Owning a listed property means you get a truly unique home and a piece of London’s architectural history. However, a listed house does usually involve more costs and lengthy planning procedures than a conventional home.
Making the grade
In effect, you’re buying a piece of London’s heritage, as listed properties are considered to be of special architectural or historical importance. A Grade I listing indicates a building of exceptional interest (only around 2.5% are in this category) and Grade II* indicates those of more than special interest (around 5.5%). The remainder and the vast majority are Grade II listed – buildings of special interest that warrant every effort being made to preserve them.
Keep in line
Listed status means the owner has a duty to maintain a property while staying faithful to the original style in which it was built, both inside and out. Grade I structures must not be altered unless the improvements are in line with the property’s heritage, while with Grade II you’re usually allowed to complete interior work – with a few restrictions – but the exterior has to remain in keeping with the character of the house.
Make your case
For most alterations, you need something called Listed Building Consent from your local council’s planning authority, which will grant or withhold permission. Works requiring consent might include knocking down internal walls, replacing windows or doors, or even painting the exterior. There are no sweeping rules for what you can and can’t do, as each building is considered individually. In the first instance, contact your local council’s conservation officer, who should be able to advise if the work you are planning will need consent.
Repairs on listed properties can be particularly costly as it’s likely you’ll need skilled craftspeople and conservation specialists. It’s important to find out exactly what repairs need doing upfront by getting a building survey from a chartered surveyor who has specific knowledge of period properties. More importantly, your surveyor will spot any unauthorised work by the previous owner. Once you have bought the house, it’s you as the new owner who is liable to correct any alterations that don’t meet the conservation officer’s requirements.
Insuring a listed property can be a costly affair too. If disaster strikes, you’ll have to make good using materials that match the rest of the structure. So make sure you take out adequate cover through a specialist insurer.
Although investing in a listed property can be quite costly, especially compared to more traditional property purchases, the benefits of buying one of these old treasures is a long-term labour of love. But it’s one that, if approached with care, allows you to own your own little bit of London’s history.