What does listing mean?

I have been getting a number of questions around what does it mean to live a listed house – so I thought I would put finger to keyboard and write a few comments for prospective owners. If I don’t cover something then let me know.

One of the things that seems to be a consistent misconception is that listing covers only the outside of the house. This is not the case – it covers everything within the property boundary. So this means that the grotty conservatory that someone put on to the house will be covered. Doesn’t matter if the house was built in 1356 and an internal wall was built out of scrap in 1952 by a blind builder – it is listed and that is it.

The key is the fact that you MAY be able to remove it – but do not pin your hopes on it. However it does seem that the planning officers are being a little more reasonable about what you can change, however it will be at their whim not yours.

However it does seem that as long as you do not remove original material from the house they may smile more on your planning. We are lucky where we live as the house works well for us in terms of layout. However if you purchased an old cob cottage that was listed and you want to pull out the internal walls, expect to be rejected.

Now the issue with all of this is that the listing itself details enough to identify the property – this is not what is listed. The other element is that is something has been changed in the property without planning permission EVEN BEFORE YOU MOVE IN, you are liable for the changes.


So for our house I spoke to the planning officer prior to moving in. He seemed reasonable that we could “modernise” things like the 1990s kitchen and a bathroom from around 1980, but if they had been original and hence rare he would of been unhappy. Sympathetic modernisation was his words.

But when it came to getting planning, we went through the our architect and he handled the relationship. This seemed to make most sense as he knew the planning officer and knew how to word things. He is supporting our changes (but the changes we are making are to bring the house back in line with what the house “should be”).

But we still haven’t received the final go-ahead. Looks as though we are not going to be finished by winter. If you buy a listed house you need to be patient and think of yourself as a caretaker rather than outright owner.


Sash Windows

While we are waiting for the paper work to be sorted, I have started looking at sash windows. Sash windows were invented by Robert Hooke (famed for Hooke’s law – which is the law about springs you did at school).

The house that we are in the process of buying has a whole stack of windows. We counted them from the floor plan and it is about 20 odd. 4 huge windows on the ground floor and then another load dotted around the house.  Now 20 odd windows sounds like a lot. The UK government up to around 1851 used to tax your windows. This house was built in about 1858/60 so in celebration they seemed to have whacked as many windows as possible.

I don’t think that they are all sash windows, but I know that the ones we saw need to be mended.Now luckily one of my colleagues at work is renovating a house, so I thought I would tap him for information. He reckons that the budget is around £1000 per window for full renovation. The issue can be that the sills become rotting and the rot begins to creep up into the boxing of the sash. He also recommended getting them painted in a kind of stitch in time saves nine way.

Looking further I found this handy guide to sash windows: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/caring-for-your-sash-case.pdf if you want to know more.

A quick guide to listed buildings

Thank-you to all the comments that I have received so far, and all of those of you that are viewing my blog. WordPress has a nice feature that shows you were geographically people are situated when they read your blog. Unsurprisingly the views are either in the US or the UK – probably driven by the fact that I am writing in English.

What I did think, was that there were likely to be people in the US who did not know what a listed building was, and what extra tribulations that means. So I thought I would write a quick guide,.

A listed building, in the UK, is a building that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. I.e. the building is of special interest and hence you cannot change,  demolish or extend  without special permission. If you do perform any of these and do not ask for permission it is a criminal offence and you will be forced to put the structure back as to how it was before.

There are 3 levels of listing, Grade I – exceptional architectural interesting, Grade II* particular importance nationally and Grade II where every effort must be made to retain the features of the house.

Now when one speaks to people they all tend to think that it is only the outside that is listed – not so: everything in the house is listed. So it means that you need to be very careful with everything that you do. The process for getting planning permission is easy for Grade II (as it is local) but much more tricky for Grade I and Grade II* (which we hope to own) as English Heritage need to give consent.

This can give rise to some weird results. For example to put scaffolding around the house, you need to get planning permission. And there are some horror stories of where people have ripped out some grotty extension made in the 1960s, but the planning officers forced the home owners to put it back!

I have never owned a listed building, so all of this will be journey of discovery, which I will post here. Luckily in the one phone conversation that I have had with the local conservation officer he seems like  thoroughly reasonable chap, so hopefully we shall fall foul of each other. But I do believe we will get to know each other very well!

And now the next stress

So the next stress is getting the mortgage. I spent ALL afternoon on the phone to the bank going through every single detail. They were very busy so not sure what they are complaining about at the moment lending money at over 3% from what they can borrow it at.

Anyway very pleased that my spreadsheet was only 6p out in terms of what the cost of the mortgage was going to be. In case anyone needs the magic formula in Excel it is


Pretty useful when you need to workout how much you can afford. The other thing that is useful is the following stamp duty table (correct as of Sept 2012)

Cost of House % Cost
0 0%
125 1%
250 3%
500 4%
2,000 7%

So next stress is that the Bank wants to do a survey. Understood that the bank wants to protect its loan, however it is going to cost about £600 for the privilege. Then they might turn round and say that they won’t lend it because of the state of the house…

What am I doing?

So this could be the shortest blog depending on the outcome of the next few weeks. After a long time trying to sell our house, we finally got an offer this week… Which means we can start to seriously think again about moving into this large Victorian House that we have had our eye on.

After much debate we thought it MIGHT be the right house for us. There is a bit of a story behind that which I might post one day. We thought we had sold our house once and we put an offer on the “Victorian Pile” so we arranged a detailed survey (cost £900). Unfortunately the purchasers for our house fell through – they said that they were chain free, however when it came down to it they weren’t. We did have the detailed and comprehensive survey though, and there is a lot that needs to be done. What makes it difficult is that it is listed… But now we have an offer on our house, so we need to think about whether we want to move into this house again.

I think moving from something that is circa 1977 to something that is circa 1857 I think will be quite a shock to the system!

Anyway, we still have our offer on the Victorian Pile… but we had a builder going round on Friday to quote for the work. Expecting a large estimate.

Will let you know more once we have that! Plus will also talk a little bit more about the Victorian Pile and why it is interesting to someone who has very little experience of architecture and buildings as a whole!