How to Upset Your Mortgage Broker; or The Trouble With Listed Houses

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You’ve found your dream home. It’s old, it’s quaint, it’s gorgeous. It needs a little repair work. It’s even listed, so you’re doing your part in saving UK heritage buildings…

That thudding noise you heard on the other side of the phone was your mortgage provider fainting.

Mortgaging a listed property

It’s extremely difficult to get a mortgage for a listed property. Not impossible, but difficult. There are a variety of reasons given for this, but it all boils down to cost. Listed buildings only account for about 2% of English housing stock, but once a building is listed it’s protected ferociously by law.

Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II?

There are three types of listed buildings in the UK.

Grade I, which makes up about 2.5% of them and includes places like the Tower of London, Norwich Castle and Liverpool Cathedral all fall under Grade I. Grade 1 houses are rare, but do exist.

Grade II*, which covers about 5.8% and is used for buildings considered to be of exceptional national interest and particularly important. Buildings like The Pavilion in Hampton Court and structures like the Thames Tunnel fall under Grade II*.

The remainder of properties fall under Grade II, and the odds are high that the house you’ve fallen in love with drops into this category.

Thinking making changes to a listed property?

Listing covers the whole building, including the interior unless specifically excluded, so if you’ve been daydreaming about updating the flooring, changing the bathroom tiles or modernising the kitchen, be prepared for a huge amount of paperwork, time, more paperwork, specialist contractors, and a whole lot of money. Did we mention the paperwork?

If you tend to operate on the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” school of thought, it is strongly advised that you skip purchasing a listed house altogether, because unauthorised alterations are considered unlawful works.

This means that you can end up with a criminal record, unlimited fines, and a 2-year bed and breakfast stay at one of Her Majesty’s full-security establishments.

Regular maintenance and minor “like for like” changes are fine. For anything else, you need to obtain consent.

Forget 'Bodge it Yourself'

If you have to make major repairs that require getting the builders in, you’ll need to hire specialists that know how to work on historical buildings. These are not run-of-the-mill builders, but dedicated craftsman who often work by hand to obtain the finishes required.

It takes a while – there isn’t the ability to run down to the local B&Q for off-the-shelf hardware.

Listed properties - the good, the bad and the ugly

The good news: There is an entire industry based on the repair, maintenance and upkeep of these properties. It’s small, most people in it know each other, and can give you recommendations for other necessary work. These are people who take pride in doing a job well, so you can expect the highest possible standards from them.

The bad news: Depending on what the requirement is, you might be restricted to one or two people in the country that can actually do the work. This will be especially awkward if you’re missing important things like support beams, roofs, or exterior walls and your craftsman isn’t available for the next three months.

The ugly news: like any high-in-demand, highly-specialised field, it’s going to cost you a lot of money and time.

There’s a saying: Pick two out of three: you can get it done right, get it done fast or get it done cheap. In the case of work on a listed building, one of your choices is eliminated by the authorities, one of them is eliminated by the nature of the work, and the last is removed by the desperation of the client, in this case, you.

If the authorities state you must restore your roof gargoyle to a certain specification, and there is only one craftsman in the UK that can do that particular work because most builders simply don’t have to ever deal with gargoyles, you will need to pay whatever they ask. It could be £10 000. It could be £100 000.

Listed properties - not for the faint of heart

This is not a home you buy on a strict budget, or as a first-time home owner, because the first time something goes wrong your budget will giggle weakly, stick its thumb in its mouth, and explode.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced home owner, have a great budget and a lot of time and patience, a listed property can be something to really love. And of course, you really are doing your part to look after some of the UK’s fabulous building heritage.

That’s got to be worth something more than money.

And finally - don't forget your listed property home insurance

Whatever age or condition your listed home might be, when it comes to insurance, we can help. We offer quotes for listed home insurance from a number of specialist UK insurance brokers.

Need a good listed property home insurance broker? We’ve got you covered – click here to fill out a short form and we’ll pass your details onto our list of brokers.