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Anyone bought/live in a Grade 2 listed house?

(27 Posts)
TheyCallMeStacey Wed 20-Mar-13 18:12:09

I have my eye on a lovely and very old listed house for sale, I know getting planning permission etc can be tricky although this house has current permission to extend which is great.

So I am just wondering how much upkeep or cash do you need to maintain a 400 + year old house? Is it a money pit as my dh thinks it will be? We haven't had a survey done yet so don't know full extent of the condition of the house but it seems to have been well cared for by the current owners.

Is it a real pain to change anything in a listed house? For eg do you need permission to change bathroom fittings/carpets/wall colour or is it mainly structural stuff that is protected?


GrendelsMum Wed 20-Mar-13 22:15:48

There are plenty of us on this forum, and if you search the forum you'll find quite a few people asking the same questions.

First of all, yes, it is a money pit. It's also a time pit. It's quite amazing how much of a money pit it is. Owning a listed 400 year old building is essentially an expensive hobby. You do it instead of spending your time and your money on something else, such as fast cars and nice clothes.

If you go into it with your eyes open, you're okay most of the time. If you don't, it's miserable. It's miserable at times even if you think you had your eyes open when you bought it. (When people come up to you after church and tell you that they're praying for you over your house repairs, you know things are bad.)

The things I hadn't anticipated - you have much less choice of tradesmen to do the traditional repair work. You can find yourself phoning people 100 miles away and trying to coax them to come out and quote. You also are very weather dependent - our neighbours have quite literally built a new house in the time it's taken for us to wait for the weather to be good enough to resume restoration works.

On the plus side, you're worrying a bit too much about listed building consent. You need that for touching the structure of the building and anything that relates to the character of the building. So we need to use cast iron guttering (hugely expensive) rather than plastic gutters, we need to repair with proper aged oak timbers, appropriate bricks, appropriate roof tiles and lime plaster, we can't swap our windows for double glazed windows, etc. However, I can paint it whatever colour I like inside, I can put in a new kitchen, and we were able to take down modern dividing walls and put up new dividing walls where we wanted them. However, you have to apply for listed building consent (free) each time you do that.

If you want to PM me a link to the house you're looking at, I'll give my uninformed opinion!

Bartlebee Wed 20-Mar-13 22:42:12

We have a listed house.

We have found it very easy, no worse than a non-listed, really - apart from the time issue applying for (free) permission for stuff.

Our neighbours in a similar listed house have been given permission for an ultra modern, glazed extension (400 year old Jacobean house), which has made me quite hopeful that anything goes for us now!

purplewithred Wed 20-Mar-13 22:55:52

In my limited experience it does depend a lot on the actual house and what you want to do with it. If its fairly normal construction and you dont want to change the structure it's pretty straightforward. If it was built in 1290 of a rare water soluble cob made from dung from hearitage heifers and you want to add a flat roof extension then you are asking for trouble.

Toomuchtea Thu 21-Mar-13 09:09:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsWobble Thu 21-Mar-13 09:21:16

my advice would be to make sure you understand why it was listed and what the attitude of the local conservation officers is. where we live it's a real pain to get permission for anything - we had one set of plans to renovate a bathroom rejected because the extractor fan was not on their approved list - they wouldn't tell us which fan would be approved because that might be seen as recommending it so we were faced wiht having to keep on applying until we hit on an acceptable model. this is just daft and makes getting permission for anything really slow, even if we do eventually get it.

but our situation is made more difficult in that we are listed as part of a row of houses and the uniformity is one of the protected characteristics so changing anything requires you to demonstrate that you are not detracting from the uniformity. This would make sense if they had been listed as built but they're not - they are listed as they were at the date of listing, by which stage they had all undergone various alterations anyway. We are currently trying to get permission to make an alteration that our neighbours already have - the council are currently "minded to reject" so we have some months to go I think.

Poledra Thu 21-Mar-13 09:21:56

I also have a Grade II listed house, and yes, it's expensive but it's such a wonderful place to live smile

Definitely get your conservation office onside - asking them for an informal visit before you put in planning permission so you can discuss with them anything you want to do is a good plan. They feel you are taking them seriously, and you can find out what's a definite no-go and what could be negotiated on. They can also be very helpful in showing you how to get planning permission. So, for example, we wanted to put railings up at the front of your house - we had reason to believe there had been railings there before (we could see where the supports had been sawn off, probably during WWII). The conservation officer suggested trying to find some old photos that showed the railings in place, and even gave us the information on the local photo archive where we'd have the best chance to find some!

