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    Buying a Listed Building: A Comprehensive Guide

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 15th Mar, 2024

    reallymoving discusses what exactly a listed property is and what the implications are when buying a listed building.

    Buying a Listed Building: A Comprehensive Guide

    What is a listed property?

    The listing system came about in 1947, and was put in place to protect buildings which are considered to be of special architectural or historical interest. If a building is listed, permission must be sought from the local planning authority before making any changes that could have an effect on its appearance.

    The United Kingdom’s listed buildings are divided into various categories:

    • Grade I (England and Wales) or A (Scotland and N. Ireland) – A building of exceptional historical and/or architectural significance.
    • Grade II* (England and Wales), B (Scotland) or B+ (N. Ireland) – An especially interesting building, with historical and/or architectural importance.
    • Grade II (England and Wales), C (Scotland) or B1/B2 (N. Ireland) – A building of special interest, which needs to be preserved.

    The ownership of a listed property comes with a greater responsibility than other types of building. It will be up to you to make sure that the condition of the property is maintained and preserved for future generations. 

    This is not to say, though, that you will never be able to make any changes; you just need to have the appropriate planning permission in place to make sure that you have fulfilled your legal obligations to preserve the building’s character.

    Conservation Areas

    Conservation areas are places considered to be of particular importance, historically and/or architecturally. These areas can include a number of both listed and unlisted buildings. If your building is listed, then the listing applies to the whole property – inside and outside, and conservation area laws act in partnership with listed building regulations. If your building is not listed, but you live in a conservation area, you will still need to obtain conservation area consent in addition to applying for the usual planning permission before making any changes.

    Are you house-hunting? Our handy guides could help.

    What are the advantages of owning a listed building?

    You may find that the pleasure you get from owning a piece of history, with all its charm, its quirks and its character, is worth the extra effort it takes to make sure that all the legal boxes are ticked when carrying out improvements, whether it be maintenance or restoration.

    If you own a listed property, or live in a conservation area you may qualify for grants to help pay for repair work or improvements on the building, however this is not guaranteed. If you do choose a home in a conservation area, you will probably have fallen for its period charm, so it will be comforting to know that significant changes to every home in the neighbourhood will be restricted in order to preserve the character of the area.

    A great advantage of owning an older property is that they often come with beautiful original features, like wooden beams, bay windows or open fireplaces.
    Older properties quite often benefit from a generous garden with mature plants and trees.  If you buy a house with a large garden, you will need to consider whether you will find that maintaining it is botanic bliss or an onerous chore.

    What are the problems with owning a listed building?

    One of the defining characteristics of listed properties is that they are old. Since the time of the property’s construction, the materials it was built with may have become weathered or outmoded, or both, and the skills and materials required to do any repairs or maintenance work are likely to be rarer and more expensive than their modern equivalents. Look for a Chartered Surveyor who specialises in period properties and can advise you as to whether the property is in good structural condition, and whether any repairs will be needed.

    It is possible that the property may be harder to sell than an equivalent unlisted building, as the word ‘listed’ can make some buyers nervous of the extra responsibility.

    There are a vast number of listed properties in the United Kingdom, so it is sensible to assume that not every owner of every listed property will have complied with the necessary planning regulations for changes they have made.

    Consider whether some of the original features of a listed building will make it harder for you, or more expensive when you live there. For example, single-glazed windows are not very efficient when it comes to retaining heat, so if you want a warm house you may find yourself facing high energy bills.

    If you buy a listed property which has had unauthorised alterations after the date it became listed, and the planning authority does not approve of these changes, it is up to the current owner, i.e. you, to restore the property to its former condition even if the changes were made before you took ownership. There is no expiry date for the enforcement of this, so ask a property solicitor to check carefully that any necessary permissions have been granted before you commit yourself to a purchase. You can find out about planning permission for the building from the Conservation Officer of your Local Authority.


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    Caring for a Listed Building

    If you are buying a listed property, it would be sensible to find a specialist insurance policy specifically tailored to cover your listed building.

    As we mentioned before, it is possible to obtain grants for the conservation of your home, so it is a good idea to do some research to find out what help you may be eligible to receive.

    For more detailed information on grants and other aspects of owing a listed property in England and Wales, visit English Heritage’s website, in Scotland, Historic Scotland and N. Ireland, NI Direct.

    There are different types of listed building status.  The Telegraph Property section has a great summary of what to look out for.  Listed Buildings - Ask The Expert: HERE

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