There is nothing more fulfilling than saving up for your dream house. You might have it pictured even since you were young, the perfect façade, the colour, the number of storeys, and the furniture to go along with it. You might have even imagined the people and the pets that you want to live with inside your dream house. Fortunately, sometimes you wouldn’t need to build your perfect home—with the right location and the proper mindset, you may just find yourself buying a house worthy of that title.

However, buying that new home will probably not be the end of your troubles, there would be maintenance, repairs, and restorations that might be in order. As the line caveat emptor goes, it is only necessary to also verify if your chosen house is a listed building. Grade II listed buildings are the most common type among the three categories. Most likely, if listed, the one you fell in love with and decide to buy is Grade II. These listed buildings require special instructions and consent in all alterations applied to it.

A more thorough explanation of the rules and regulations of listed buildings can be found in the publication of Historic England: Conservation Principles, Policies, and Guidance for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment. However, if you lack the time to read the whole book, then read on to find out the essentials in buying, owning, and living in a listed building. All you need to know about listed buildings and its restoration can be found here.

What are listed buildings?

Listed buildings are considered of historic importance in England, not limited to commercial buildings or houses, but may also be other architectural structures such as bridges or monuments that are deemed historically significant. They are classified according to their heritage significance. This classification has a corresponding implementation of special rules in its preservation, restoration, and alteration. They are legally protected by laws and unauthorized or improper handling of these properties is subject to varying penalties.

Criteria for listed buildings

Whether you already own a listed building or it has the potential to be one, certain criteria must be met for it to be listed, called heritage values. Heritage values are identified through four main groups: (1) evidential, (2) historic, (3) aesthetic, and (4) communal value. Primarily, the place’s (not necessarily the building’s) location matters to identify its value. The structure or place should either hold a significant role in the region’s historical fabric, have contributed to the development of its culture, or reflect the changes that came about in that locality. The community is also integral to the heritage values of a certain location. The people and their valuation of their community may also provide evidence of important heritage. The remaining criteria lie in the combination of both its spatial and temporal significance, such as the materials used to build it and the era in which it was built. Objects that may be deemed important to the context of that heritage can also contribute to its heritage value.

Classification of listed buildings

Listed buildings are classified into three types, according to its significance. Grade I buildings are specified as buildings of “exceptional interest,” Grade II* as “particularly important buildings and of more than special interest,” and Grade II as “special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.” Among 400 000 listed building entries, only around 2.5% fall under the category of Grade I, around 5.8% under Grade II*, and around 90% under Grade II.

More on listed buildings

The listed buildings are identified through a formal list entry by Historic England. However, the extent to which a listed building is protected may vary. It is granted that the structure’s exterior and interior, as well as the objects that are inside, are protected. Structures, objects, and other buildings attached to the listed building or part of its curtilage may also be protected. These can be worked out through an assessment of the building.

Removal as a listed building is also possible. In case of a fire, proven to be no longer of special interest, the building can be removed accordingly. Those that do not intend to list their property may also apply for a Certificate of Immunity (CoI). When CoI is granted, the property is absolved from (1) being listed in the duration of five years and (2) being served a building preservation notice.

Why would I want a Grade II listed building?

Grade II listed buildings are the most abundant among the three categories. As of the final quarter of 2016, around 344,900 out of 376,000 listed buildings were listed as Grade II type, thus the easiest to find and acquire.

Owning a Grade II listed building

Each Grade II listed building is of national importance, and therefore may provide a sense of fulfilment among homeowners, especially to those who are highly interested in heritage sites and buildings. The added character and aesthetic to the listed house, as well as the exclusivity of owning it, may provide a great deal of satisfaction to its owner. It may also raise its value and even attract potential buyers if one eventually plans to sell it. Finding out if your house is already listed is now easy and accessible by simply checking out Historic England’s website and entering your keyword, postcode, or list entry number in their National Heritage List for England.

Some examples of Grade II listed buildings

Grade II listed buildings vary in their functions and are not limited to houses only. A great example is The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, listed as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, which cast some of the world’s famous bells such as Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. Another example is the Barnes Railway Bridge which crosses the River Thames. Other examples of heritage buildings under Grade II category are the Packhorse Inn in Bath, Alexandra Palace in London Borough of Haringey, and Ovingdean Grange in the City of Brighton and Hove.

Difficulties in owning Grade II listed buildings

There are a few challenges that entail the ownership of legally protected buildings and structures. Freedom of creativity is one factor that discourages potential buyers or owners to obtain these properties. At times, despite the condition of your listed home, you may want to add in some features to give it a taste of your personality, but in this case, you may need to hold back on those creative ideas. Adding or removing items such as appliances or furniture are still subject to assessment by the local conservation officer.

