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What is a Listed Building Survey? Buying a Listed Building

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

6th Apr 2018 (Last updated on 24th Mar 2022) 6 minute read

If you’re buying a listed building, you’ll need a Listed Building Survey. Sometimes called a Historic Building Survey, this is a type of structural survey carried out by a 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.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is a Listed Building?
  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?

A listed building is a building that holds some sort of historical or architectural importance and will need to maintain a certain level of protection.

A building may be listed for a number of reasons.

    • Historic England highlight that historic properties built before 1700 that are in a reasonable condition will be listed.
    • Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 that are in similarly good condition are listed.
    • Some new buildings may also be listed if they are considered of 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*, which 91.7% of buildings are.

Why is a Listed Building Survey Different?

Your surveyor will undertake a Level 3 Building Survey as the building is unique and old. However, with their specialist knowledge, they will be able to give you a much better idea of the issues that occur with older buildings.

By hiring a chartered surveyor that understands the legislation surrounding 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).

Why Do I Need a Specialist Listed Building Survey?

When you’re buying a listed property, getting a specialist building survey is important as it will help you understand the condition of the building. It’ll also allow you to 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. The main benefits include:

1. Get an Expert Opinion

Many surveyors may not be qualified or experienced enough to understand the particular risks and concerns relating to specialist or older properties, so an experienced surveyor who specialises in Historic Building Surveys will have the knowledge. You can also learn of the building’s current condition and whether or not it would be a worthy investment.

2. Receive Specific Answers

A specialist surveyor will be able to answer any questions you have specifically focused on the building and the condition it’s currently in. They may investigate whether there have been any previous unauthorised alterations. If permission has not been granted for alterations, they may be able to provide you with evidence for you to negotiate the case and potentially avoid any penalty or fine.

3. Receive Advice

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 the necessary permissions.

4. Repair Work

An outline of any care and repair work that's needed as well as the possible costs for these can also be included in the report. This will cover many of the building elements such as the windows, walls and roof, as well as looking into specific defects such as roofing issues, damp, brickwork concerns, cracks, timber frame problems and any decay which may be apparent.

5. Listed Building Consent

Finally, as a specialist in listed buildings, the surveyor may 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, although this will normally be a separate service from the initial survey.

What Happens During the Survey?

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

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

They’ll 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 buy a listed building, 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?

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 give advice on any apparent issues, how you may go about remedying them.

The report may give an idea of the possible cost of some kinds of repairs, but many costs will be difficult to accurately assess or may require further investigation. The report will tell you if you should have any further investigations done or obtain formal estimates for any repairs.

The report will often take a similar structure to a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report and will include the traffic light system. This system works by categorising issues found during the survey by their level of severity, either green, amber or red.

What Does the Buyer Need to do?

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?

Costs for a Listed Building Survey vary widely but might cost between £750 to £1,500 plus VAT for a reasonably common three-bedroom listed building.

The cost of these types of surveys depends widely on many aspects including the size, location, age, condition and complexity of the building in question.

To learn more, read house survey costs.

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.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

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