Check the Deeds at the HM Land Registry
An easy way to find out the age of your house is to check the HM Land Registry records.
The HM Land Registry have historical ownership records called Title Registers (Deeds).
You can check the age of the property by seeing when the transfer was originally made from the property developer to the first owner.
You may already have a copy of the Title Register. This would have been sent a few months after you bought the property by your conveyancer.
If you need to know before buying, the estate agent, conveyancer or mortgage broker you’re working with will usually have a copy.
If not, click here (Land Registry eServices) and enter your postcode.
A list of properties on your street will appear (or you can enter the house number on the first screen in addition to the postcode).
You’ll then need to select ‘Title register’ (another term for the property deed), pay £3 and download the PDF.
Note that you will need to create an account (by filling a fairly simple online form).
For another £3, you can also download the ‘Title plan’ which shows the boundaries of the land surrounding the property. For £9, you can also download information regarding flood risks associated with the property.
Although it can be a slightly daunting document to look at, you’ll be able to see the age of the property near the top.
Usually, you’re looking for the first section ‘A: Property Register’.
In brackets, after number ‘1’ (in brackets), you’ll find a date as to when the property was first registered.
Although the property may not have been built on this date, it’s likely that it would have been around that time.
Note that the older deeds may be formatted differently and, even if the sale was private, you should be able to trace a copy (unless the property is unregistered).
Observe the Architectural Style and Characteristics
There may be cases where the property has not been registered in the past. Or there may be older deeds where the registration date is not stated.
If this is the case with you, it’s reasonably easy to make an educated guess by simply looking at some of the building’s general characteristics.
The UK is well-known for having a wide variety of differing house types, but there are certain architectural trends that will give you a good idea as to when it was built.
Although there are some parts where properties back to as early as the 12th century (in Bath for example), most of the country’s housing stock dates back five centuries at most.
If you’re lucky, you may sometimes find a date stone which displays when at least part of it was built.
Failing that, let’s look at some styles of UK houses since the late 1400s…
Tudor Homes (1485-1603)
These properties are uniquely British looking and quite easily recognisable.
Although they come in all shapes and sizes, some of the common characteristics include:
- Thatched or, more commonly these days, tiled roofs that are often steep;
- Tall chimneys and enclosed fireplaces;
- Less symmetrical (compared to subsequent eras);
- Small-paned casement windows;
- Overhanging jetties above the street or land underneath;
- Exposed timber frames (usually painted black or dark brown);
- Although some Tudor house structures may have been replaced with modern alternatives, many still are ‘half-timbered’;
- ‘E’ or ‘H’ shape internal layouts;
- Most of the building is painted white or another pale colour.
Although it’s quite obvious, many Edwardian and modern-era properties employ ‘mock Tudor’ panelling, particularly at the upper part of the building. You will usually see that the roof and other parts of the building are more modern, which is usually a giveaway.
Stuart/Jacobean Homes (1603-1714)
This era of housebuilding was influenced by European architecture.
Stuart and Jacobean buildings employed significantly more durable stone and bricks (as opposed to timber).
Below are some other characteristics to look out for:
- Flat fronted with bare mismatching bricks;
- Symmetrical layouts;
- Spacious with high ceilings (elegantly plastered);
- Sash window features;
- Some have external cornicing;
- Larger properties from this period often have separate servants quarters (often now used as utility rooms);
- Large living rooms (former parlours);
- Wide fireplaces.
Georgian Homes (1714-1820)
Georgian properties can be seen in all their glory towards the centre and west of London and come with a hefty price tag these days. Number 10 Downing Street is a good example.
These houses have always been a sign of wealth and draw notable influences from the classical Palladian style.
Some of the most common features include:
- Three or more storeys;
- Smooth-rendered or running bond brick facades;
- Centrally positioned rectangular windows, often sashed;
- Stucco cornices and front exterior;
- Large entrances and doors;
- Greek-styled motifs above windows and doors (a trend that continued into the 19th century);
- Very spacious interiors and large bedrooms;
- High ceilings;
- Large reception rooms with fireplaces
- Cast-iron railings at the front;
- Small rooms and windows with lower ceilings on the upper floors;
- Often have basements (formerly used for kitchens, sculleries and coal storage)
Victorian Homes (1837-1900)
Queen Victoria’s reign saw unprecedented growth in housebuilding, particularly as the onset of the Industrial Revolution enabled housing to become more financially accessible.