Look at the tress round the house too - we have an ancient ash tree in our garden which has a TPO on it, so any work done round it requires the tree people (technical term!) from the council to be happy too. We need a tree surgeon to do any work on it, as he gets all the relevant permission to prune it etc (I wouldn't want to touch it anyway, it's enormous!). Mind you, I love that tree and will be devastated if it falls victim to ash dieback.

So, yes, it's a moneypit but people come into my house and tell me what a welcoming house it is. It embraces the people who live in it, and has done for 400 years smile <sad old hippy>

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 09:41:26

I love in a rented Grade II listed house and am buying one right now - hopefully contracting next week.

Both the one I live in and the one I am buying now need a lot of work although not structurally unsound. They are money pits but lovely. It is a hobby and lifestyle choice. You just go on less holidays to pay for it and probably will end up in penury. I am really not joking. I know a lot of older people in my area that cant afford to maintain their Grade II listed houses.

They just need a huge amount of work and time and money to maintain and unfortunately almost all owners of such houses just dont do the work and the net result is that they deteriorate. If you buy the house be prepared for very big bills.

The local Conservation Officer has told me that I will need to replace the plastic guttering and down pipes (the previous owner fitted them) of the house that I am buying with cast iron or cast aluminium. That is £2000 right there.

No matter what you do I would strongly strongly advise you get the local authority Conservation Officer round to go over the house with a fine tooth comb before you sign the contract. Generally they are not fussed about superficial internal decoration but you cant change anything that is in the listing. Ripping up tile floors, ripping out fire places, skirting boards, cornicing, changing windows, adding or knocking down parts of the building or changing the exterior in any way are all disallowed.

Be truthful and be realistic about what you plan to do and also do ask the Conservation Officer to point out anything that the previous owners did that is not compliant with the Grade II listing. You will have to remedy that as well. I wanted to tank out and plaster the basement of the house I am buying but this is not allowed. I am only allowed to paint with lime wash and put in some lights and a false wooden floor that can be removed.

All materials have to be approved. The hand made roof tiles on my current house cost £10 each. There are thousands of them. The slates on the house I am buying have to come from Wales. I am not allowed to use cheaper Chinese slate. Glass has to be Crown glass. Luckily I do not have to do too much to the house to make it compliant but it still is going to cost me 20% of the purchase price to renovate and decorate and it is actually in a quite habitable condition already. If it was a wreck it would cost me nearer 50% of the purchase price to renovate and decorate.

Be warned. Your husband is right. You will still buy it though. Good luck. grin

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 09:46:00

I'm not actually that sure I 'love in' my current house.

It leaks quite badly in places. grin

DeepRedBetty Thu 21-Mar-13 09:51:36

We've got a Grade II listed and also in Conservation Area. It is a money pit and we really should sell and move to something with rectangular corners and flat floors. Only the fact that DH's favourite pub is two doors away is keeping us here frankly.

GrendelsMum Thu 21-Mar-13 09:53:22

MrsWobble - oh God, don't even mention the hassle over extractor fans! You'd think that extractor fans were a Good Thing in a historic building...

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 10:18:01

Oh I forgot to mention that if you should ever have grandchildren they will ask their parents such questions as 'why does Grandma's house smell like a museum toilet?' and 'why is it cold and scary like a haunted house?'.

Their parents will tell them never to say anything like that to Grandma, swear them to silence but will secretly agree with their children and not tell you.

GrendelsMum Thu 21-Mar-13 10:21:06

grin at MoreBeta.

At least we haven't had that problem! We tell visiting children it's a magic house and if they find the right door maybe they'll get through to Narnia (or maybe they'll find some rotting beams. Who can tell?)

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 10:39:28

Yes we too have a little door in our attic just like that. It does lead to a rotting beam. Nominally it holds the roof upabove our bedroom. I'm just hoping we can leave before it collapses.

If you see a news story about a man impaled in his bed while he was sleeping by a 20 ton piece of wood falling through his ceiling - that was me.


Merrylegs Thu 21-Mar-13 10:51:23

Our house is grade 2 listed. It's not a money pit at all. Much sounder than our old draughty subsiding victorian terrace. We haven't needed permission to change wall colours, bathroom fittings, etc but did have to have listed building consent to add another window in the roof.

