Love for old properties

Here we explore why and pinpoint the exact decade when older buildings began to cost more than their moden equivalents.

We were intrigued to discover when the love for old properties began. Were we asking ourselves an outlandish question? Could we find an answer? To find out we needed some evidence, data or proof, however you wish to define them. Now, it has been said that statistics are used as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination, and hence our foray into the interesting and intriguing world of statistics, which has provided us with some sobering conclusions. Our figures have been gleaned from various sources including Lloyds Banking Group, English Heritage and the property selling website Rightmove.

Firstly, we knew relating numerical data to love was always going to be a murky affair. But interpreting love as desirability, we soon discovered what we had already suspected – that we didn’t always value old properties. We still don’t in some areas, and there are massive regional variations in how we feel about them. A Victorian terrace in Salford for example does not have the same cachet as an identical house in Richmond, London or Harrogate, Yorkshire.

Desirability is usually reflected in the price a property commands. So in our first illustration, we examine when older houses became worth more than the average house by looking at house prices for houses built before 1919 and comparing them to house prices in general. We split this analysis by region and found that in London, older properties started to command a premium in 1989, closely followed by Scotland, the South West and East Anglia in 1992. Other regions were slower to follow, whilst in the North West, Wales and North Yorkshire and Humberside, older houses do not cost more than the average house; from which we can conclude that in those areas of the UK, people do not prefer older houses.

We then looked at variations in house prices depending on whether a house was in a town or city centre or the suburbs, and in which era the house was built. And we found that a three bedroom Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian house was more likely to be closer to the centre of a town and that was one contributing factor to its perceived value. We can also assume desirability might be influenced by pleasant architecture and rarity.

In our third illustration we examined how many properties have been listed per decade, as the action of listing a building reflects the desire to protect it. We found that listings only really got going in the 1950s and reached a peak in the 1980s due to the public outcry over the destruction of the 1920s Firestone Building in London. In the 1980s there were more than two hundred thousand buildings listed. In every decade more Georgian buildings were listed than any other type, with Victorian buildings following a close second - we only examined Georgian, Victorian and 20th Century buildings for our analysis as anything that pre dates Georgian would be almost certainly listed because of its rarity and not on its merits.

In our fourth illustration we looked at when Victorian houses rather than public buildings were listed and compared this to Georgian house listings. We found that, in support of our earlier chart, a great number of Victorian houses that are now listed were listed in the 1980s (43%), the 1970s (20%) and the 1960s (10%).

The conclusion we reached is that loving old properties and wanting to protect them is a fairly new phenomenon but one that is gathering momentum and spreading regionally with London taking up the gauntlet.


When did we fall in love with old preperties?