As historic properties become increasingly popular, Dawn Carritt, Director of Country Houses at Jackson-Stops & Staff, gives her advice and tips to aspiring buyers.
There are many responsibilities that come with owning a listed building but without exception they are outweighed by the benefits – and it is these benefits which make them increasingly popular with today’s buyers. An historic house is part of our built heritage and makes not just our towns and cities so special but also our countryside. It really is the 3D equivalent of owning an old master.
In the last two years we have seen the demographic of buyers for these types of property expand to include younger families and couples, who are searching for the perfect historic home in the
country, away from the bustle of city living. A significant 46% of the chocolate box cottages sold by Jackson-Stops & Staff in the last year were either Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II listed. It is these homes, particularly those with outbuildings or annexes, which are of primary interest to younger buyers, who either work from home, derive additional income from letting out their property or need extra space for visiting friends and family – however, knowing whether conversion or renovation is feasible is vital.
If you buy a listed building that is already in good condition the responsibility and cost of maintenance should not be too onerous. The primary responsibility of the owner is to maintain and preserve the house for future generations. The important thing to understand is the construction of the building and treat it with the respect you would normally give to anything that has been around for 100 years; altering it without consent could not only be breaking the law, but it could also diminish its value.
In general like for like repair is allowed without obtaining listed building consent but it is becoming increasingly important to be able to prove that the repair was exactly that and not an alteration. However, if there is even a shred of doubt it is essential the local conservation officer is consulted and listed building consent obtained. Not only may unauthorised work frustrate a sale in the future it is a criminal offence and simply not worth it!
Before purchasing a listed property that is in need of renovation, time spent on reconnaissance and assessing the works which will need to be undertaken will rarely be wasted. It is also important to find an insurer that understands period buildings and a mortgage provider that thinks outside the box. If listed building consent is already in place and covers a group of buildings, such as the conversion of a number of redundant farm buildings and barns it is vital to ascertain whether there are any conditions attached to the consent which are only relevant to one property but which might impact on all future owners. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the point at which a building may be occupied. It is not uncommon for the listed building consent to require specific works to be undertaken before any building can be used, yet the work may only be required on one property within the group. A typical example involves asbestos.
Meeting with a conservation officer to discuss any alterations you hope to make will be very useful in terms of providing a greater understanding of what can be done. The next step is to employ a quantity surveyor or architect who fully understands the structure and can provide a clear indication of and how much the work is likely to cost. Finally, employ a builder who is familiar with old buildings and traditional materials as this should not only save time but it should also give the conservation officer and buildings inspector confidence and leave you to get on with the work.
Although there are a number of responsibilities that come with owning a listed building, for most buyers they are a labour of love.
Renovating a listed home can be incredibly rewarding and will not only help with the preservation of a fascinating piece of British history but in a small way help increase the country’s housing stock and avoid unnecessary building on greenfield sites.