Many people are surprised to learn that 4.8 million homes in England and Wales were built before 1919. A rich history of architecture indeed, but one that makes an independent building survey a must for listed property.
It’s true to say that property is by far the single most expensive purchase many of us will make (listed building or not). Even so, less than 10% of buyers have an independent building survey of any kind.
That’s quite a risk to take.
What we’re not including here are the mandatory bank or building society surveys and valuation inspections – with good reason. Those surveys exist merely for the mortgage provider to ensure that (a) the house exists, (and indeed some haven’t!) and (b) that it is adequate security for the loan.
Mandatory bank surveys don’t tell you about the condition of the property. Nor the potential expenses in future, as our building surveys do.
This is vital information for any property, not least listed buildings. Listed buildings naturally have more potential issues, due to their age and construction, as well as the restrictions that govern the works that can be undertaken.
Most people are surprised to learn there are 368,923 listed homes in England and Wales, of which 8,920 are Grade I, 20,586 are Grade II* and approximately 340,000 are Grade II. Not all of these will be pre-1919 but most are.
English Heritage’s latest survey, “Buildings at Risk Register,” says that 1 in 30 listed buildings are high risk in the south East of England alone.
With a listed building, it’s particularly important to have an informed understanding of what it is you’re letting yourself in for. After all, this particular homeowner is a “custodian for life” and has a duty to maintain old and listed buildings so they can be passed-on to the next generation. (Hopefully in a better condition, and certainly not any worse).
What should a building survey do?
The main purpose of a survey is to inform you of the condition of a property. Then, give advice on repairs, including an indication of how they should be undertaken and when.
This means your chosen surveyor needs an understanding of the problems that can be found in various types of properties, from Elizabethan timber framed houses through to brick Victorian houses.
One view we often come across is that if a house has stood for 250 years, it will last a few years more without doing very much to it.
This is true up to a point but there will come a time in every building’s life when it needs some TLC. And, while there is a growing appreciation of conservation techniques, few still understand why or what will happen if you do not use the right techniques and products.
Unfortunately, there are still too many builders who don’t understand conservation repair techniques and are doing more harm than good. We try to combat this by managing the works and liaising with the Local Authority Conservation officer to ensure the correct methods are undertaken.
If you’re considering buying property, make an independent building survey one of the first tasks on your list. Whether you’re settling into a new home or adding to your portfolio, we can tell you everything you need to know about the building, so you can rest assured you’ve made a positive investment.