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Give me the reality - moving to a Georgian period house

(20 Posts)
blanchedevereaux Sun 29-May-11 20:33:56

We've got a crush on a lovely house that dates from the Georgian period and that was extended round about the 1900s. It isn't my dream house, there are quite a few compromises we will be making, but it's the best on the market for us atm and this doesn't have to be our "forever" house.

However, DH and I and our families have only ever really lived in post war houses and I want to ensure we go into this with our eyes open if our offer is accepted. Part of me worries we see the rose tinted view and not much else. I think viewing houses in the summer can be a bit worrying as I have visions of January coming round and we are all freezing and regretting our purchase which seemed so sunny and romantic in June.

We do have up to 50k left in the pot to make improvements but ideally I don't want to spend that much. I can see work needs to be done (stripping it back and replastering upstairs as there is about 200 years of wallpaper, damp/mildew on sitting room (interior!) wall, ceiling sagging in one room, single glazed ancient windows throughout).

I will be shelling out for the most comprehensive survey we can. It isn't listed, thank God. It's been in the same family for 15 or so years and they have replaced roof, guttering, etc so it hasn't been neglected by any means. However, am I being unrealistic about having smooth painted walls, cosy but in keeping windows (coming from a UPVC new build) and good plumbing?

Anyone moved and regretted it? With a 4 month old and a 2 year old are we mad to consider it?

PercyPigPie Sun 29-May-11 20:38:59

When I was younger, I owned a basement georgian (listed flat). In many ways it was fantastic. It was huge, really well insulated (I had to stand outside the front door to see how cold or warm it was each day so I knew what to wear) and had a lovely feel to it. I still miss it now in a way.

But, and a big 'but', it was very damp and I had to do things like push the bed away from the wall so it didn't go mouldy. My understairs cupboard got very mould and stank.

I know sometimes people end up living on just one floor because they get sick of climbing stairs. How will you cope with cleaning up and down stairs/runningup and down stairs (I am assuming it is 4 or 5 levels)?

blanchedevereaux Sun 29-May-11 20:45:10

Hi Mud, no it's just 2 levels. Not into the eaves so there is a loft space to insulate and no cellars underneath either.

atalantis Sun 29-May-11 20:53:36

We've always lived in older houses. Currently in a Victorian end-terrace, about to move to a 17th c cottage. Yes, there's a bit more damp etc to contend with, but we just love the lumps and bumps that come with older properties. I definitely wouldn't even contemplate things like changing original windows for uPVC unless old ones were actually about to fall out onto pavement below. You'll strip out all of the character (and, if you're interested in moving on after a while, you'd reduce the value substantially since many people looking at that kind of property would much rather have original windows than any replacement -- even posh new wood sashes).

Your post sounds pragmatic rather than enamoured. If you're unsure, I'd hold fire before spending upwards of £1000 on a survey.

blanchedevereaux Sun 29-May-11 20:57:45

No, I don't intend to add UPVC. Sorry, what I meant is that we are currently living in a new build that has UPVC so we are used to no draughts. If windows need sorting we would replace with wooden double glazed sash or secondary glazing behind originals.

atalantis Sun 29-May-11 21:26:51

Ah -- sorry, I misunderstood. Still, you will definitely get drafts in an old house. In fact, you need drafts: part of the damp/mould problem in many old buildings is the fact that people try to 'seal' them like new builds. They are designed to have air circulating through them (drafts, open fires etc), which sorts out the damp problems. If you can live with this (we love it), then this sounds like a wonderful house.

mylovelymonster Sun 29-May-11 21:28:50

If it's not listed then you will have a much easier time with insulating & updating e.g replacing windows that will be in keeping but much cosier - and secure, don't forget building security - (will likely take up most of your budget however - have you measured any of the windows and sought some idea of costs?). There won't be a cavity, so only way to insulate walls is in on the inside - covering over walls up to picture rails/coving with plasterboard which gives insulation and a good smooth surface to decorate.
How is the brickwork/any stonework/chimney stacks? Is the new roof slate? Guttering in place? Period style replacements? All in place and functioning? Kept clear?
Wiring? Recent? Plumbing? Modern? When was it done? Ask the vendors as much as you can possibly think of.
The full EPC should state how much energy running costs currently are for the house and therefore give some idea of how weather-proof it is, or not.
Definitively, a full structural survey the only way to go really, otherwise bit of an unknown entity.
Your concerns sound very sensible.

