Many prospective home-owners are tempted by the idea of living in a historic home but their property solicitors should make them aware of potential problems if the house could be anywhere near an archaeological site.
Carrying out comprehensive pre-sale searches is one of the essential tasks of a residential conveyancing lawyer and purchasers should be warned if the property, or its garden, could be subject to a minute examination by historians. Although it may add to the interest of living in the home, discovering ancient remains can add quite considerably to any building costs.
In old-established cities, such as London, where settlement has been going on for centuries and homes have been built on the foundations of previous ones, it is not uncommon for artefacts from earlier generations to be found in gardens or when extensions are being built, but even modern homes could be hiding unexpected treasures.
The Romans built roads, villas and towns right across England and evidence of their civilisation is still being discovered; particularly in country areas and now that archaeological techniques are becoming more sophisticated.
All local authorities have officers who are delegated to monitor historic sites within their areas to protect them from unsympathetic development, supervise any digs, recover finds, and advise property developers and individuals on their legal obligations.
English Heritage, the Government-backed body which advises and protects more than 400 buildings and areas of land within England, maintains links with all local authorities and helps professionals and individuals, especially those involved in planning.
A householder who wants to extend their home and seeks planning permission may get the first inkling that their property is in a historic setting when a condition of approval is set as the obtaining of an archaeologist’s report.
Property owner may need an archaeologist’s report
The property owner will have to pay for this report, which may vary considerably in the amount of detail required, and should be commissioned from the most suitable archaeologist as advised by the council. Costs for this could be up to £500 but if nothing significant is noted, the building project is likely to be allowed from that point of view.
However, if further site visits are needed or an actual dig to check what is below the potential building area, then more costs are likely to be incurred. As well as the professional charges of the archaeologist’s services, if anything major is found, the local authority will be keen to see it preserved.
For example, should the floor plan of a Roman villa be found beneath the site of a kitchen extension, the planners will recommend that the ground be protected and undisturbed, but that the modern work could continue above it if a specialist foundation is laid so that the ancient evidence of a previous occupier is not damaged.
One fortunate aspect of being the householder of such a site is that any artefacts which are found will belong to the property owner. However, local museums are always keen to encourage such items be donated for public exhibition, unless they are exceptionally valuable.
If a house is more than 200 years old, it is quite likely to be officially listed as being of historic or architectural interest or may be in a conservation area, either of which could throw up further complications for a new owner in terms of maintenance of the building and any possible extensions to it.
An experienced property solicitor who investigates the full history of a site will be able to offer advice on all the likely problems which may occur for buildings with these designations.
Buying a historic home with Healys solicitors of London and Brighton
Whatever the age of the home you wish to buy and whether it is in the centre of a city such as London or Brighton or elsewhere in the UK, our team of residential conveyancing solicitors can help you with the legal requirements, including all searches, for you to be happy in your new home.
Buying a historic home can be a little more complicated than a standard conveyancing transaction but 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, email partner Kiri Kkoshi, telephone 020 7822 4148 or associate solicitor Darina Gowen telephone01273 669 115.