Period properties remain an ever-popular choice with homebuyers. From the charm and character of high ceilings, fireplaces and covings often found in Victorian houses, to the beams and chocolate box features of farmhouses and cottages, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with houses from yester-year.
Buying a period home can come with its problems, however, and there are a number of potential pitfalls to look out for. Here are 5 key things to consider when purchasing a period property.
Listed status and Conservation Areas.
Depending on the age and location of the property, it may carry a Listed status. Listed buildings can come into three categories, but the majority of houses will fall under Grade II status. This means that you will need Listed Building Consent for all work to all parts of the house that involves alterations, extensions or demolition and will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. You will need to consider the time involved in such planning applications and the cost of the materials that may be required to be used.
In other cases older properties can lie within designated Conservation Areas. Whilst the rules regarding changes to houses in Conversation Areas are not as strict as with Listed buildings, in many cases you will need to apply to the local council before proceeding with any exterior renovations or works and you may be required to complete these in a certain manner, style and using certain materials, which may cost more.
In both of the above cases, it would be wise to try and speak to the council’s Conservation Officer about what may or may not be allowed in terms of future development of the property.
For example, in Conservation Areas, a Local Planning Authority can introduce Article 4 Directions to control specific alterations to houses which would otherwise be automatically approved under permitted development rights, which would require you to make a formal planning application if you wanted to extend the property.
Many people enter into the purchase of a period house without seeking such advice and then find they are not able to proceed with extending or significantly altering the living space as they had planned. We would always advise to err on the side of caution and be certain that the house can offer what you need in the event of an application being rejected.
By their very nature, older houses will usually not meet modern day construction standards, particularly in relation to the materials used. As such, older houses will often have commonly occurring issues, such as dampness, timber decay, woodworm, the need to re-roof, structural issues and dated electrics/plumbing/heating. Although such issues can generally be addressed without too much concern, it is always wise to ensure you are aware of the problems and the extent to which they run. For example, although common, damp issues can require fairly extensive remedial work which can be both disruptive and costly.
Ongoing maintenance liabilities.
As with the above, the materials and manner of construction used when building period properties will often require a higher demand for ongoing maintenance. For example, unlike modern PVC windows, timber windows will require regular maintenance, as will other external features such as doors, chimneys, roof coverings, rainwater goods and lead flashings.
Surveys and specific defect reports.
When buying a period property, we would always advise a full Building Survey Report be conducted at the earliest possible stage. Despite its charming appearance, a well presented period house can be hiding a multitude of sins that after purchased, can very quickly become a money pit to rectify! It is vital to be aware of any pre-existing or potential issues that will need addressing – either immediately or in the future. A full Building Survey Report can identify any such problems, giving you a full picture of how much you will need to spend on remedial and ongoing maintenance works. In cases where certain defects are identified, it can also be sensible to instruct a specific defect report so you have a full and complete picture. Where immediate remedial works are required on a period property, it can be possible to use the results of a Building Survey Report/Specific Defect Report to go back to the vendor and renegotiate on the sale price you had previously agreed.
Despite the many issues that can prevail with period properties, they can still remain a smart investment. If you buy in the right area, a period property will usually retain its value – with many buyers realising significant increases in the right market conditions.
To speak to us about instructing one of our Chartered Surveyors to undertake a Building Survey Report, please contact us here.