How to choose a surveyor for a listed building

A period property can make a wonderful home and may also be a shrewd investment. The building’s original features, size and location impart a unique character that modern homes simply cannot deliver. Nearly two thirds of participants in a recent lifestyle study cited this as the key appeal of older homes.

These special architectural qualities coupled with the limited supply of historical buildings go some way to explain their premium pricing in the housing market. As one estate agent puts it, ‘period properties in the UK are like a fine wine’. According to the Halifax, properties constructed before 1919 grew by 461% in value between 1986 and 2011 – and that was 10 years ago. However, just like with any property (or wine!), there are good ones and bad ones.

One of the most responsible things you can do as a property buyer is to get a home survey before you buy. That way, you get a clear idea of the condition of the building including any issues you should be aware of and remedial action you should take. While the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offer a suite of templated home surveys that are perfectly adequate for most buildings, when it comes to listed buildings, specialist expertise is absolutely essential.

There are roughly ½ million properties in the UK that have been given listed designation, over 90% of which are Grade II listed. Whether you have your heart set on a Tudor cottage or an Edwardian mansion, a Georgian townhouse or a Victorian rectory, if it has listed status, the skills required to expertly survey buildings of this type are clearly different to those needed for a modern property.

H+R provides offers a wide range of services to private householders and property owners including pre-purchase listed building surveys to help manage this risk. As market leaders in environmental investigations and minimally invasive surveying techniques with a focus on architectural conservation and preservation, our surveyors and building engineers deal with historic properties and listed buildings on a daily basis.

If you are looking for the best building surveyor to help with your purchase of a listed building, these are the qualities we highly recommend you look for:

Professional qualifications

In addition to RICS membership (MRICS) or fellowship (FRICS), look out for other relevant specialist certifications such as the Register of RICS Certified Historic Building Professionals which lists RICS surveyors with Building Conservation Accreditation.

Of course, formal qualifications are only one indicator of the service quality you can expect to receive from your building surveyor. To find a competent professional surveyor with experience in old buildings, it is important to research their actual work so that you can gauge their suitability for your listed building.

Take a look at the H+R team page where you will find extensive information about our team members’ breadth of academic and professional backgrounds and expertise, as well as their personal interests.

Specialist expertise

When it comes to surveying old properties, historic homes or non-standard buildings, specialist knowledge and experience is worth its weight in gold. Do look for solid evidence to back up any claims of listed building expertise to ensure that the surveyor you are instructing really is an expert in the field. Consider the following questions:

  • Do they have an advanced knowledge of traditional building materials and methods such as timber framing, lime mortar, traditional plasters or linseed paint? A lack of awareness or, worse, recommending modern construction methods and materials for a period building can do untold long-term damage.
  • Are they trained in the use of advanced surveying tools and techniques for historic properties, including thermal imaging, drone surveys and other non-invasive testing methods? Beware of any surveyor claiming to be an expert in listed buildings who uses nothing more than a basic damp meter.
  • Can they demonstrate a passion for our national architectural heritage? Look for clues such as active involvement with the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), The Landmark Trust, Historic England, CADW, Historic Environment Scotland or similar bodies.

Building surveys offered

Residential building surveys typically follow the RICS model, of which the RICS Building Survey (formerly known as a Full Structural Survey) is the most comprehensive investigation available. It is aimed at older or larger properties, or buildings that have undergone significant alterations in the past, or where major works are planned.

With historic homes and listed buildings, no two are the same, which makes a templated survey approach unsuitable. Your structural building survey must not only consider the size, age and condition of the property, it should also specifically address its unique building characteristics and methods of construction.

At H+R, we offer bespoke listed building surveys that are designed around the particularities of the individual building as well as the specific needs of the client. As a company, we specialise in historic property surveying, with an interdisciplinary team of building professionals who can handle a diverse portfolio of work including this 18th century barn conversion and this Georgian terraced house.

For more information about any of our services, to discuss the purchase of your next period home or your requirements for a listed building survey, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.