Listed building for sale
Listed building for sale © Historic England
Listed building for sale © Historic England

Thinking of Buying an Older Building?

This page is a starting point for people thinking about buying an older house. It provides advice on preliminary steps, insurance and finding a property.

Should I buy an older property?

Buying and living in an older building can be extremely rewarding. However, older buildings do differ from modern ones.

In addition to the research you would normally do before buying a property, we recommend you think about the following points.

Planning regulation

You can find out from your local authority. Advance knowledge of any planning regulations which apply to the property can help to avoid delays when planning any work.

If you are buying a property and want to make alterations, we recommend contacting your local authority as soon as possible to discuss your plans.

Why have a survey?

A survey can help you understand the construction and condition of the property, any defects, the priority of repairing them and the potential costs involved.

Do not confuse a survey with a mortgage valuation. A mortgage valuation advises a lender of the value of a property and of any characteristics, including defects, that might affect its value as security for a proposed loan. The lender may ask you to pay for the valuation, which involves a brief inspection, and they may provide you with a copy of the report. However this is not a survey, and it will not go into the same level of detail as a survey. 

So if you are buying an older home, it is important you do not rely solely on the mortgage valuation.

You can choose from 3 levels of survey which offer varying levels of detail.

For older buildings, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recommends a level 3 survey. This will give you:

  • a thorough inspection and detailed report on a wider range of issues
  • a description of visible defects and potential problems caused by hidden flaws
  • an outline of repair options and the likely consequences of inactivity
  • advice for your legal advisers and details of serious risks and dangerous conditions
  • advice on the appropriateness of any energy improvements recommended by the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), where available
  • estimated costs of repairs may also be included as an option

Where can I find a historic building?

As well as estate agents, specialist organisations such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) or the Listed Property Owners Club can offer information on historic and/or listed buildings for sale.

SPAB has also produced very useful guidance for those thinking about buying an older property. 

Additionally, our annual Heritage at Risk initiative highlights buildings most at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development, some of which are likely to be for sale. We enthusiastically support the rescue, repair and re-use of historic buildings currently at risk or vulnerable to neglect and decay.  

Insuring historic buildings

If you decide to buy a listed building, a standard home insurance policy might not be adequate for this type of property.

You should get advice from a specialist insurance broker or let your insurer know if your property is listed, as this may require specialist insurance. 

The cost of rebuilding a listed building is likely to be higher than for a standard property. A detailed specialist valuation from an accredited surveyor or architect can help you to decide on the most suitable insurance policy.