MoreBeta Sun 29-May-11 21:33:06

It will be freezing in winter with single pane windows and no doubt it has no cavity walls either. It sounds like it has a chronic damp problem and that probably means a problem in the roof.

How do I know this?

I rent a Georgian house with a damp problem (hopefully now cured) but it is cold in winter and costs a fortune to heat. It will eat your money in repairs and heating bills. Lovely to look at but be honest with yourself. Do you really want the hassle and to spend all your money on a compromise?

Pagwatch Sun 29-May-11 21:44:34

Trouble is a lot of the houses get painted with a masonry paint which prevents the house from breathing properly so, as soon as there is any break in the paintwork at all, causes the water to go inside the property rather than out.

We were told we had a damp problem. Told to get damp course or use panelling inside. In fact we stripped the front and use a lime based rend. Looks lovely and no more damp. But plenty of builders who don't care recommended paint job and panelling. And it would have been cheaper but not worth it iyswim

The basement is fine - not damp at all.

We won't do double gazing or pve replacement frames as it seems inappropriate so getting the sash window repaired and replaced cost a lot

But all running repairs mount up, especially if you try to do things in keeping with the period. Even so heating etc is expensive.

We have soent six figures easily but ours is quite big. Worth it though.

But I would resent so much cost for a property I was [meh] about.
House is on profile. They are pretty but lots of work if you want to take proper care of them.

blanchedevereaux Sun 29-May-11 22:06:41

Don't get me wrong, I want and would love to live there. I could make it my dream house with money being spent on it (range cooker, decoration, etc) so it has the potential to be our forever house though doesn't have to be our final move.

For those that do live in older properties what is it that keeps you there? Is it really just heart over head? I (and you) know that costs and running repairs are more expensive so how do you reconcile that with the head saying "save your money, live in a new build and just make do". Is it just the character that makes an older property a home?

Maybe I'm thinking into it too much but I just want to ensure that I do get the reality of it. I think I do, it'll cost me more every month, every year, but I get to bring the kids up in a characterful place in a lovely location.

manchurian Sun 29-May-11 22:11:43

Is it detached or terraced? This will make a big difference to heating costs.

I've only ever lived in old houses (most modern was 1930s) and personally I would never live a newer house.

Yes the walls aren't always completely straight, and things cost more but I've never got a feeling from a newer house in the same way.

Could you ask the current owners about upkeep costs etc?

Pagwatch Sun 29-May-11 22:17:35

I love it.
The rooms are huge, the ceilings are high. It has space and light and it is beatifully proportioned. The houses from this period are elegant and spacious - it is a lovely home.

But (to be truthful) we can afford it.
I would not give up other stuff like the dcs schools. If we needed to 'downgrade' I would.

Beckyitisthen Mon 30-May-11 07:21:25

Hi there, we live in a Edwardian semi. This particular house is one I used to drive past on my way to work and think "whoever lives there is so lucky"!! anyway long story short, it came on the Market and lingered there for months and we bought it. I love the space, the large rooms and the high ceilings, there is never a time where it feels too cramped. We have 2dcs and it's a 4 bed so we have a guest room too. What I hate about it is the up keep. It's so so so cold in the winter, there is no double glazing to the front and boy can you feel it. So my advice would be to insulate it to within a inch of it's life.

I don't think I would ever want to live in a house that wasn't period but it's not for everyone, I think they can be labours of love and I seem to spend ever spare penny on ours as we didn't have any budget for redecoration. I try and look at it as a long term investment too. These houses are usually pretty desirable and so we can always down size when we are older and no longer need the space. Go for it I say smile

blanchedevereaux Mon 30-May-11 07:22:07

It's detached. Current owners are very honest about costs. £300 a month to heat in depth of winter.

We are lucky we don't need a mortgage to buy this so can afford but I don't want to spend £300 a month on heating and still be cold, if you see what I mean.

Thanks everyone for your comments so far.

blanchedevereaux Mon 30-May-11 07:23:19

BTW, if offer is accepted I'll post up a link.

