Making the grade - owning a listed property comes with its share of appeal and responsibilities
11 December 2013
Who hasn’t ever dreamed of owning the Georgian Rectory? The appeal is obvious as not only are they architecturally beautiful but they usually sit happily in an acre or more of formal gardens. The country idyll.
Buying a listed building does come with its share of responsibilities and being the owner of one is usually a case of adapting your lifestyle to suit the building rather than the other way around.
According to English Heritage “listing is an identification stage where buildings are marked and celebrated as having exceptional architectural or historic special interest”. Of the 374,000 properties that English Heritage categorises as listed only a small proportion are Grade I and Grade II* (2.5% and 5.5% respectively). The remaining 92% are Grade II.
Being listed does not mean that a building has a preservation order, nor does it mean that a property has to be frozen in time. What it does mean, though, is that in order to preserve the architectural interest of the building, additional listed building consent needs to be granted before any work can be carried out on the property.
Prospective owners should be aware that embarking on alterations such as making the kitchen larger or putting in extra bathrooms, something that with un-listed buildings is usually straightforward, is often a lengthy planning process and not always possible. English Heritage will be more concerned about preserving the building’s integrity rather than making the owner’s life in the house more comfortable.
Improvements often have to be undertaken by specialist tradesmen who use more expensive materials. Although more costly, this can have an upside as the quality of workmanship and preservation of the building’s characteristics protect the property and its future value. For many, these extra hurdles can be off-putting and expensive but there continues to be a high demand for period properties and this is usually reflected in a good capital return over time.
A listed property represents a hallmark of quality and there is a certain cache which comes with owning one. But owners should be aware that they are playing an important role in maintaining the history of buildings in England and to this extent they could view themselves as custodians of the property with an obligation to ensure that the heritage of the building is preserved.