Home Property Buying a listed building – a quick guide
Buying a listed building – a quick guide

Buying a listed building – a quick guide


In England and Wales, some buildings are formally “listed” as being of historic or architectural interest. Scotland and Northern Ireland have very similar, though slightly different, systems in place.

Buildings so listed are usually described as being “Category I” or “Category II”. Some Category II buildings have a star annotation, indicating that while they do not fully meet the criteria required for Category I, they are perhaps of greater importance than a typical Category II listing.

What listings mean

Space doesn’t permit a full discussion and analysis of the various criteria required for a building to be listed and categorised. What is important is that as a potential buyer, you understand what this means for you in reality.

Being the owner of a listed building means that before you can materially change any aspect of it, externally or internally, you should consult with your local authority’s conservation officer. In fact, this isn’t just a “good idea” but rather a legal requirement.

Nothing changes

Very broadly speaking, if you are the owner of a Category I building you may find it exceptionally difficult to change any aspect of it in any way that might be considered “significant”. For example, it may be extremely unlikely that you will get permission to put a modern conservatory on the back of such a building.

Internally, taking down walls in order to make an extended kitchen dining area might also be prohibited.

In the case of Category II buildings, the restrictions may be slightly more relaxed. Even so, it may prove to be difficult to get permission to make external changes to it or likewise radically modify the interior.

New owner responsibilities

Some previous owners may have ignored these restrictions and effectively done things that were forbidden with the property concerned.

You should be aware that if that is the case, you as the new owner may be legally liable for restoring the property you have purchased to its previous original condition.

The plus side

So far the issues associated with listed buildings have been discussed but these properties also bring with them some highly desirable characteristics.

The majority of listed buildings are likely to be 19th century or earlier.

That means that they are going to be character properties that are likely to be regarded as “prestige” in many cases. In fact, there are specific listed building property finders who specialise in exactly this sort of property for discerning buyers.

In the past, many of the more prestigious buildings tended to have far larger living spaces than we see in modern properties today. Whilst that might inevitably mean that they do not necessarily conform to current ideas of energy-efficiency, they nevertheless offer a style of living that is difficult to replicate in later buildings.

However, some newer properties are also listed simply due to the fact that they are of architectural interest. That might even include relatively modest properties that were designed by a now famous architect.


Generally, listed buildings are highly sought after. Listed building property finders might not only be able to help you track down a building of the particular period and style of your choice but also one which carries that cachet of “listed” status.

If you are concerned about potential hidden legacy cost implications, your property finders should be able to assist with advice – as should your solicitor.

It might also be prudent, after consultation with your solicitor, to independently contact the local conservation officer to see whether or not they have outstanding concerns on the property you are considering.