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When a house is more than a home, it's history; Will Marshall-Murray, from Fine & Country, looks at why buildings are listed and whether they can be a good investment or an expense to maintain.

Period cottages, country manors, medieval farmsteads and Georgian townhouses - the architecture of listed buildings spans the gamut of property styles.

Buildings are listed to mark their historical and architectural interest, and protect them from damage. The process began in Britain in 1947, partly as a response to the loss of significant buildings during the war.

The rule of thumb is that the older a building, the more likely it is to be listed. Almost all pre-1700 buildings, if they resemble their original condition, are listed, joined by the majority of those constructed between 1700 and 1840.

Generally, a building has to be over 30 years old to be eligible. It doesn't have to be beautiful, but rather, it must in some way be rare, unique, architecturally-interesting, or of historical interest. Grade II listed denotes structures of "special interest," Grade II* "more than special interest," and Grade I "exceptional interest." There are around 500,000 listed buildings in total; 92 percent Grade II, 5.5 percent Grade II* and 2.5 percent Grade I. Buying a listed property means you own an important part of history. The property is seen to add to the area and this can increase its own value when it comes time to sell. Listed properties are often character-filled, every room telling a story. Original period features are highly-valued and can increase the asking price, especially when refurbished or restored.

On the down side, carrying out alterations to the building is a little more complicated than on non-listed buildings. It is illegal to alter the character of a listed building without first obtaining consent from the relevant local planning authority.

There are no set rules in terms of permissions, each building is judged individually. Work usually requiring consent includes replacing windows and doors, removing internal walls and changing fireplaces. Check with the local authority's conservation of-ficer on what needs consent. Minor repairs often get the nod without going through the approval process.

There are some grants available for repairs and alterations from English Heritage, the Historic Buildings & Monuments Commission (HBMC) and other authorities. This is particularly relevant for Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings.

While planning permission can sometimes be difficult, it is by no means impossible. English Heritage say up to 90 per cent of listed building consent applications are approved; so there's scope as long as the work is sympathetic to the original structure.

Owners of listed properties tend to like the character of the property, so these figures make sense.

So is a listed building worthwhile? It boils down to understanding what is and isn't possible, and loving the character of a property. After all, if that stone-built cottage in the middle of the village is your idea of perfect, seeking planning permission for alterations is a minor inconvenience. And the word listed will always add value.


Will Marshall-Murray of Fine & Country
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 20, 2014
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