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A Guide to Buying a Listed Building

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

7th Sep 2018 (Last updated on 30th Jul 2020) 7 minute read

If you’re planning on buying a Listed Building there are a few special factors you’ll need to consider before making the commitment.

A listed property means that the building has special historical or architectural features of local or national importance. The conservation of these buildings is a major priority, so you’ll have to jump through a few extra hoops when it comes to any alteration or repair work. 

For many, the attraction of owning a unique property steeped in history or architectural interest outweighs the extra restrictions, but it’s something that needs to be carefully considered before buying. From Listed Building Consent to what to look for in a listed property survey, Compare My Move explores all you need to know about buying a listed building.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Listed Building?
  2. Listed Buildings in Scotland
  3. Is My Property Listed?
  4. What is Listed Building Consent?
  5. Why You Should Buy a Listed Building
  6. Common Issues with Listed Buildings
  7. The Importance of a Listed Building Survey
  8. Hiring a Chartered Surveyor

What is a Listed Building?

A listed property is a building, object or structure that is considered to be of national importance for architectural and/or historic interest. They’re included on a special register, known as the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

If a property is listed, this usually includes the interior, exterior and the area around the building. Properties are given listed status to protect them from damage or renovation that could affect their structure of historical significance.

In England and Wales, properties are divided into categories to determine the impact or importance of a building as well as its structure and design.

Grade I: A building of exceptional historical and/or architectural significance. This grade only applies to 2.5% of listings, most of which are not homes.

Grade II*: These are particularly important buildings of more than special interest with historical and/or architectural significance. These make up approximately 5.5% of listed buildings.

Grade II: These are buildings of special interest and make up the vast majority of listings. The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport compiles the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest and anyone can apply to have a building listed.

Listed Buildings in Scotland

Listed Buildings in Scotland are managed by Historic Environment Scotland. However, listed building legislation follows a similar path to the rest of Britain with clear categories to classify the varying degrees of listed buildings. The categories mirror the grades found in Wales and England.

Category A: Buildings with international or national historic or architectural importance, usually prime examples of a certain style or period.

Category B: Buildings of regional historic or architectural importance. These might be slightly altered, representing a certain period or style.

Category C: Properties of local historic or architectural importance. They’re so called ‘lesser examples’ of a certain period, style or design.

Much like the rest of Britain, you’ll need to have Listed Building Consent from your local authority in Scotland to change or alter the property.

Is My Property Listed?

If you aren’t sure if your new home is considered a listed building, contact your local authority planning department, county council offices, go to your local reference library to find out, or use the Listed Building Title Search.

If you live in Wales, you can contact Cadw or your local authority to enquire about a list of listed buildings in the area. In England you can consult the online National Heritage List for England, which includes most Listed buildings in England. Likewise, in Scotland you can find an online national database of Listed Buildings through Historic Scotland.

In general, all buildings built before 1700 are listed, along with most of those built between 1700 and 1840. Plus, significant modern examples of architectural design may also be listed. To be eligible for listing, a building has to be over 30 years old.

What is Listed Building Consent?

Listed Building Consent is obtained from your Local Authority Planning Department and is needed if you plan to alter your listed property in any way that could impact its structure and appearance. It’s a criminal offence to carry out alteration work on a listed building without consent, with a maximum penalty of imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

If you’re buying a listed home, you’ll need approval for any and all remedial or structural work that may change the material or overall look of the building. This includes anything affixed to the building like solar panels, windows, doors or even the roof. Consent is needed to ensure the special qualities of the building are protected, so keep in mind repairs will need to be like-for-like with materials and colour.

Why You Should Buy a Listed Building

Buying a listed property can be a fantastic investment that gets you your unique home. It can feel like a dream when you and the removals team arrive at a beautiful, historic building that you now know is yours. There are a range of other benefits for buying a Listed Building, including:

Buying a listed building pros

  • You’re buying a piece of history. Your home will be of historical and possibly national significance which can be rather exciting and incredibly intriguing.
  • Listed buildings are often unique because of the unchanged structure and architecture, meaning your home will be one-of-a-kind.
  • Listed buildings retain their value more than regular properties do.
  • VAT on repairs that require building consent can be ‘zero-rated’ and grants can be made towards re-roofing, structural repairs and dealing with dry rot. However, VAT still applies to everyday repairs and grants cannot be made for work already started or completed.

Common Issues with Listed Buildings

On the other hand, there are several conditions involved with owning a listed property that could prove to be too much responsibility to make purchasing it an attractive option. It’s important to research these before committing to the transaction, as owning a listed property can be expensive and trying to get consent for the repair work can be tedious and time consuming. Some of the issues to consider are:

Issues with listed buildings


  • You can’t make any changes to the property without permission from your local planning authority
  • Any request for making changes can be denied, meaning you don’t have the final say in how to change your home.
  • If a local authority thinks that your listed building is not being properly preserved, they can give the owner a ‘repairs notice’ under Section 115 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. These repairs can be expensive depending on the condition of the building. 
  • Although various schemes exist to help the owner with repairs, there’s a possibility that the repairs won’t apply to those schemes suited for a grant.
  • Repairs on listed buildings are often more expensive than on standard buildings due to the need for specialist tradesmen to complete the work to a certain standard.
  • The cost of rebuilding the property will often be more than the resale value, so you need to make sure that your home insurance covers the cost of rebuilding.

Remember, you can arrange for a specialist Listed House Property Survey to highlight any particular issues your Listed House may face in a comprehensive report. You can also take a look at our downloadable House Viewing Checklist for tips on what to look for when viewing the Listed Home.

The Importance of a Listed Building Survey

If you're buying a Listed Building, getting a professional RICS property survey is vital. You should seek the specialist Listed Building Survey offered by a range of chartered surveyors as it’s specifically used to evaluate the unique designs and architecture of historical buildings. 

This survey type is the same in-depth survey you can expect from a Full Structural Survey, but will be designed to specifically address the unique issues or defects in your listed home. A listed Building Survey will identify any hidden defects, grade the condition of all areas of the property and provide expert advice on the continued maintenance or repair of the building. 

As listed buildings require such specialist repair and maintenance work, a Listed Building Survey will provide a full rundown of any issues you may encounter in the future with your dream home. If you’re thinking about buying a listed property, then you should highly consider having a Listed Building Survey undertaken as it highlights any defects that need repair work and can help you decide if the property is in fact a worthy investment within your price range.

Hiring a Chartered Surveyor With Compare My Move

When you're ready, you can use Compare My Move to get connected with up to 5 RICS accredited property surveyors, to save you both time and money on your Listed Building Survey. All you have to do is fill in our quick and easy form and you’ll be instantly connected with the most reliable RICS surveyors within your area, to discuss your unique property survey requirements.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director at Cambridge Building Surveyors , Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is now the director at Cambridge Building Surveyors.