Considering buying a Victorian property - pitfalls?

Discussion in 'Finance, Property, Law' started by CRmeansCeilingReached, Feb 11, 2012.

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  1. We're off to view a large Victorian-era detached house next week. Upsides - tons of space, big garden, lovely big living area, near town centre amenities etc, 2 x open fireplaces. In broad terms, it doesn't require extension and will provide us family space until the kids are grown up and have flown the nest.

    What concerns me is the (presumably) higher maintenance and utility costs. I'm expecting the EPC to be horrendous (not yet seen, only just gone on the market), annual heating costs to be extortionate (especially with two chimneys!). Have not yet confirmed the state of electrics, plumbing, roof, chimneys, boiler etc but it looks well-maintained from the few shots I've seen. However, I'm anticipating that there will be a far higher level of niggling maintenance required over the years.

    I've read various guides and have just ordered the Haynes manual (noduff) from Amazon. Has anyone got personal experience of owning / renting a Victorian property? Any particular bad experiences? Any guesstimate for annual heating costs for a 4 bedroom, 3 reception room detached Victorian? (no idea about existing insulation etc yet).

    Any other pitfalls associated with Victorian properties of which I should be aware? e.g. insurance costs etc?
  2. Work-house kids falling down the chimney every so often.
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  3. So I should factor in the cost of a small crash-mat at the bottom of each chimney?
  4. If it has a cellar, you will be fine.
  5. is that a general observation, or connected with the chimney sweeps?
  6. Good chance of:
    Old wiring
    Lead piping
    No damp proof course
    Draughty Sash Windows
    cracked ceilings

    You may need
    secondary glazing unless the planners allow PVC windows
    The services of a good electrician
    Get rid of the lead piping (scrap value?)
    Silicone inject damp proof course
    Check the roof for insulation and may not have felt under battens

    Apart from that it's just about the best place for kids, they can't do too much damage.
  7. samm1551

    samm1551 Old-Salt Book Reviewer

    I have never owned a Victorian place, and probably never will because my husband is not into that sort of house. However, I used to be a mortgage underwriter so my first thought would be to get a full building survey (previously known as Structural) if you do want to buy. The last thing you want to do is buy it with a half hearted survey only to find that there are some serious issues that need rectifying asap. Especially with young kids in tow. Plus if you have one done and work does need doing you could always negotiate hard with the vendors.

    From experience I have seen a few surveys on Victorian houses and for the most they have been structurally sound, but like people, every house is different.

    **slinks off to the corner feeling extremely jealous because her stupid husband wants to buy a 2 year old house**
  8. thanks, I've already factored in £1000 for full structural survey - possibly from someone specialising in surveying Victorian properties?

    DJB - I'll be asking the estate agent on monday for details about damp-proof course, insulation etc, will try and get a modern history of work completed on the house. all but two small windows have been replaced with UPVC double glazing. cheers for the checklist.
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  9. I live in a re-furbished Victorian hospital.

    Make sure that there are no building regs around appearance of building, in particular the dreaded 'listed' status. If you get a whiff of them ask for confirmation that approval has been sought for the UPVC installation.
    Cannot give you any advice on the interior aspects of living and the costs. Our place is Grade II and has been gutted and throughly modernised inside. From bitter experience if you have any ceilings in your hallway that go higher than an average ladder factor in how much redecoration is going to cost. the near 30 ft high ceiling above our hallway and stairs are more than a little above the ability of the average DIY'er for decoration :-(
  10. I'd sooner live in that sort of place than a modern house. For a start the walls will be brick instead of plasterboard, it'll have proper wood floors not chipboard etc etc.

    Fireplaces are fine. You can burn wood in them which is free if you ask in hte right places and plan properly. Key point though - close doors. They are there for a reason. Otherwise the fire that is lit will draw cold air through the ones that aren't.

    Nothing to stop you insulating the loft etc.

    I run a large two bedroom house* with fires in the sitting room, dining room and main bedroom. Costs about £30/ month in coal averaged across the year. Only usually put the central heating on for an hour morning and evening during midwinter.

    If you want the place like a sauna then you might be better with some modern chipboard ticky tacky house instead.