Victorian homes vary in size from larger properties with multiple reception rooms to smaller and much simpler buildings built for the working classes.
It’s common to see rows of terraced houses on narrow streets (sometimes without a front garden).
Moreso in the Midlands and North, there are also back-to-back houses which often have no or a very small garden area.
Some of the common characteristics of Victorian properties include:
- High ceilings;
- Large bay windows;
- Asymmetric architecture;
- Red-coloured brickwork;
- Entrance door to the left or right of the façade;
- Styled gabel trims;
- Arches (more common with the larger properties);
- Colourful geometric tiling in the larger properties (which remains fashionable today);
- Wooden plank floors;
- Ornate internal and external coving;
- Patterned gypsum plaster cornices;
- Stained glass features
- Large fireplaces;
- Victorian properties in working-class areas formerly had outdoor toilets which are now used as sheds, mancaves or simply removed;
- Dado rails running across the property.
It’s worth noting that different parts of the same property date back to different eras. For example, it’s not unusual for a Georgian property to have a Victorian extension and then to have experienced further renovations in the mid 20th century.
Queen Anne Era Homes (1880-1900)
Initially formed during Queen Anne’s 18th-century reign, these buildings began to reappear over the last quarter of the 19th century.
Some of the loose characteristics include:
- Steps leading to a wide and stone-framed doorway;
- Timber hoods over the door and wide porches;
- Symmetrically-positioned sash windows, flush with running bond brickwork;
- Stone masonry elevated corners;
- Windows with glazing bars;
- Terracotta tiles and panels;
- Tile hung upper stories;
- Ornately designed external features (limestone);
- Some have external wood features.
Edwardian Homes (1900-1918)
As the British middle classes continued to grow, homebuilding during the Edwardian became more widespread.
Standing well against the test of time, many of these lovely properties exist across the country today.
These homes are reminiscent of Victorian properties but tend to have less ornate characteristics.
They were often built on the urban outskirts and with, large front and back garden spaces, make excellent family homes.
Other common characteristics include:
- High ceilings and airiness across the property;
- Red brickwork;
- Mock Tudor cladding and wooden fascias;
- Architecturally influenced by the handmade arts and crafts movement of the time – much more so than the Victorian era;
- Wide hallways;
- Herringbone oak flooring;
- French windows opening out to the garden;
- Dual aspect rooms (i.e. more than one window on a different wall);
- Simple internal fixtures.
Addison Homes (1919 Onwards)
In a post-war era, the UK witnessed a massive public drive for more affordable homes.
Addison homes were borne out of the Housing and Town Planning Act and councils took a significant role in building activities.
These properties were a lot simpler than their predecessors but and were well built.
Today, Addison homes are comfortable and benefit from having good-sized family gardens.
Here are some other general characteristics:
- Found in ‘garden estates’ in the suburbs;
- Set back away from pavements (to protect privacy);
- Usually 3/4 bed houses with simple configuration;
- Often red-bricked (running bond) or rendered / part-rendered;
- Wide windows and plenty of incoming light.
1930s Semi-Detached Houses
Family houses that embraced elements from previous eras often found in town and city commuter belts.
These properties are commonly found across the country today.
Some observable characteristics include:
- 2 storeys high, although many have been extended vertically;
- Recessed porches;
- Wide bay windows on both storeys;
- Some parts of the building may be pebble-dashed;
- Hipped roof;
- Often found on relatively quiet streets and have garages and off-street parking / driveways;
- Some have maintained original oak parquet flooring;
- Sometimes built in detached form;
- Due to their commonality, it’s relatively easy to ascertain the value of these kinds of properties.
Art Deco Homes (1920-1940)
A very unique architectural style borne out of French fashion influences of the time.
This experimental phase bought new materials, open plan living, flat roofs, style motifs and internal fittings.
Some of the other characteristics included:
- Smooth and sleek external surfaces;
- A mixture of rounded and sharp corners;
- Geometric designs including pyramid, chevron and zigzag shapes;
- Stucco, concrete and stainless steel features;
- Decorative features using aluminium, chrome, opaque plate glass blocks;
- Sharp contrasting colours;
- Large windows and plenty of incoming light.
