Period properties can be an attractive proposition for homebuyers – either because you are buying it as a renovation project, or because you want to own a home that retains plenty of original features. However, there are several potential pitfalls which you should take care to avoid if you are thinking of going down this route.
Independent chartered building surveyors Anderson Associates are highly experienced in carrying out period house surveys on properties in east London, Essex, Kent and Suffolk. Here are four key factors to bear in mind if you are buying a traditional property.
Beware the Legal Position
One key issue prospective home-buyers need to be aware of is whether the property they are interested in purchasing is either listed or lies in a conservation area. Either of these designations could dictate the methods and type of repair and extent of renovation work carried out.
Listed buildings are of ‘special architectural or historical interest’ and owners also have a duty of care to keep it in a ‘reasonable condition’. If you buy a listed property which has been altered without the necessary permissions you could be held personally liable, even if the work was carried out by a previous owner.
Homes in conservation areas are subject to less stringent rules, but you should make sure that any work, such as extensions, are ‘in keeping’ both with the surrounding area and the house itself.
Take Care with Any Repairs
There are a large number of potential problems when it comes to renovating traditional homes. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors warns buyers about the perils of using inappropriate materials, such as replacing high-quality wooden sash windows with aluminium or PVC-U casements. Walls should not be replastered with cement-based materials, but with traditional lime – as this allows the walls to breathe can and wont trap damp in the walls.
Another common error is to get rid of original features which were there for a reason. For instance, chimney breasts, or load-bearing internal spine walls, cannot be removed without providing any support for the remaining masonry above. Similarly, blocking up air vents to floors and roofs can encourage damp, rot, or an infestation of unwanted insects such as beetles.
Think About Your Budget
Even if you are not buying a period property as a ‘project’ to renovate, there are often hidden costs associated with the purchase. Drainage, insulation and fireproofing are three common areas which often need to be addressed in older properties. Roof coverings and guttering may also need to be overhauled or replaced.
Bear in mind that some lenders may not be willing to offer a mortgage on older properties, particularly, if it is of an unusual construction or needs a lot of work.
It is not just the financial aspect of the purchase you need to consider. Unrenovated period properties are unlikely to comply with current building regulations, so you may be buying a house where the floors, ceilings and walls aren’t level or square, or the rooms and layout are an unusual shape.
Remember, you may not be able to rectify or alter these, either because of the legal position or because they are an integral part of the property’s structure and character.
Flats Have Issues Too
Many people opt for a flat, particularly in east and south east London, as you can easily be priced out of buying anything larger. The average price of a detached house in London, for instance, was almost £900,000 at the beginning of 2018 whereas a flat or maisonette would have cost around £430,000.
If your flat is part of a bigger period home, such as a Victorian or Georgian terraced property, you need to be sure that any conversion work has been completed to a good high standard and to current building regulations. Purchasing a flat is also likely to mean you share responsibility for maintaining other parts of the whole building, such as the roof, even if you live on the ground floor.
Period House Surveys from Anderson Associates
As independent chartered building surveyors, a full building survey by Anderson Associates will identify any problems or highlight issues for further investigation or enquiries to be made by your solicitor - before exchange.
Enquiries by your legal advisor should includes whether the property is listed or in a conservation area.
With lease or share freehold flats or maisonettes, the split of costs and responsibility for repairs and maintenance for external and communal areas should be apparent in the lease or share freehold agreement and should show where you must help towards the cost of repairs and maintenance.
If you are buying a period house in east London, Kent or East Anglian, then we would recommend a full building survey, as this will throw up any potential problems relating to the structure and overall condition of the building.
As independent chartered surveyors, Anderson Associates don’t have any incentive to make sure you buy the property and there is no conflict of interest. If you would like more information or to talk to an experienced surveyor for free impartial advice, click here.