Property Focus: Listed Properties

One way you might get involved in property development is by working with listed buildings. Although the budget requirements for this option sit at the higher end of the scale, those who can afford it may find themselves with a strong attraction to antique accommodation, those properties which often have more than a hundred years of tradition underpinning their foundation.

The reasons for such work are varied. Perhaps the buyer of a listed building has some rather grand renovation plans, perhaps they wish for a fantastic family home, or perhaps it is a simple wish to see the property restored to modern warmth while retaining traditional splendour.

Whatever the reasoning is behind a decision, there is plenty to consider before, during and after the job. To get an idea of how this might work, let us look to the recent purchase of Castle Goring – a grade one listed country house in Worthing, Sussex, England.

Castle Goring

Although there is some debate about the actual categorisation of the building – with some saying that it may or may not in fact be an actual castle – most are content to recognise it as a particularly extravagant country house. Many celebrate its style. In fact the renowned architect and topographer Ian Nairn once described it as showing “the equivocal taste of the 1790s as well as anywhere in the country.”

The property, built for Sir Bysshe Shelley in 1798, is widely recognised as being one of the most important in Sussex. Indeed it is one of only two buildings in Worthing to have a grade I listing.

Being a listed building means a position on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. In England, this list is maintained by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, otherwise known as English Heritage, which was established by the Thatcher government in 1983.

Since granting this listed status English Heritage has been keen to see the property restored, as for them the future of the building looked bleak; to English Heritage the building is “A fragile gem of a country house… the Grade I listed building now urgently requires major repairs.”

Under the hammer, over the obstacles?

Now that a buyer has bought the building for £700,000 its prospects have improved, but for the new owner, who has decided to remain anonymous, what are the problems and challenges ahead?

Firstly, the buyer is expected to invest something in the region of £2m in order to get the property back into good repair. The buyer was most likely aware that this would be the case. But should you also be considering redevelopment of listed properties, it is important to have such commitments in mind.

Nick Hole-Jones, the director of Hamptons International Country House Department, said In a report: “Before spending money on solicitors and surveyors your conservation officer can quickly advise you whether your dream home is subject to enforcement notices.”

Indeed, working on a listed building can create a difficult relationship between you and English Heritage, who may pressure you to spend more on the maintenance of the property. In fact that same report suggests that the buyer of Castle Goring has already had an ownership dispute with an English Heritage conservation officer.

As with any listed building, the success of this once grand building depends on how skilfully it is renovated, which already rests on the assumption that substantial repair work can be carried out to the vast interior which may have suffered damage from neglect. Very little public information exists about the inside of the castle, but the consensus is it is in poor shape.

However, even with all these problems in mind, the vast renovation task, the tug and pull relationship with English Heritage, and the financial commitments to the building, if the property buyer and a skilful team of renovators begin determined work then this sadly faded jewel might return to glory once again.

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