MoreBeta Mon 30-May-11 08:19:36

blanchedevereaux - you ask a very very good question - what is it that keeps you there?

We rent our house because to be frank it is the cheapest way of owning a period property. I would never buy one unless we got a serious discount enough to do all the repairs. Our landlord has spent every single penny of rent we have paid him on covering his mortgage and on top of that we have had constant repairs done. He has tried to sell it but can't. These houses just need constant maintaining and if you dont do it they fall down and get into the same state as the house you are looking at. Where we live, there are streets and squares of stucco painted white Georgian houses often lived in by old people who simply dont have the money to look after them. They always sell for a lot of money because people fall in love with them but the owners are mostly actually living in two rooms often with a lot of damp.

They are nice houses, high ceilings, big rooms, lovely garden, nice setting - but we get all that by renting and when anything goes wrong we just ring up the landlord who sends his team to mend it. Last week they came to put scaffolding up to put new lead on the roof and repoint the gable and replace all the valves on the radiators. They are discussing replacing the boiler because the boiler we have is not really big enough to heat the whole house in winter. The garden wall needs totally rebuilding and next year it will need redecorating throughout. It goes on and on and on......

As Pagwatch says, she can afford it but really it is a choice you have to make to spend your money on something that gives you pleasure not an investment. These kinds of houses went up a lot in prce in the housing boom but that boom was sheer luck and justified owning one of these houses but without that boom as our landlord is finding they are a rubbish investment. He will never get enough rent from us or anyone else to cover the running costs and now he cant sell it either.

We have some friends who inherited a large Georgian house. They call it 'the millstone' and are not allowed to sell it. They fully intend to build a nice modern house in the grounds and go and live in that when they get older. They will then leave 'the millstone' to their son. It is a beautiful house but the costs are astronomic.

mylovelymonster Mon 30-May-11 10:58:13

for your research Not an option if listed, but well worth a look if not.

mylovelymonster Mon 30-May-11 11:01:51

Are there any building companies/architects you can have an informal chat to who have experience of Georgian houses and renovating them? Or your local planning office might have a planner with expertise? Maybe give you an idea of what might be done/costs involved to upgrade insulation and efficiency of the building while maintaining it's integrity?
There must be plenty you can do if not listed.

blanchedevereaux Mon 30-May-11 14:18:55

Thanks again for comments all.

Monster, yes, a friend with a Grade II* property has put me in contact with a firm and I am going to have a chat next week. Thanks for the link, good reading.

I have asked the vendor for the full EPC but I don't know if it is common practice to share this. Details on the particulars rate the EER at 34 with a potential of 37.

Our 12 year old new build has an EER of 53 with a potential of 71. We have new double glazing, double loft insulation and replacement sofits and fascias all done here in the past 3 years so not sure what else could be done with this so I find this rating a bit strange.

Both DH and I think we can handle a few draughts but I'd hate to move and the girls moan about being cold all the time. However, DD1 runs about in a skimpy dress all year long so I don't think she feels the cold anyway!

We need to do a test run to work to see how the commute would be and then we will put out offer on the table.

GrendelsMum Mon 30-May-11 22:08:49

I see that you've asked about smooth painted walls. Our house is quite a lot older, but with a Victorian 'makeover'. I've been astonished at the cost of getting the walls smooth. We have a very competent, good value person who did the prep on the walls, and two very small rooms took him 6 days to prep. They were in very poor shape before, and now look like an advert for posh paint, but if we're going to have to do that for every other room in poor condition, we're going to be looking at spending another £1k at least on prep.

Repairs to the windows, however, have been the easy bit (cost c. £2.5k?) - we have a family friend who's a specialist restoration carpenter and he repaired them all, and they didn't need replacing at all.

I'd say that the EER may not necessarily be accurate at all, but of course I don't know much about Georgian houses. However, for our 16th century house, it was way out - basically assumed you weren't going to do any insulation to walls. We're adding in quite a lot of green features where poss (listed), and I'm hoping to open our house for the local 'Open Eco Homes' in a couple of years. smile

Why do I like living in a period house? TBH, it's a hobby more than anything else. I have a horrible suspicion that we'll finish the repairs to this one and sell up for somewhere even larger and in worse shape. On the other hand, there are times when the amount of work we've taken on drives me round the bend.

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