Airey Houses (1943-1950)
In a similar vein to Addison homes, these prefabricated homes were built en masse after the second world war.
Properties or significant elements of properties were produced in factories then delivered on-site for connecting to utilities and finishing.
Some recognisable characteristics include:
- Concrete columns and beams;
- Horizontally overlapped panelling, tied to the concrete columns (known as ‘shiplap’);
- Smaller windows compared to its predecessors;
- Pitched roof with interlocking tiles (on felt and battens).
Sadly, Airey houses have not stood the test of time and many have been neglected. The precast concrete systems are now listed in the Housing Defects Act 1984.
They’re now recognised as not be sufficiently watertight as well as being prone to corrosion and rust.
Although there have been attempts to remodel these properties over the last 20 years, they’re still deemed as risky and unmortgageable.
For this and other technical reasons, mortgage companies these days refuse to lend on these properties.
1960s Style Homes (1960-1970)
Continuing with the government objectives to deliver affordable houses, many of these properties remain across the UK.
The 1960s saw combined private and council housebuilding levels reaching over 400,000 a year.
Some of the common characteristics include:
- Two or three storeys;
- Hanging tiles;
- Weatherboarding (plastic or waterproof timber);
- Rectangular or L-shaped;
- Open plan kitchen/dining room and separate living room;
- Concrete flooring (as slabs);
- Insulation (properties in this era were some of the first to have this).
80s, 90s and Noughties New Build
Embrace traditional features and characteristics of Victorian and Edwardian properties, but with a modern twist.
As well as being quite easily recognisable, tracing the year of construction is usually possible by contacting the developer.
Some of the common characteristics include:
- Modern red / yellow brickwork with neat mortaring;
- Mainly semi-detached and terraced as well as 3-storey townhouses;
- Some have mock Tudor or horizontal wood panelling;
- Lower ceilings compared to properties built in previous eras;
- Reinforced clay tile roofs;
- Many have garages and driveways / front gardens.
Modern Minimalist Homes
Today, modern architecture has taken bold moves spurred by demands for higher environmental standards and the latest design trends.
Although beyond the financial means of many, it’s not unrealistic to expect many of the features to filter into the wider housebuilding sector in years to come.
Some of the notable characteristics of modern minimalist homes include:
- Energy efficiency standards / heat loss minimisation (including heat exchanges)
- Airy clean finishes with simple decoration and little clutter;
- Open plan layouts;
- Exposed steelwork;
- Designed cladding and wood panelling;
- Modern triple-glazed technology;
- Large windows / glass walls;
- Solar panels.
Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)
Over the last decade, the housing shortage has spurred developers to think about ways to return to mass production without compromising on quality standards.
Many of these units follow the same architectural features of the 1990s and 2000s, whilst embracing energy efficiency standards.
Similar to decades past, much of the pre-fabricated structure is built off-site and transported to development sites to assemble.
Time will tell whether these modular technologies will enable the successful scaled delivery of new homes the country needs, particularly in the south. We hope they do.
As these projects have been rolled out in recent years, it’s unlikely your house would have been built entirely using these technologies.
Check the Property’s Surroundings
Another way to get an idea of the era your property was built is to look at the surrounding area. This is likely to be easier in less urbanised areas where property types tend to be more uniform.
For instance, some buildings were created for a special purpose…
Does your town have an industrial past? Is your property virtually identical to numerous others – and are the houses positioned in neat rows?
If so, you may live in an old mill or factory worker’s cottage, purpose-built for employees of a local business during the industrial revolution.
If you live in areas such as London, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Southampton, Coventry, Hull, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff, Clydebank or Belfast, it’s likely that your local area may have suffered bombing during the second world war.
As a result, your property may look different to many around it, suggesting that it was built to replace a home destroyed in the blitz.
The building in which you live may have been entirely repurposed. Across the UK, you’ll find old hospitals, office blocks, mills, factories, mansions and public houses that have been converted into flats.
In many cases, features of the old buildings will have been retained for interest – or you may find evidence of their original use if you explore the surrounding land.
