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Buying a home with history



Living in a listed property is an opportunity to be a custodian of a piece of history, but what are the hidden pitfalls for buyers?

2 min read

A grand estate with a distinguished architectural pedigree. An ancient building showcasing traditional construction methods. A home of significant historical importance.

At Coutts, we have been helping clients maintain and care for character properties for hundreds of years. Many of our clients have had listed properties in their families for generations before the concept existed.

By owning a listed property you join a chain of history that can stretch back centuries. Many people consider this a great privilege, and there is evidence that listed buildings maintain their value more consistently than other buildings.

But it’s an obligation that you shouldn’t take on lightly. As well as the obvious responsibilities that caring for a piece of the nation’s history brings, there are less obvious pitfalls that you should be aware of.

What a listing really means

As Mark Bevan, Managing Director in Coutts Landowners team explains, “If you’re considering buying a listed building, it is essential you’re fully aware of what a listing means and the responsibilities it brings with it. For example, the listing can apply to both the interior and the exterior of a property and will cover everything in existence at the time of the listing, regardless of its age. Since 1692 landowners across the country have relied on the expertise of Coutts, which is why we are able to offer the particular relevant support and advice in the purchasing process that meets their needs.”

It is important to remember that any manufactured object or structure that’s on the land attached to the site (known as ‘curtilage’) which was in existence on 1 July 1948 is also included.

The main fabric of the interior is controlled, too – this will affect the floor layout, staircases, fireplaces and so on. And the listing also includes the maintenance and repair of the building, which must be sympathetic and undertaken using appropriate materials by contractors with experience working on listed buildings.

“Since 1692 landowners across the country have relied on the expertise of Coutts which is why we are able to offer the particular relevant support and advice in the purchasing process that meets their needs.”
Mark Bevan, Managing Director

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More than a fixer-upper

Older properties typically require greater maintenance than newer ones, but modernisation to match modern lifestyles can be an even bigger and unexpected challenge.

This can go beyond simply knocking out a wall to create more space and can include:

  • Updating drains and sewage systems to cope with multiple bathrooms and modern appliances
  • Rewiring to meet the demands of a gadget-filled lifestyle
  • New windows, insulation and heating to make a building energy efficient and cosy

But a listing is not a preservation order and it certainly doesn't mean owners can't make changes to their property. Make sure you get listed building consent from the local authority before taking on any changes – if you break the rules, you're committing a criminal offence with no time limitation for enforcement.

John Churchouse, Director of Valuations at Savills, emphasises the importance of keeping a record of any work you do on a listed property. “If you want to sell, you’ll need to have evidence that works have been granted appropriate planning permission and listed building consent,” he says. “If you don’t have this, interested parties may need to take out an indemnity policy or might even choose to withdraw from a sale.”

The importance of the right expertise

Making the purchase a reality can require specialist financial services. You’ll need a bank that’s used to dealing with unusual properties and the unique challenges they can bring. This includes specialist valuations services, an insurer that is willing, and able, to cover properties of this type and a lender that can offer a suitable mortgage.

With an unrivalled network of connections amongst sector professionals and coverage across the whole UK, Coutts is able to support you no matter what kind of property or estate you are looking at.

If you would like to discuss your mortgage requirements with one of our expert advisers, please contact your private banker or Coutts 24 on 020 7957 2424.

Your home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
Over 18s only. Terms and conditions apply.


Key Takeaways

Buying a listed property gives you a chance to become a custodian of history. But with this privilege comes an obligation to maintain a building’s integrity and keep it safe for future generations. Working with a trusted and experienced partner like Coutts could help you navigate the complications of buying and owning a piece of our heritage.

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