Buildings are given a listed status to mark their history and any architectural interest they may have. A listing will protect a building from any damage or alterations that an owner may want to make.
The English Heritage claims that the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. It also says that any buildings built prior to 1700 are listed as are the majority of those built before 1840. For a building to be eligible for a listing, it usually needs to be at least 30 years old.
If you are not sure whether your house, or a house you’re interested in buying, is listed or not, you can contact your local authority’s planning department to see all the local listings, or ring the Listed Buildings Information Service who can send you the details for a particular building.
Obviously the biggest problem with buying a listed building is that you can’t make any alterations to the external appearance of the house, but there are also some other problems associated with listed buildings that you should watch out for:
The most common problem for very old houses is damp. The biggest enemy for buildings around the world, damp can be a huge problem both inside and outside of your house.
The roof is one of the main places that can let water in and cause damp, so it is important to make sure that a listed building has a completely watertight roof. Check that tiles and slates are still in place on the roof and that any wooden areas have not eroded away.
Make sure all guttering is working properly and there is a drip zone onto an area of gravel or grass – the last thing you want is water splashing off a hard surface straight back onto your walls.
Working chimneys are very common in listed houses, but old flues are often interconnected to other rooms in the house, meaning fumes can travel around the property. It is important to check the stability of the flue and look for any pointing that has worn away.
The walls of listed buildings also tend to be very weathered and may actually be exposing your rooms to the extremities. Check the entire house for gaps in the walls and make sure you aren’t signing yourself up to a continuously draughty property.
All walls made from stone or brick should be well pointed using lime mortar, not cement. It is good to try and keep as much of the building’s history in place and refresh its original materials when possible.
It is important that a listed house has electrical wiring that is as up to date as possible and complies with the 17th edition of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (I.E.E) regulations.
It is also important to have your listed house’s electricity checked every 5 years, and many insurers now actually put it as a condition in their policies, especially if the house is thatched.
It can be quite hard to find insurance that will cover a listed property, because any repairs needed will require similar materials to those originally used on the house, and these can be hard to source.
There are some specialist companies willing to insure listed buildings, but enquiries should be made as early as possible and all available information should be passed over to insurers.
Any potential recommendations from the insurers to help reduce risks should be made where possible, such as various fire precautions, and rebuilding cost figures need to be agreed on first. Listed Building Consent may be required for any changes that need making.
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