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What is a Listed Building Survey?

Martha Lott

Written by

6th Apr 2018 (Last updated on 21st Sep 2021) 8 minute read

In this guide, moving house experts Compare My Move explores the Listed Building Survey (sometimes referred to as a Historic Building Survey) which is a type of survey carried out by a professional chartered surveyor for properties of historical or architectural importance.

Listed Building Surveys are a specialist field so it’s important to compare surveyors to find a listed building surveyor who is qualified and experienced enough to understand these complicated buildings. We only work with verified surveyors who will conduct a thorough investigation of the property, looking at the structure of the building, the materials it’s made from, its history and also its development over time.

When buying a listed property, this specialist survey is required for you to understand the building’s current condition and whether or not it would be a worthy investment. That is why Compare My Move has provided you with information regarding what this Listed Building survey is, what it entails, who needs to do it and how much you might expect to pay for it.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Listed Building Survey?
  2. Why is a Listed Building Survey Different?
  3. Why Do I Need a Specialist Listed Building Survey?
  4. What Happens During the Survey?
  5. What Does the Report Look Like?
  6. What Does the Buyer Need to do?
  7. How Much Does a Listed Building Survey Cost?
  8. Learn More About Surveying

What is a Listed Building Survey?

Many people love the idea of making a historic building their home. For this reason, there is a huge market for older buildings, some of which are of such historical or architectural importance that they’re listed and therefore maintain a certain level of protection. These properties need a specific type of property survey for the buyer to determine what repairs are needed, how much they’ll cost and whether it would be a worthy investment.

A building may be listed for a number of reasons. Historic England highlight that any building built before 1700 that has been kept in a reasonable condition will be listed, as are most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 that are in similarly good condition. However, some new buildings may also be listed due to its significant importance, although these are usually at least 30 years of age.

Listed buildings are sectioned into grades which determine exactly how they should be treated and maintained. Grade I buildings are the most protected, followed by Grade II*. However, 91.7% of buildings are listed as Grade II. Most common surveyors will not be qualified or experienced enough to understand these properties and so someone who specialises in Historic Building Surveys must be contacted.

Listed Building Surveys

The surveyor will then conduct a detailed and thorough inspection of the building, looking at its structure, the materials it’s made from, its history and also its development. The surveyor will also have to understand the different types of timber, bricks, mortars and roofing to determine what materials the building contains and what issues this could lead to. The surveyor can then also educate you, the buyer, on how to repair and maintain the property, explaining how to avoid issues like damp and timber decay.

Why is a Listed Building Survey Different?

Working with a surveyor who specialises and understands historic and listed buildings will allow you to understand the individual nuances of dealing with these types of properties. By having a chartered surveyor that is accredited by RICS and understands the legislation that surrounds these buildings, you give yourself peace of mind that everything has been considered before your purchase goes through. One way to do this is to ensure that the surveyor is also a member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

Fundamentally, your surveyor will be undertaking a Full Structural Survey which is going to be similar to the type that they would undertake on any other unusual or older property. However, with their specialist knowledge, they will be able to give you a much better idea of the issues that occur with very old properties and, most importantly, make recommendations based on the grade of the listed building and the requirements associated with owning one.

Why Do I Need a Specialist Listed Building Survey?

Getting a specialist building survey for listed properties is very important for a number of reasons. In large part, it will help you understand the condition of the building and make plans for any repairs or maintenance that will need to be undertaken. More notably, the historic building survey will help you align with the requirements expected of you when becoming the legal owner of a listed property. There are a variety of benefits to having a Listed Building Survey:

Why do I need a Listed Building Survey?

A specialist surveyor will be able to answer any questions you have specifically focused on the building and the situation it’s in. They will also investigate whether there have been any previous alterations and whether these alterations have had Listed Building Consent. In the case the permission has not been approved, they should also be able to provide you with evidence in order for you to negotiate the case and potentially avoid any penalty or fine.

In tandem with these recommendations, the surveyor will also be able to give you advice on the best approach to take on the feasibility of any future changes to the property you may be considering. This will include whether they are likely to be accepted as well as how you should go about getting permission.

An outline of any care and repair work that's needed as well as the costs for these can also be found in the report. This will cover all elements including the windows, walls and roof. As well as looking into specific defects including roofing issues, damp, brickwork concerns, general cracks, timber frame problems and any decay apparent throughout the house.

Finally, as a specialist in listed buildings, the surveyor should be able to advise and guide you through the process required when applying for Listed Building Consent. This will include the preparation and development of a Heritage Statement to accompany your application.

What Happens During the Survey?

During the survey, the chartered surveyor will visit the property and undertake a study of all the elements which make it up. This will include looking at the structure, the material it's made of, its history and also its development over time.

As this is a comprehensive survey, the surveyor will need to look at every aspect of the building from the roofing down to any information they can access on the foundations. Any major issues with these will then be highlighted and considerations will be given on how they may be repaired and how much this could cost.

They will also make comments on any alterations that have been made to the property by previous owners. It’s important to understand this as, when you purchase a property, you assume full responsibility for its well-being. If any alterations have been made without permission, you may receive a fine or be ordered to remedy it.

What Does the Report Look Like?

The report is likely to be sent as an email, although in some cases it may be received as a letter through the post. In the report, you will see a run-down of all the areas of the building that have been inspected. Next to these, the surveyor will comment on the condition of these elements as well as giving advice on any apparent issues, how you may go about remedying them and how much the repairs may cost.

The report will also likely take a similar structure to a Building Survey or Homebuyers Survey. This means that the report is likely to adopt the traffic light system. This system works by categorising issues found during the survey by their level of severity. To give an indicator of how this works:

Listed Building Survey report

Green refers to ‘Condition Rating 1’ and indicates that the area referenced needs no repairs and has no area of concern. These should continue to be maintained in a similar way to previously.

Amber refers to ‘Condition Rating 2’ and highlights areas with defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered as urgent. These areas are unlikely to impact the overall value of the property but are likely to need some maintenance or repairs in time.

Red refers to ‘Condition Rating 3’ and highlights defects that are in need of urgent or series repair, need to be replaced or investigated urgently. Practically, these areas are those that should be seriously considered as part of the overall purchase. They may be areas that make the purchase void, or allow you to negotiate the original house offer based on potential costs to fix these issues.

What Does the Buyer Need to do?

In terms of physical actions, there is little that the buyer will need to do for the survey to be undertaken. However, you will need to maintain a good line of communication between yourself, the seller and the surveyor. This is in order to understand exactly what the surveyor will need to access during the survey, ensuring that all the necessary areas are cleared and easy to reach. It’s also important for everyone to organise a time for the survey that will not be inconvenient for the current owner.

When you’re viewing the property, note down anything you spot that’s of particular concern that you’ll want to communicate to the surveyor. This will mean that they can pay particular attention to these areas and give a more detailed report on the key issues.

How Much Does a Listed Building Survey Cost?

A Listed Building Survey will cost between £750 to £1,000 plus VAT on average for a typical three-bedroom listed building. The cost of these types of surveys depends widely on many aspects including the size, location and complexity of the building in question. Read more about property survey costs for the surveys that are more common.

Learn More About Surveying

This has been part of our guide to surveying. In our next article, we take a look at a damp survey, which is quite common after an initial survey. To learn more read what is a damp survey.

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.