Are London’s historic homes worth the investment?

Historic homes may ooze charm and character, but they can come with their own set of challenges too. So what are the pros – and cons – of investing in ‘old’ London properties?

The pros

There’s no denying the charm of old London historic homes. Whether you’re drawn to the magnificently high ceilings, the huge windows, or the intricacy and craftsmanship to be found in original features – from fireplaces to cornices – a historic home can be a beauty to behold. Some properties – although not always the rule – may be significantly larger too (our ancestors often weren’t so worried by budget and didn’t have as many neighbours as we do now).

The likelihood is also, in a building that has stood the test of time, that it’s been solidly built in brick or even stone – rather than contemporary steel and glass. Add to that London’s seemingly never-ending growth, and you’ll find that while your home may have originally been built as a rural country lodge, it now finds itself in a fantastically central location.

But the biggest draw is the history itself. Buildings generally reflect the attitude of an age in which they were built, whether that be the beautiful flamboyance of the Tudors or the confidence and wealth of the Victorians. Through our ancestors’ homes we get a sense of lives lived, famous or otherwise, and the opportunity to let that history live on.

The cons

The past is, of course, another country, and they did things very differently there. There was no planning permission, and, obviously, no modern technology. Even the grandest of Tudor lords and Victorian industrialists lived without what we might consider basic comforts.

this has resulted in buildings that can be drafty and poorly insulated, or fitted with difficult and erratic electrical systems. Many of our historic buildings were also originally built for very different purposes – from libraries to public baths. The resulting space restrictions can lead to what you might generously describe as ‘characterful’ conversions.  Particularly when you also have to cater for contemporary health and safety requirements regarding the positioning of electrical circuits and flues.

The biggest challenges, however, come when a building is listed, which means it’s on the national register as a property of special architectural or historic importance.

Listed buildings have particularly strict restrictions about what changes are allowed to be made, which can affect everything from extensions to fitting double glazing (usually prohibited). The restrictions are there to help preserve the character of the building, but it also means that you’re more likely to live with the discomforts familiar to our forebearers.

If you do decide to snap up one of London’s historic homes, though, consider these top tips:

  • Get a professional survey. First and foremost, you’ll need a detailed survey of the building so you know what you’ll be taking on. Find out what repairs need to be taken care of now and you’ll avoid any nasty surprises later on.
  • Speak to conservation officers. In the case of a listed building, there are going to be restrictions on what you can and can’t do to the property. Make sure you understand what those are before you begin making plans.
  • Have a contingency plan. No matter what you do beforehand, the fact is that older property simply requires more work than buying new. Prepare for the unexpected and make sure you have some budget leftover to deal with any issues that crop up.
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