Another factor is the tedious process in getting even simple repairs or restorations, and possible costs which can be more than your allocated budget, especially with the necessary builds or materials. The conservation officer is always part of the discussion when it comes to the decisions in the property, and a whole lot of negotiating can sometimes take place when trying to change or fix something—even if the house is under your name.

What do I need to know when acquiring a Grade II listed building?

If you are decided on owning a listed building, then preparation is key. First, of course, you must acquire the listed building. The following paragraphs are the subsequent processes you need to prepare for after your big purchase.

Maintenance procedures and costs

Aside from the budget that comes with the purchase of a new home, the high maintenance costs and procedures may also test one’s patience. Thankfully, many restoration experts can help you achieve your goal of refurbishing your newly acquired home and make it look even better, without losing its character as a heritage site.

Co-ownership with the government

Another thing you need to remember is that rather than being an owner, you are considered a custodian of the property. This means that you are responsible for the conservation of the heritage building. This also means that any alterations should first be approved through a listed building consent application. Thus, if you’re looking for a house that you can freely renovate, then listed buildings might not be your best choice. However, Historic England reports that most listed building consent applications get approved, at around 90% approval rate among all applications.

How do I restore my listed property?

The restoration of a listed property’s structures may be in order once you acquire it, to maintain its value as a part of the historical fabric. Whether you are an enthusiast for owning historically important properties or you are meaning to sell it for a bigger price, restoration is always a way to go in preserving the integrity and character of your home. Even better, when done just right, it could even increase the house’s value or asking price. Follow these step-by-step procedures to attain that wonderfully restored home, with no setbacks from the conservation officers.

Seeking permissions

Many consent applications are necessary for the appropriate changes to your house. The first permission you must secure is called Planning Permission. This is not limited to listed buildings, in fact, all buildings need to obtain Planning Permission before starting their renovation. Listed buildings have their specific additional permission application, called the Listed Building Consent. This would refer to all changes done to the property, such as repairs, demolitions, and alterations that may change the heritage value of the building. Trees within the vicinity of your home may also be protected by a Tree Protection Order (TPO), or if they are within a conservation area. If so, Tree Consent should be obtained prior to any work on the trees. The local planning authority has the final decision to either approve or reject these consent applications and may also decide whether you would need to apply for consent or not.

Restoration costs

Before taking on the task of owning and restoring a listed building, it is important to anticipate high costs in restoring and maintaining these types of properties. Although listed properties can also be insured, it is not the same with the insurance policies on standard buildings and may not cover the cost you would need to properly restore all the details of your property. Thus, preparing a bigger budget is a must for listed homeowners.

Materials

One factor which may increase the cost is the materials used in the restoration. Like for like materials are usually required when repairing certain structures. For traditional brick buildings, lime mortar or rendering is used due to the porous material that allows it to “breathe,” and any moisture may evaporate. This is more expensive, and its application may take longer than your usual cement.

Professionals and consultants

Unless you are one of the people who are experts in buildings and structures, then you will definitely need to hire a professional to create a restoration plan. These include an architect who is an expert at historic buildings who will oversee the whole job—from legal contracts to the materials and planning. Hand-in-hand with the architect would be the structural engineer, who will make sure that the structural components that are to be added go well with the existing components, ensuring the safety of a building in terms of its stability. Another useful expert is the Historic-building consultant which will evaluate the effects of the wanted changes to the overall historic value of your home, which may come in handy when writing your listed building consent. Boulton & Boyce offers exceptional restoration services to cater the needs of your listed property.

Building contractors and labourers

Once the plans are final, the labour of restoring your home could be assigned to appropriate building contractors, to make sure that it is handled in a skilful, professional way. This should be the case in restoring your listed home, to make sure that every handiwork goes smoothly. These may be electrical jobs, plumbing, and carpentry, and the likes. If you’re looking to restore your wooden door, The Wooden Door Company also offers excellent restoration and repair on wooden doors that can perfectly match the character of your listed home.

Heritage buildings are reflections of the culture and history of the locality and owning that piece of historical fabric may be someone’s lifelong dream. However, turning that dream into reality may turn out to be a difficult job. It is not easy to preserve the history that lies in a building, especially with the fast pace of modern technological advancements that aim toward practicality and ease. If you’re planning on purchasing your new listed building, keep in mind this useful information that could help you understand the works that go along with making your dream a reality!

This article was written on behalf of Boulton & Boyce by Pieter Boyce. Pieter has an intense passion for English Architectural history and has been specialising in the conservation of original wooden windows and doors for decades. His exceptional knowledge of timber windows and doors, both listed or non-listed, is attributed to his hands-on approach to learning all aspects of the complete restoration of original features as well as having personally surveyed thousands of items throughout his long tenure as a head surveyor for one of the largest window and door restoration companies in the UK. He now runs a boutique wooden window and door consultancy and fervently champions the retention of original windows and doors. To learn more of Pieter’s services, visit his website at www.boultonboyce.co.uk.

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