Getting A Place On The A-List: Buying A Listed Building In Bath
Bath’s fiercely protected, outstandingly beautiful historic architecture is one of the key reasons that the city is renowned around the world for its unique charms, as formerly acknowledged in Bath’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wherever you turn, impressive cityscapes are richly textured in character, detail and craftsmanship, while the surrounding pastoral landscape provides a backdrop as fascinatingly seductive to all the senses as the distinctive architecture at the heart of the city… and much of the architecture that plays such an intrinsic part in Bath’s rich tapestry of sensual delights, from tiny cottages to iconic landmarks, are listed buildings.
When you buy a listed building, you’re buying way, way more than the property you see in front of you right here, right now. Listed buildings are recorded on a national register of buildings with architectural or historical importance that serves to guarantee the protection, preservation and maintenance of the UK’s national architectural treasures for future generations; if you buy a listed building you are, in effect, agreeing to take the role of custodian for as long as you own the property.
As long as they are still in their original condition, the vast majority of properties built before 1700 are listed. Most properties built before 1840 are also highly likely to be listed, and buildings dating from 1840 to 1914 may be listed if they are deemed to be of historical significance – designed by a famous architect, for example, or built in a certain period-specific style.
Grade I listed buildings are of the highest, exceptional historical significance. Only 2.5% of a total of 377,580+ listed buildings in England are Grade I … think, Buckingham Palace, and you get the general idea. Grade II* listing (which applies to approximately 5.5% of all listed properties) is granted to particularly important buildings of more than special interest, and Grade II buildings are deemed to be of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. Most listed building owners are likely to live in a Grade II building as these make up 92% of all listed buildings.
The benefits of buying a listed building
If you want to own a home that tells a story, a listed property is for you. Listed properties are often found near to similar buildings of historic interest or located in untouched pastoral surroundings. Many of them will include original features such as ancient beams and open fireplaces… and character comes as standard.
But of course, regardless of the generations who defined that character before you, the current owner will always be the person who defines it best as you create your own version of history-in-the-making, in real time. Many listed building owners speak of a strong sense of privilege attached to curating and maintaining their listed homes, and the satisfaction and delight to be found in sharing their uniquely fascinating environment with friends and family.
Historic, listed properties are precious assets, offering living proof of our heritage and offering inspiration for the future.
In certain cases, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission or English Heritage may offer listed building owners grants towards re-roofing, treating dry rot and other structural repairs and, should you decide the time has come to pass your little slice of history on to another custodian, the age, rarity and architectural merit of a properly cared-for listed property makes them potentially good long-term investments for the modern age. As Bath and its nearby environs boasts over 5000 grades I, II* and II listed properties, examples of what listed properties look like are readily available.
Issues to consider before you buy a listed property
Ownership of any listed building comes with a set of rules and regulations specific to the individual property. But overall, the charms of owning that property outweighs the challenges.
In order to preserve the fabric of listed buildings from alterations that aren’t in-keeping or that may cause damage, listed buildings are protected by law, and owners of listed buildings must have listed building consent in addition to planning consent for any changes made to their property inside or out; failure to adhere to these laws is a criminal offence.
This does not mean, however, that you can’t do any alterations or make improvements to a listed building, but it’s imperative that you familiarise yourself with all the various legalities before altering the character or appearance of a listed building in any way at all. Pre-application and consultation will be critical to submitting plans, and the information you need to support an application for building consent for a listed building is substantially more detailed than is usually necessary for a standard planning application.
Gardens may be listed as part of your property, but restrictions are not quite so stringent.
When it comes to insurance… because listed buildings are usually made of rare and/or unique materials and therefore cost more to repair, they often require specialist insurance policies that tend to be more expensive than insurance for non-listed homes.
Help and advice on buying a listed building
Bath Preservation Trust’s Making Changes guide is specifically written for the owners of listed buildings and those considering buying a listed building in Bath, including a listed property to rent. The guide covers multiple issues on the subject of owning a listed property including upkeep and maintenance, repairs and alterations, listed building consent and planning permission. To download a copy of this indispensable resource, click on this link.
The writers of this feature are long-standing experts in all property-related issues. If you require further bespoke guidance, inspiration and expert advice on buying a listed building please do not hesitate to contact Philip Cobb or Vivienne Hayes directly: