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Top tips for buying an old building

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No one can deny the unique charm of a period property. It’s why they’ve maintained their enormous level of popularity over the decades: they’re full of character, and owning a precious piece of our architectural history can be a great investment. But with the advantages, older buildings also bring their own set of challenges. So if you’re thinking of buying an old house, here are some top tips to consider.

Is it listed or in a conservation area?

Many of the period properties in the UK are listed. This status means that a property is of historical value and therefore the features on the interior, exterior, or even any structures attached or in the garden, are strictly protected and the local council must approve any changes. While listed properties are valuable due to this protection, they may not be suitable for buyers who intend on making significant changes in future. It’s important to do your research beforehand and find out what you can and can’t do.

Some period properties may not be listed, but if it is within a ‘conservation area’, it means that any structural or aesthetic changes to the property must be in keeping with the historic setting and will need permission to be carried out.

Your solicitor will be able to tell you if the property is listed. You can also find out additional information, including why it was listed, through the local council.

Get the right kind of survey

Before you buy any property, be sure to get it checked out by an experienced surveyor in order to ensure you know what you’re getting into. Period properties tend to be full of quirks so it pays to spend the money on a thorough survey. Get a surveyor who is familiar with historic buildings, and is registered with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Your solicitor will be able to advise you when deciding what kind of additional surveys you might need as part of the conveyancing process.

Be realistic about its condition

Once you have had the necessary surveys carried out, find out how much the renovations will cost – your surveyor may be able to help with the estimate. Older properties can be significantly more expensive to fix than a modern property. When things need serious attention it may end up costing a lot more than you expect, especially if you are dealing with a listed building. For example: if it needed a new roof, some conservation authorities may require you to use more expensive original materials – even if they are visually identical to cheaper modern materials.

Consider the ongoing costs

It’s a fact that older properties are more costly to keep than new-builds. Construction methods and materials have developed over time, and consequently older properties are generally a lot less energy-efficient than homes built to modern standards. You may also be restricted in the improvements you can make – for example, you may not be able to swap your windows for double-glazed.

Look into the insurance

Standard home insurance is not always suitable for period properties. Depending on the type and age of property you are looking at, you may need specialist insurance. In fact, many insurers will want to quote for period properties on an individual basis. Having a good survey from a chartered surveyor can be beneficial when it comes to securing insurance for an older property.

In summary

If you’re buying an old building, the golden rule is to go with your head, not your heart. Charming period properties can certainly cast a spell, but don’t rush into things and always be realistic about costs.  Enlist the help of professionals so that no stone is left unturned, and the period property of your dreams could be a reality!

Are you thinking of buying an old house? Make sure you’ve got a good property solicitor on your side. At Bird & Co, our highly trained and experienced conveyancers are on hand to help you through the process. We’d love to find out how we can help – call our free hotline on 01636 600 656 to get a quote today.

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