Thinking of buying a 300 year old listed cottage. What do we need to know?

(51 Posts)
matildawormwood Mon 21-Jan-13 22:23:34

I've no experience of living in an older property, as we're moving out of a modern flat. We're thinking of making an offer on a 1723 listed weatherboarded cottage. This is not a renovation job as it seems in immaculate condition inside - upstairs floors a bit wonky but that's to be expected, beamed ceilings a bit low but we're only short!. We will have a full structural survey done but I'm a bit nervous about taking on such an old building and issues like upkeep, maintenance, cost of heating, potential pitfalls....Does anyone have any advice on things we should be asking the owners? Things to look out for? Hidden costs to be aware of? Thank you.

SizzleSazz Mon 21-Jan-13 22:28:15

IME Insurance will be more difficult to come by/expensive for non-standard (brick) construction and anything older than 1850

Extra heating will depend on insulation, you can have this retro fitted and you can get grants for loft insulation. Is it oil, LPG or mains gas?

Immaculate decoration could just be masking more serious underlying problems, but if listed and internal changes need approval then this should be less of a risk

Can you get a copy of the previous survey and works completed to rectify any issues?

Porkster Mon 21-Jan-13 22:37:38

We live in a house built in 1620.

All wonky, drafty, very low ceilings, no cavity walls etc.

Insurance is quite difficult to find, but ours doubly so as we have a river in our garden. Basically, we have stuck to the one company that gave us a policy.

Our heating costs are probably high - we have oil fired central heating plus electricity to pay for. But we have a multi-fuel burner in a massive inglenook which chucks out loads of heat.

But, aside from minor pitfalls it's the most gorgeous house with loads of character and we can't imagine living anywhere else.

You can search for all planning applications over the last decade or so on most local authority websites - useful to know what has been done.

Main issue - everything takes longer and costs more because there are no straight lines or right angles. I would want to know how old heating, plumbing and wiring are, and don't assume that you will be allowed to do anything to it, however sensible it might seem (like double glazing)

Buildings insurance - try the Listed Property Owners Club. You have to pay to join, but that is more than paid for by the difference in insurance cost (for us, at least)

ClareMarriott Mon 21-Jan-13 22:51:10

Are there any ancient covenants or liabilities that you might find you're liable for ?

matildawormwood Mon 21-Jan-13 22:53:22

Thank you so much. Really helpful. Hadn't thought of insurance issue.
It's gas central heating and there was a huge woodburner and underfloor heating in kitchen and bathroom so I'm hoping it won't be too cold though it could be expensive to heat.

I know the current owners extended the house a few years ago – not all of the walls are original so they were able to get permission to do this. Don't think we'd ever be allowed double glazing but I'm not too fussed. They weren't able to tell me how old the wiring was as it was in place when they moved in six years ago, which is one of the main things I'm worried about.

I'm having a head versus heart battle as I know a newer property would be the more sensible option but I've kind of fallen in love with it a bit. Just don't want to bite off more than we can chew (neither I nor DP are big DIY fans).

recall Mon 21-Jan-13 22:57:28

Go with your heart and enjoy living there. Log burners are excellent and provide a good source of heat, feels different to central heating. Things are a bit wonky but it all adds to the character - good luck !

SizzleSazz Mon 21-Jan-13 22:57:48

Ours is 1750 and we love it and have never regretted it <heart won lol> grin

matildawormwood Mon 21-Jan-13 23:07:49

Great to hear from those who love living in these older buildings. Really encouraging. I've always loved staying in this kind of cottage for holidays but am very aware that requirements for a permanent family home might be a bit different.

matildawormwood Mon 21-Jan-13 23:09:21

Good point clare, how would I go about finding that out?

DeepRedBetty Mon 21-Jan-13 23:11:50

Ours is c 1685, it is a money pit. The wiring and plumbing are massive bodge jobs, and we're in the throes of real agro with EH, they're insisting we have to exactly replace the early 19th c jerry built bit which is leaking like a sieve because it's the wrong type of render for the brick and timber older structure beneath.

Fuel bills are hell, and there's a spring in the cellar so that fills up with water in wet winters. Like this one.

I dream of a house with square corners, flat floors and no damp bits. Both DP and I were brought up in older houses, and our first two homes together were period too but this one just plain sucks.

SizzleSazz Mon 21-Jan-13 23:12:35

We have a covenant that we cannot remove a mulberry bush (it was already gone when we arrived grin) and our neighbours have a right of veto over any planning applications (never exercised this despite planning applications being made)

These were all highlighted during the solicitors searches

DeepRedBetty Mon 21-Jan-13 23:14:32

x posted. If it was just me and DP we'd manage, but I hate having damp, dodgy electrics that'll cost a fortune to fix, and all the rest of it, with children to worry about. When the plumbing last went wrong dd1 was in tears, she wailed 'I hate this house'.

ijustwanttobeme Mon 21-Jan-13 23:16:24

The only thing I'd want to know: is it haunted?

