How to Work Out the age of a Property
If you’re thinking about purchasing a property or contemplating putting your house up for sale, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible before doing anything. One of th...
If you’re thinking about purchasing a property or contemplating putting your house up for sale, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible before doing anything. One of the important things you need to establish is its age, as this will have an impact on its market value. Insurers will want to know the age too before agreeing on any policy. Older properties often need more extensive renovation work, something that needs to be taken into account before any purchase or sale.
If you’re selling a house, it might be worth carrying out a renovation beforehand in order to add value and to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. If you’re looking for an investment, it makes sense to know what you’re letting yourself in for ahead of the purchase. Should a property require extensive renovation, this will impact on the amount you should spend, since an expensive refurb could drastically cut your profit margin. Some people are only interested in purchasing older properties that need a lot of work as they see this as a much better profit prospect than properties that have already been renovated.
Often, the most affordable properties are repossessed homes, which have been reclaimed by lenders after the mortgagee defaulted on payments. The previous owner may have left the house in a bad condition, meaning renovation work is essential if the property is to be made habitable. Age is relevant here. If you’re dealing with an old property that has been left in a poor condition, this may create the ‘perfect storm’ from a renovation perspective. Such houses may cost a significant amount of money to bring back onto the market but if you get it cheap enough they can also have huge profit potential.
How to establish the age of a property
If the developer who built it did not sell the property in question, the Land Registry will not hold any information about its age. This is because the agency only keeps records of land ownership, not of what is actually built on the land. As such, it will be necessary to use an alternative way of gauging the age.
As a potential purchaser, you can acquire this information in a number of ways. The first – and arguably the most straightforward way – is to ask the seller or their agent to see if they know. They may have details relating to the age of the property, and this will be included on the ‘Seller’s property information form’ in the event of a transaction. Asking these parties first can potentially save you time and money.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), the title deeds and conveyances of your house and its associated plans are also a good starting point. It says there may also be evidence through restrictive covenants of neighbouring properties (these are legal obligations placed on the deed). ‘For example, you may have a covenant that states you must keep your boundary in good repair,’ says Rics. ‘These papers may not tell you exactly when a building was built, but a series of them may help, especially when linked with planning consents.’
Existing owners may already have age information if they have a mortgage: the survey may indicate the age of the property. Alternatively, the local authority may have a record of when planning permission was granted for certain works. Although this may not offer entirely accurate information as to when the first resident moved in, it should give you a rough idea.
Another option is to ask people who live in neighbouring properties. If the houses share the same architectural features and look like they were built at the same time, it may be fairly simple to discover the age of your building by knocking on a few doors.
Finding out the age of older properties
Establishing the age of older properties can be more complicated. There may or may not be parish records or information at the local county record offices, which documents held at the local library could shed light on. Where there is no official record of when the property was built, one option is to make an estimation based upon its individual features. Clues as to the age of the property may exist in the type of roof structure, angle and materials used to build it, as well as the positioning of the windows.
Checking earlier editions of Ordnance Survey maps could provide the answer, particularly if these documents are available for every year. Since the property in question will only appear on the map when it was built, this should reveal the date of construction. However, early Ordnance Survey maps may not have been drawn up regularly enough to narrow the age down any further than to within 10 years. ‘Local history and local or national conservation organisations, such as English Heritage and the National Trust, can also help point you in the right direction,’ says Rics.
If you suspect the property was built at some point after 1841, census information may be of assistance. This is available from a number of sources, including the National Archives, and could help identify any first mention of the address. Taken alongside map information or other evidence, it can help pinpoint the year when the property was built.
Discovering the age of some properties is quite a straightforward task if you know where to look. Often there will be a ‘golden record’ that proves beyond any shadow of doubt the year in which the building was erected. This may be on the public record, be documented in photographs or even found in anecdotal evidence.
With older properties, the task may be more difficult, but this doesn’t mean it is impossible. There will always be clues as to when a building was erected – it may just mean you have to use your super detective powers to uncover a more accurate picture. If you are dealing with a property that is several hundreds of years old, you should be able to narrow down the date to within a certain period, giving you valuable insight into the structure and design, as well as meeting the requirements of the building insurers.
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