Buying a period property

Buying a period property

Many people love the idea of living in a grand old period property. The fact that there are numerous TV shows devoted to that very subject shows just how much interest there is in older properties. It’s easy to see why. They’re full of character, beautiful to behold, often situated in pleasant, leafy areas, and they tend to retain their value well.

Yet older houses aren’t for everyone, and if you choose to buy and live in one, your new, old home will invariably come with its own peculiar set of problems. So what should you consider before signing on the dotted line? And what are the key things to look out for when viewing older properties?

It sounds obvious, but by virtue of their age, older houses were not built to today’s modern specifications. These days, new-build homes tend to feature rectangular, open-plan living spaces, whereas an older property is more likely to be full of strange nooks and crannies that you can’t quite fit your furniture into! Nothing will be square or level, the plaster will be bumpy and the layers of paintwork will have accumulated heavily over the years.

If the house is described as ‘requiring modernisation’ it’s also possible that the roof, electrics and windows will need updating – all projects which could run into the thousands.

None of this is intended to put you off choosing a period property, but if you do decide to go for an older house, it’s best to be prepared. Providing you’ve got the funds, time and energy, and you’re prepared to approach the renovation in a sympathetic manner, you could end up with a beautifully unique and characterful home.


Just like any house purchase, you need to make sure that the property in question is structurally sound. Start by looking for a surveyor with experience of old buildings. A good Homebuyers Report, which pays particular attention to the period aspects of the property, should be enough to let you know exactly what you’re getting into.

However, if you’re buying a listed building and plan to undertake renovation work, you’ll need an integrated Building and Historic Survey which will give you a much more comprehensive picture of the project. It will summarise the history of the property and list all its significant original features.

The next step is to find reputable tradespeople with experience and expertise in renovating period properties. Have them view the house with you and go through the survey together. They’ll be able to give you an idea of the scale of the work involved in renovating/upgrading the property, including those all-important costs.

Viewing checklist

When viewing a period property, be careful not to let your heart rule your head. Visit the house several times and remain as detached as you possibly can. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Signs of damp – very common in older properties
  • Draughty windows, rotting window frames
  • Signs of leaks on the ceilings and walls
  • Awkward layouts – you may have to apply for planning permission to change these
  • Old-fashioned kitchen – Aga-style stoves are very popular but they don’t always fit in with busy, modern lives

Listed properties

If your chosen property is listed, it will come with its own further set of challenges. You’ll be limited in what you can do to the house, and these limitations can often apply to the interior as well as the exterior.

Consider whether you’d want to extend or significantly alter the layout of the house, and find out whether you’d be likely to get listed building consent.

Before taking on a period or listed property, be honest and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have the time and money required to complete the renovation works?
  • Are you prepared for any alterations to take longer than you expect?

If the answer is no, you’d be advised to walk away from your dream of period living. If however, you haven’t balked at any of this and answered a resounding yes – congratulations! You could be embarking on one of the most rewarding projects of your life.

Have you found your perfect period property to buy? Let us give you a no obligation quote for your conveyancing.

Freehold Leasehold
Mortgage No Mortgage
Freehold Leasehold
Mortgage No Mortgage


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