DeepRedBetty Mon 21-Jan-13 23:17:21

Anyway, must stop ranting... of course not every older house is a soggy, deathtrap money pit. Good luck whatever you decide. But be aware, it was my heart that ruled my head with this one, and DP was dragged along by my enthusiasm - he had reservations, mostly to do with things like the electrics, but I prevailed.

DeepRedBetty - there was a point last year when DD plaintively said "Mummy, it would be really nice to live in a house with no leaks" sad get but we are pouring money into it winning slowly noq

I was brought up in a 350 year old house, I miss it all the time.
If you are concerned about the electrics you can ask/book a specific electrical survey, they should be able to measure flow of power around the various rings around the house and would be able to talk about the age of the installation, when it would need updating and what it would most likely cost you.
I would imagine that if lots of work has been done recently essential things like power have had attention too.

You are right on the double glazing, you might want to look into secondary glazing, there are several firms around who will make this for you, bespoke for each window as they are bound to be different shapes and sizes.

Old houses creak, you will learn which bit makes what noise... I had no chance, ever, as a teenager coming home late as the stairs were almost tuneful lol!

Our home now is newer (120 years lol) brick and timber framed, our insurance is standard but from 150 years upwards fewer companies do anything affordable, have a look at NFU Mutual, they are great for things like old houses etc

Personally I think it sounds great, tbh they are like all houses, mend holes, clean the guttersnipe paint the woodwork and keep it warm and dry and you will, pretty much, be ok

SizzleSazz Mon 21-Jan-13 23:25:51

Our insurance is with the Co-op and is pretty competitive. Under £400 IIRC and with a pretty high contents value. Sadly all DH's books and not my diamond collection wink

SizzleSazz Mon 21-Jan-13 23:26:32

We started with quotes over £900 shock so you definitely have to shop around!

SaggyOldPregnantCatpuss Mon 21-Jan-13 23:26:52

You need a FULL structural survey by someone who specialises on old buildings. A good friend of mine bought a 400yo cottage. Lived with it for a few years, then decided to get a builder out to reinstate a door from the lounge to the garden. The builder who did it discovered that building work in the 70s had left the oak frame embedded in a concrete foot plate, causing serious damp, meaning that the bottom 3 ft of oak were sawdust. 2/3 of the way round the house. The only thing holding the house up was wattle and daub! Repairs cost in excess of 60k. Without the visit from the builder, the house could well have collapsed with them inside.

matildawormwood Mon 21-Jan-13 23:33:37

Goodness, plenty of food for thought here. Saggy, that's my worst nightmare! That, and finding it's haunted! Hadn't thought of that ijustwant, thanks for pointing that out wink

Toomuchtea Tue 22-Jan-13 07:52:04

Yes, as Saggy says, do get a full structural survey. Immaculate decoration all too often means money's been spent on the frilly, feel-good bits, but the actual structure completely ignored:thousands spent on kitchens and bathrooms, but the roof still leaks.

Toomuchtea Tue 22-Jan-13 08:00:06

Be prepared for the unexpected too: we had no idea when we moved in that our water supply was shared with next door, which wouldn't have been so bad had we not been on a meter. We had to pay the bill, and then try and recoup their share from next door. Nightmare.

Neither did we have any idea that our water supply actually started in a completely different road to ours, and that the chamber we thought was ours was not. That was a lot of fun when we had a ginormous leak; even more so when the water board, successive plumbers and even a water diviner all completely failed to find the leak. In the end we had to have a totally new water supply, though that did have the handy side effect of giving us our own supply.

Our house is medieval with Georgian additions, and it has been great to have the space; the character and the history. The endless demands on our wallets: not so great. DeepRedBetty, I completely sympathise with your plumbing nightmares.

<reads saggy's post and panics for a moment about our 1980's concrete floors>

No oak frames here though [phew]. Stone walls and no foundations All we need to worry about is all the internal, visible oak and the worm holes in it grin

We live in an old house ( about 1830 )

It is a money pit , only because the previous owner did some rather unusual improvements .

We've had central heating put in ( oil fired , no mains gas where we live )
Hot water comes from the Aga .

Our oil bill is huge ! It's quite a large house, but I think old houses take a lot of heating up , so find out about running costs

No double glazing , so draughts everywhere .

Roof looks a bit dodgy , buries head in sand

People say to me " ooooh you're so lucky , living in that lovely house " and I think if only you knew ...

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