Many of us have a warm, romantic notion of living in an old, characterful building with period features and quirky, historical charm. A listed building, absolutely, why not? To understand some of the pros and cons of buying, and living in, a listed building it is advisable to have an understanding of what ‘listed’ means in this instance.

What is a listed building?

It was in 1947, during the aftermath of World War II, that the listing process began. It was in response to the destruction and loss of many buildings due to bombing throughout the war. Today the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for compiling a list of over 500,000 buildings thought to be of special value or historical interest.

To qualify for listing status a property does not necessarily need to have aesthetic charm, but it must have special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting. As the term implies, a listed building is actually added to a list – the National Heritage List for England

Listing classification

Listed buildings have three types of classification:

  • Grade I – are buildings considered as being of exceptional interest.
  • Grade II* – are listed properties regarded to be particularly important examples of special interest buildings.
  • Grade II – the most common type of listing, are buildings considered to be of special interest and should be preserved.

Over 90% of listed buildings in England are classified as Grade II.


“Ownership enables an important ongoing contribution and preservation of the country’s heritage.”


Potential Pros

Buying and owning a listed building should install a great sense of pride and satisfaction in becoming the custodian and keeper of a building with unique character, architectural importance or historical value. Owning a listed building may also provide access to unique craftsmanship, techniques and attention to details that are no longer available. Ownership enables an important ongoing contribution and preservation of the country’s heritage.

Considerable Cons

Listed building are generally, but not exclusively, older properties, potentially hundreds of years old. The passage of time and the effects of the elements are not always kind to buildings. Many of the materials used in its construction may have deteriorated or decayed over time. Repair, replacement, maintenance and upkeep can be costly and require unique specialist trades and skills.

Modern day living in many case requires easy access and availability of electricity, gas, water and communication services. Obtaining planning permission for changes that make life more comfortable may be difficult and time consuming. Listed status means there will be extra control over what changes can be made to a building’s interior and exterior.

Purchasing a listed building should be considered to be a serious undertaking – it is recommended that expert advice is sought to ensure potential hazards of listed building ownership can be reduced, if not avoided, and any costs can be minimised.


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