As is common with a lot of listed buildings, ours is rural and as such we aren't connected to any mains services (apart from electric) so we have an oil tank, bore hole (for water) and septic tank.

If that's the case with your house would it bother you?

Toomuchtea Thu 21-Mar-13 12:02:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheyCallMeStacey Thu 21-Mar-13 14:21:06

Thank you all for your opinions, all very helpful and pretty much what I was thinking too.

MoreBeta grin my daughter has already expressed her views using the words 'creepy', 'old' followed by 'I like modern houses Mummy'. I chose to misinterpret that as 'creaky' and ignored the rest!

So getting in touch with the local Conservation Officer before signing on the dotted line is a good idea? I hadn't thought of that but it sounds like good advice. I appreciate the fact that we are caretakers rather than owners and there is not much I would want to change structurally even if I could which seems highly unlikely!

Oh and a big grin at having people praying for you and your house repairs, don't think I'll mention that to dh yet...

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 14:22:20

Toomuchtea - I know exactly what you mean.

What we really dream about is a beautifully warm, square cornered, dead level, ultra modern, double glazed, easy maintained, open plan Huff house.

TheyCallMeStacey Thu 21-Mar-13 14:25:19

Oh and is it normal to feel slightly seasick when walking up the creaky stairs and walking on sloping floors??!

MoreBeta Thu 21-Mar-13 14:30:43

Conservation Officer on side is absolutely essential. They are not dragons, just doing their job. Property developers hate them because they stop them knocking Listed buildings down or trashing them but that is the point.

The Conservation Officers love the properties in their care. The house we are buying is in a conservation area and the Conservation Officer knew a huge amount about the history of the house, was really helpful and very happy and keen to visit.

I know someone who didnt get the Conservation Officer on side. Just bought a Georgian house and started renovating without permission. It was not a good idea because the Conservation Officer eventually found out and it was a very bad outcome.

TheyCallMeStacey Thu 21-Mar-13 14:46:09

Thanks MoreBeta, that's really helpful. The house has been granted planning permission to have a kitchen extension although having seen the plans (which cost ££££) I am slightly terrified at how much it would cost. I am guessing the plans are fairly tightly bound and we would need to resubmit an application if we wanted to do the work differently.

I will definitely make contact with the CO and see if he/she can come to the house and give me some advice before we exchange contracts etc.

GrendelsMum Thu 21-Mar-13 15:16:17

You may or may not be able to get the CO to come out and give advice before you buy the house. I think that some will, and some won't - there's some entirely sensible reason for some to decline this which I can't remember off-hand (a family member is a CO). It's something along the lines of not wanting to be sued if they say informally that X looks like it would be fine, the people go ahead and buy the house thinking they can change it, X turns out on closer examination not to be fine, and the new home owners are annoyed.

I wouldn't be surprised if the extension is planned to be of high quality and costing £XX,XXX. I'd say you're thinking more like £30,000 than £3,000, for example. And yes, you'll need to resubmit it you want to do it differently.

One handy thing is that your listed status impacts the development opportunities around you - if any of your neighbours apply for planning permission, you can (possibly even have a moral duty to) get the CO round to your house to see how it will impact the setting of a listed building, and they can then charge straight round to their colleagues in planning to raise hell.

I'm pleased we're not the only people who have been prayed for!

Toomuchtea Thu 21-Mar-13 16:11:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheyCallMeStacey Thu 21-Mar-13 21:43:32

GrendelsMum, I think we are probably talking £XXX,XXX, the plans themselves cost over £30,000 which is hard to believe. Apparently the architect is someone very special and knows his stuff but still....that's one hell of a lot of cash for plans for a kitchen extension.

I can see why a CO would say no to giving advice pre purchase, although for us it would be more along the lines of checking nothing dodgy had been done by the owners that didn't conform to the Listed Buildings stuff. From what I have seen of the house it looks like they have kept it very traditional and i presume as they have recently got the planning permission then the CO has been out to check everything.

Good to know about the listed status having influence on surrounding developments, it is quite urban so potential for lots of building works in the vicinity i think.

GrendelsMum Fri 22-Mar-13 10:10:24

Flipping heck! That sounds like one hell of a kitchen extension and I have to say I'd love to see the house.

But if you've got plenty of money and spare time to supervise the works, then go for it!

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