10 tips for buying a Period Property

Pitfalls and Pleasures of Purchasing a Period Property: The importance of understanding a historic property before you buy – top 10 tips of what to look out for (published in Country Life Magazine).

“If only we had known…” is the phrase I hear so many times when working with clients. I am not trying to put off potential buyers with this article – I am just suggesting that if you better understand the implications of such an undertaking and what is likely to be required to achieve your dream home, you can then start to be able to manage your expectations and have hopefully a much less stressful time.

Many period properties are ‘listed’. However, it often comes as a surprise to many that the ‘listed’ status applies to: the exterior; the interior; any object or structure fixed to it; and, any object or structure within the curtilage (garden) of the building. Some period properties are not listed – but lie within ‘conservation areas’, which means external alterations and extensions need to be sensitive to their historic setting.

It is entirely possible to measure the ‘what?’, ’where?, ‘why?’, ‘when?’ and ‘how much?’ – so that you can have a good idea of what is possible and what is not, and importantly, if you can really afford it. If you are keen to alter something or add an extension, or even just gets repairs approved – it may take much longer than you think – which can be very expensive and stressful.

A good quality RICS Building Survey by a surveyor used to working on historic buildings goes someway to provide you with the information you need, however, an integrated Building and Historic Survey provides you with a much fuller picture of the undertaking ahead of you.

The Historic Survey by IHBC qualified consultant can provide a clear understanding of the development phases of the building and a summary of all the key significant historic features (you will also need this information for the listed building consent process). From this information it is then possible to identify what alterations are likely to be approved and what would be inappropriate. It also investigates if previous repairs have received approval from the local authority. A new owner inherits the legal liability for all previous repairs on a listed property since it was listed. All this information then informs the Building Survey process, so that the recommended repairs or restoration are sympathetic to the history of the building and costed to the appropriate standards.

10 Top Items for Checking:

  1. Whether it is listed or not. If not listed, is it in a conservation area?
  2. The structural issues?
  3. The damp issues?
  4. If it needs re-roofing?
  5. If it has sash windows or other key historic elements? Can you live with secondary double glazing?
  6. Have all recent repair and restoration works have had approval from Local Authority and been done to the required standard?
  7. If you want to extend – will it be allowed?
  8. If you want to alter the layout of the house – are you likely to getting listed building consent?
  9. If any or all the services need replacing – can you install a new ‘green’ energy alternative or supplement?
  10. How much will it all cost? Make sure you include for at least 10% contingencies. Also check how long will it all take.

You can easily over estimate what you will be allowed to do, and under estimate how much it will cost and how long it will take. An integrated RICS Building and Historic Survey will be a very worthwhile investment that provides you with a realistic expectation of the costs involved and a better knowledge of the your house and the pleasures to come.

Dr David Hickie – Heritage Matters