Precautions when buying an unusual home such as a windmill or lighthouse

17th January 2015 by

The idea of buying an unusual home such as a former windmill, lighthouse, electricity sub-station or old church is a dream for many people. It could however have a number of legal pitfalls requiring the services of an experienced residential conveyancing solicitor.

If a building has not previously been used for residential purposes but has the potential after renovation, then the first job for a potential purchaser is to consult the local authority planning department with regards to gaining permission for a change of use, and whether conversion to a home would require any other approvals.

A detailed report by a surveyor and an architect may well be needed if extensive reconstruction is envisaged and work will need to comply with all current building regulations.

Obtaining a mortgage on a non-residential conversion will depend on compliance with local authority rules and guidance as well as the usual ability by the potential home-owner to meet the building society or bank’s lending criteria.

Consulting a number of lenders and a mortgage broker should help to find a suitable property loan but the purchaser’s case for funds is likely to be stronger if they can prove the eventual worth of the conversion by providing a report from an experienced valuer or estate agent.

As part of a purchaser’s research before buying an unusual home, the building’s history, legal ownership, available services and access are all aspects which need thorough investigation to ensure that a new residential use will be viable.

Boundaries, covenants and other pitfalls

In particular, an experienced residential conveyancing solicitor should be consulted for advice on investigating ownership, title deeds and access as these are likely to be more complicated than when buying a conventional house or flat.

Boundaries of the site may be an issue and the existence of neighbours’ covenants could restrict usage of the land and buildings. Other pitfalls might include a requirement to allow a service user, such as a water company, to continue maintenance rights across the site.

In those instances, a legal agreement to protect the interests of the new owner of the property may be needed.

If a property has been officially listed as of architectural or historic value, there may be restrictions placed on external or internal renovation.

Once these extra searches have been completed, the purchase should be able to go ahead. Extensive conversion work may entail staged payments by the mortgagor in a similar way to finance for a self-build home and the purchaser’s lawyer will handle the transfers for this in an efficient manner.

Buying an unusual home with Healys

Whether you want to buy an old school, a windmill or a barn in London, Brighton or elsewhere in the UK, our team of residential conveyancing solicitors can help you with the legal requirements necessary in achieving your dream home.

Although the procedure with buying a non-residential property can be more complicated than a standard conveyancing transaction, Healys has the expertise and, thanks to its links with other professionals and the skills across its general legal practice, the ability to advise and give practical assistance.

For more information and advice on costs of Healys’ conveyancing services, you can request a call-back via the website or email