Buying a listed building can feel a bit like purchasing a piece of history. Whether you've lucked onto a charming cottage in the country or an iconic townhouse, any grade-listed building you buy will come with both a grand heritage and a rule or two you'll need to follow.
Listed buildings explained
A listed building is one that has been put on the national register because it's regarded as a property of architectural or historic importance. Contrary to what many think, the actual listing refers to the whole building and its grounds, rather than just certain period features. There are three listing levels in the UK:
- Grade I (or A buildings in Scotland and Northern Ireland) are of exceptional interest or national importance.
- Grade II* (B+ in Northern Ireland; B in Scotland) are of particularly important interest.
- Grade II (B in Northern Ireland, or C in Scotland) are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
You can check if a building is listed by using the National Heritage List search facility.
What to consider before buying a grade-listed property
Before you put an offer on your dream listed property, there's one major step you should take to protect your back in the years to come. You need to make a list of any structural alterations made to the building and the land and double check to see if the previous owners had planning permission.
If any of these projects were completed without the correct planning permissions, it's the current owner (i.e. you, if you buy it) not the previous one who's responsible for rectifying any unauthorised work. You should also bear in mind that your insurance premiums will be significantly larger.
Rethink your renovation plans
When you first survey the property, take note of any major works that need doing to the building and weigh up the odds of getting them done. Making any kind of changes to the building – both inside and out – is normally more complicated than on non-listed properties. You’ll need to seek permission from your local authority’s conservation officer before doing things like replacing windows and doors, removing internal walls and changing fireplaces. That being said, minor like-for-like repairs don’t usually require consent.
A unique heritage home
Despite the extra pieces of paperwork that come with these properties, owning a building with centuries of fascinating history and period features is a huge pull for buyers. They may be harder to heat and renovate, but for many, living in (and preserving) something like a converted mill, chapel, school or windmill can be a truly magical experience.