    *(i.e. it's large for a two bedroom place, rooms are about 16ft square.)
  11. I live in a 1870 4 bed Victorian pile in Suffolk, bloody thing is solid, when we had new build spent a fortune on upkeep, due to shoddy workmanship, thin walls, plasterboard etc and crap neighbours.
    in the pile it does cost more to heat, but worth it, just wear more jumpers,
    when we moved in had to spend money getting it up to scratch, but well worth it, and 9ft ceilings make it all worth while, plus the half acre of garden.
    yes it will in probability cost you a bit more, but you pay for quality
  12. i own a Victorian semi that had not been touched since the 1950s

    there are some good pointers that people have pointed out
    firstly a good survey of the house.

    check the wiring, ours had an old consumer unit and no earths to the lights or sockets, you will also notice that there will only be one socket in each room. (you are looking at over £3500 for a rewire)

    central heating, look at spending around £3000 for a decent combi boiler and radiators.

    the attics are massive, if you are thinking of converting in the next few years, get the plumbers and electricians to put the services in place up there. as it will save you a small fortune in the long run.

    flooring, check for dry rot, wet rot and woodworm, ours had all 3, you need to make sure that the vents are clear under the house to allow the air to circulate, if the floor bounces and squeaks under your foot the joist is rotten or on its way out, believe me i learned the hard way.

    if you keep the wooden floors, make sure you fill in all the gaps between the boards, as it will get chilly in the winter.
    last year our gas bill for the quarter, over winter was over £600.

    look at fitting wood burning stoves in the fireplaces, as this is handy in the winter months and keeps the bills down.

    check for rising damp as they didn't build on a proper foundation.

    for insulation most energy companies offer a discount to insulate the attic or even sell the insulation rolls for £3 each.
    you cant insulate the walls as there is no cavities.

    windows, if you can, fit double glazing, they also do upvc double glazing keeping with the Victorian theme. we had original windows fitted, and would give you an headache just looking through them, as everything looked warped and the glass had air bubbles in it.

    also we have all the original doors in the house, they suffer from alot of swelling and shrinkage when the seasons change!

    on the plus side of owning a Victorian house, it will be large, with high ceilings and character with all the old features, ours has all the original ceiling roses and plaster coving & decorative wood rails.

    it took us over a year in total to renovate but it was worth it
  13. Make sure the surveyor checks for dry rot properly ie , he lifts any carpets and checks floorboards and better still , the joists .Bath stone absorbs water like a sponge and causes dry rot , so if it is stone fronted , assume there may be a problem
    Also subsidence . If there are trees growing within say , 5-10 mts of the house
    they will suck up a lot of moisture , causing the clay to shrink and the house to subside.get him to check this carefully

    the Environment Agency agency website has a facility to check the flood risk in the area .Just put the postcode in and a map will flash up : Linky thing

    Environment Agency - Am I at risk of flooding?

    I would also have a look at the neighbourhood closely.Have all the other houses been carved up into bedsits , etc ?
    Internet speeds locally ?
    Is it a conservation area , can you put a sat dish up ( if you want one that is )
    Last : Don't believe a word the estate tells you .. They are mostly lying *****
    Hope this helps
  14. Get in a small jobbing builder, plumber etc to give the place a look- over.

    We can spot all sorts of problems, because the sellers often try to "hide" faults.... any hardboard or plywood boxing, get under the floor to check the joists etc.

    My first house, (which my first wife is still squatting in ) was a Victorian build and while I loved the space etc was an absolute money pit and a bugger to heat.

    Lot's of others have already given good advice, any 60's rip- out to modernise the place will cost a lot to restore, the idea of wood- stoves is a good one, open fires need at least 4 times the amount of fuel.
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  15. I bought a Victorian house in 1989. Many of the points raised here are exactly what we had to do ie rewire, damp roof course, refelt the roof, renew flashing in gulleys etc. Also the cold water tank may be lead/aluminium - cant recall what ours was but in order to replace it a large hole had to be cut in ceiling - worth checking that before any interior redecoration. Also if not already fitted consider a Ramsay ladder for easy access to attic. We couldnt make any major alteration as we were in a conservation areas. Had to stay with sash windows which were drafty in winter but maybe you have original shutters. Ours were painted up but was worth the effort to get them operational. One good upside was that the house held its value well and cant complain as we sold very well in 2006. Good luck.