Q. Should I even be considering buying a period property in these eco-conscious times – and if so, what are the main issues I need to think about?
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A. First of all, relax. For all the undeniable practical advantages of living in a brand spanking new house or apartment, there are still plenty of people who value the sheer charm and character of period homes. And long may they do so.
As for energy efficiency and general eco-friendliness…it almost goes without saying that you can expect energy consumption to be higher than in a hermetically-sealed new property. I say “almost” because not so long ago, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings published some research revealing that standard industry energy evaluations considerably underestimate the energy efficiency of some traditional walls such as “cob” – a variation on the age-old method of building out of mud and straw which is naturally cool in summer and warm in winter.
But in any case, there is always the argument that the construction of the ultimate “eco-home” almost certainly uses up more of the Earth’s rapidly dwindling resources than patching up a house that has already been in existence for hundreds of years…
Issues to be aware of? Well the most obvious one is probably the cost of maintenance. Despite the fact that many period properties have been exceptionally well-modernised., there’s no denying that this is going to be substantially higher than for a modern home. That’s clearly something you need to take into account. However, for many people, renovating and caring for such places is very much part of the appeal.
Nevertheless, buying a period property is not something to be undertaken lightly. You need to enter into it with your eyes fully open, and appreciate that there are invariably going to be unforeseen problems which need resolving. For that reason, I would strongly recommend setting aside adequate funds, specifically to ensure that the house is maintained and passed on to the next owner in a well cared-for fashion.
Always have a surveyor – preferably one that specialises in period properties – check things out thoroughly before committing yourself. You also need to make sure whether or not a property is listed, since this will significantly affect what you can and can’t do to it.
All this may sound a trifle daunting. But as long as you approach things carefully and gain expert advice at every stage, there’s no reason whatsoever why you shouldn’t buy a period home – and enjoy every minute of living there.