How old is my house?

How old is my house?

Whether out of personal curiosity or for the purposes of taking out building insurance, there comes a point when we would all like to know how old our house is. When you were moving in you might have been told your house was a period property, and maybe you nodded along knowingly because it sounds rather nice. But do most of us really know what that actually means?

As always we’re here to clear things up and help you figure out just how old your house actually is.

Check HM Land Registry

The first place to check when trying to find out how old your house is is to check the Land Registry. The Land Registry is essentially where the government keeps track of all the records of land ownership (Title Registers). The Land Registry does not have records of what is built on the land, just who owns the land itself. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to figure out how old your house is.

If you own your house, you should already have your Title Register (the Deed to your land). Your Title Register will have the date of when the land was originally transferred from the property developer to the first owner. This is the best guess for working out how old your house is. The house may not have been built on exactly this date, but it was probably pretty close.

If you’re wondering who owns the land your house is built on, you can check out our blog ‘What is a freeholder?

If you don’t have your Title Register, you can register an account online with the Land Registry, pay £3 and download it straight from their website. You can pay £3 more to get the ‘Title Plan’, which shows you the boundaries of your land, and another £9 to get more information about any flood risks to your land.

Using the Land Registry is the quickest way to figure out the age of a house built fairly recently, but it may not be as useful if you think your house is very old. The first property to be registered in the UK was in 1863, but it wasn’t until 1993 that everything was digitised. This means that you should be able to find out how old your house is up to 1993 fairly easily. A lot of properties are even registered back to the 1800s, but the dates of land ownership might not help you find out quite how old the house itself is. You might have to do a bit more digging if you think you have an old house.

Ask around

If you think your house is really old or you want to find out a more exact date that the house was built, you might want to start looking a little bit closer. The simplest way to do this is to ask around the local area for anyone who might be able to help you.

Here are a few places you can ask to find out how old your house is:

  • The seller/previous owner - As part of a house sale, the seller should complete a ‘Seller’s Property Information Form’, which may contain the age of the property. If it doesn’t you can reach out anyway to see if they’ve done any research.
  • Your mortgage survey - Your mortgage survey may say how old your house is, as the age tends to be relevant to the value of your property.
  • Your local authority - You can contact your local authority to see if they have a record of when planning permission was granted to the property developer. This may not be as effective for much older buildings.
  • Your neighbours - Neighbours living in similar properties might know how old their house is, and can help you figure it out. Older neighbours may even remember your house being built, and can regale you with stories of their childhood playing in the field that used to be there.
  • Local historians - Local historians love to tell people how old their houses are. They might even be able to help you find old property records and photographs of your house.

If you’re still having trouble, it may be that you will struggle to find an exact date of when your house was built. That’s no reason to give up, though, because you might still be able to find out a more approximate age.

Look at the house and the surrounding area

A simple way of finding out how old your house is more generally is to look at the houses around you to see what period your house belongs to. For example, a lot of towns in Wales and northern England are old industrial towns with very uniform houses, built to service nearby mills and factories. If you can find out how when the industries were operating, you might be able to figure out how old the houses are.

On the other hand, larger cities that saw a lot of bombing during WW2 have much more of a mix of building styles, due to regeneration over the years. These properties tend to be registered more efficiently, though, so you may have more luck with finding records.

If you’re worried your house was built at a time when asbestos was particularly popular, you can check out our blog ‘Asbestos in houses UK

You may also find that your house is a ‘period property’, meaning it belongs to a particular time period and style of architecture. Finding out if your house is a period home and finding out how old it is go somewhat hand-in-hand.

If your house falls within any of these age brackets, it can be considered a period property, but you can also look up what these houses look like to see if your house fits into any of these categories:

  • Tudor 1480-1603
  • Stuart 1603-1714
  • Georgian 1714-1830
  • Victorian 1830-1901
  • Edwardian 1901-1914

Do some digging

There are a few more ways you can find out how old your house is, particularly if you think it’s a period property. It’s good to remember that the older your house is, the less likely it is to find an exact date that the house was built.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Search the 1862 Act Register, a list of 2,000 properties registered when the Land Registry first started. All the documents are online but it’s not a very simple search process.
  • Check local archives, such as parish records, to look into historical mentions of your house. It might even be worth trying to trace the names of property owners, rather than the property itself.
  • Look at old censuses to see if you can find the first time your house address was used
  • Look at the National Heritage List to see if you live in a listed building, these records are usually fairly detailed
  • Look at historical Ordnance Survey maps or more general maps of the area to see the first time your house appeared on the map

If you’re curious about what to do if your house is listed, you can check out our blog ‘Listed building Home Insurance’.

A few final tips…

Finding out the age of your house can range from a very simple process of looking up public records to a deep dive into the history of the local area. Either way, here are a few last things to remember on your search:

  • The Land Registry holds records of land ownership, not property ownership so, while it can help you find out how old your house is, it might not be the perfect solution.
  • Making the most of local knowledge could help you make much faster progress in finding out how old your house is than you might on your own.
  • If you think you live in a period property, you might be able to find out how old it is from historical records, photographs, and maps of the area.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.