maintain and preserve it to its former glory.
Before starting any repair or maintenance work on your listed property it is worth researching the grants available for historic buildings.
Should I buy a listed property?
Buying or owning a listed property comes with responsibilities and a duty of care to maintain the property and its condition. As a consequence it is very important to carry out the right level of research and due diligence.
Your first step should be to read the description of the property you intend to buy on the National Heritage List. This will provide you with information such as the date it was first listed, the listing grade and a description of what has been deemed significant about the property and, therefore, what can, and more importantly, what cannot be changed.
Your second step should be to seek advise from the local conservation officer on the planning history and the alterations you are planning to do.
To conclude, owning a listed property is certainly not for everyone; some buyers are often wary of old historic buildings due to concerns of not being able to make the changes they want to bring them to modern and high end standards with the latest tech, such as high-speed connectivity.
But listed buildings are more likely to retain their value more than any other type of property due to the high level of appeal they have amongst buyers looking to own a unique property and a slice of the country’s history. In addition, in certain areas, like the city of Bath, these buildings rarely come onto the market for sale. Consequently they tend to sell for a premium, often above the asking price!
If you are considering buying a listed property, or are interested in finding out more about our property finding services, check our website (www.domusholmes.co.uk) or contact us on +44 (0) 117 973 3683 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no obligation chat about how we can help you.