Otherwise, talking to neighbours and local residents – particularly pub owners and regulars, hoteliers and other individuals with a good grasp of goings-on within the community – may help you to get hold of a few leads.
Other Historical Investigations
If you’re still struggling to find out to establish the age, you may have to dig a little deeper.
Here are some pointers that should help you on your way…
- Check out census returns made at ten-year intervals between 1841 and 1911 to find the first mention of the address;
- See if your house is listed in Historic England’s National Heritage List or CADW’s National Historic Assets of Wales. Grade I, II and III listed buildings receive various amounts of government protection, meaning you can take steps to make sure it’s preserved for future generations;
- Explore historical editions of Ordnance Survey maps;
- Old Maps is a great resource too. It’s a collection of official maps from different periods of history, covering large sections of the UK. You can search them in detail using your postcode;
- It’s worth asking previous conveyancers if the date is specified in previous seller’s Property Information Forms (TA6);
- Similarly, previous mortgage and insurance documents will have the year;
- Check the National Archives for information about your property’s history;
- Most libraries have maps and other archives of your local area through the years. You may see your house suddenly appear, helping you to narrow down the date of its construction;
- Fire insurance maps date back to 1885 (accessible at the British Library);
- Country record offices may also have access to archives and other resources on local property history;
- There may also be a local history society where you may find out what you need;
- It may be a long shot, but try Googling ‘age of house’ and the name of your street;
- Many towns and cities have local forums. It’s sometimes worth asking on those;
- In a similar vein, ask neighbours – especially those that have lived in the area for a while and/or have properties that look like yours;
- Local estate agents established in the area may be able to shed some light;
- If there are any museums or tourist offices nearby, it could be worth asking there;
- You may want to contact a local surveyor, although many would not want to divulge anything for free;
- Perhaps a long shot, but it could be worth checking the 2,000 properties lodged in the 1862 Act register;
- Another long shot, but historical tax records sometimes contain details of when a property was built.
Use Google Maps (Street View)
Whilst only valid for properties built since 2008, Google Maps (Street View) enables you to see external shots of properties and land over the years.
You can use the tool to view any pre-existing buildings / land sites and move through time to see when the property was built.
Even if your property was built prior to 2008, it can be useful to virtually explore Street View to see other buildings in the area. You can then use the guidelines above to get a ‘feel’ for the area and ascertain the year when neighbouring properties were built.
Together with this, if there have been some developments in the local area that were not there until recently, it’s worth reaching out to your local council (and speak to the Planning Department). Although they’re often busy and you may have to persevere, they’re more likely to have a good idea of the historical background of the buildings in the vicinity.
If you have no luck there, it’s sometimes worth seeing who the property developer, planning consultant or architect was. They’re likely to have a good knowledge of the area.
In terms of checking recent history, head to Google Maps. We often find it’s better to do this on a desktop computer, tablet or laptop.
To start, enter the full address of the property. Alternatively, you can insert the postcode and use your cursor to see the property.
By default, the Maps view will appear, and you can select the Satellite view by clicking on the small birds-eye image at the bottom. After that, you can either click on the photo itself or drag the yellow man (at the bottom right) to where the property is located on the street. You’ll then see the street view and scroll along the date line how things looked then and now.
As an example, here’s what appears to be a Victorian property in South London back in 2015:
Here’s a Street View image of during its demolition:
Here’s a more recent Street View image of the new build flats:
As time passes, Google will be collating a huge volume of data which should make the process of finding this information out easier.
Whilst we appreciate that you’re probably reading this post for house insurance purposes, you may find that delving into the past of your property becomes fascinating, humbling and surprising.
Using the methods listed above, we think you’ll be able to not only determine the age of your property and the date of construction but to find out a little more about its earlier uses and residents.
Beyond this, not only is researching your property’s history a (dare we say it!) fun activity, but it can help you decide how to decorate your home and may enable you to raise the asking price a little when selling. It can also help you to understand the risks involved in the renovation of a building of that age.
Upon finding out the age of their property, some homeowners make the decision to uncover or restore old features to give their home a stronger sense of identity and to honour its past.
Please note that, whilst we’re happy to assist in any way we can, Property Solvers is primarily a sell house fast company and property auction specialist. However, if you’re really struggling, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to assist as best we can.