When you buy a listed building, you are taking on its preservation responsibilities. Buyers should be aware of the possibility of later remodeling or refurbishment work. Discover what historic building owners need to know.

Buildings from bygone eras serve as memorials to historical events, artistic achievements, or social and technological achievements. The cantons in Switzerland have the discretion to record these buildings on inventory lists and to place them under monument protection. Depending on the monument, the canton determines how much protection is needed and assesses or encourages structural measures.

Renovations must take monument preservation into account

If a building is to maintain its historical character, renovations must be approved by the cantonal monument preservation office. To find out if a property is subject to monument protection, speak to the vendor or municipality before purchase.

Protection levels

The Monument Preservation Office or municipal administration of each canton maintains a list of building inventory in each municipality. Renovating property owners can submit evidence in support of the inclusion of their building in the building inventory.

Buildings at least 30 years old can be considered for protection or preservation in the building inventory. Generally, all cantonal properties deserve protection. A “listed” building refers to one that has been entered into the land register by contract or by a resolution of a cantonal council. All renovation work on these buildings must also be notified to the cantonal monument preservation office.

Conditions imposed by the cantonal monument preservation office can be difficult to predict. Any modification of the building’s structure can be prohibited by the office, for example. A specialist office might not permit the inside walls to be painted if the facade is protected.

Renovation planning

  • As part of your planning process, contact the cantonal monument preservation office. Consultations are free and will give you an idea of which modifications are compatible with monument protection, and which are unlikely to be approved. Financial support is also available.
  • Talk to an architect who has experience with monument preservation. He will prepare the documents for filing the building application.
  • Upon submitting the building application to your municipality, it will be examined and forwarded to the cantonal monument preservation office for review.
  • Work on the renovation project can begin once the building permit is granted.
  • Afterward, the municipality approves the construction project.

Specialists should estimate renovation costs

When restoring hardwood floors in a historical building, costs can exceed expectations. It is advisable to choose a financing solution that offers flexible repayment rates since it is difficult to predict the progress of a renovation. In some cases, an insulation layer should be placed under the floorboards, which means that the floorboards should be removed and reinstalled correctly.

Listed building owners are eligible for subsidies

In addition to preserving value, subsidies apply to the improvement of that value. Unless you receive a monument preservation subsidy, work done to preserve the value of the property is tax-deductible. If you are interested in financial assistance, you must contact the cantonal specialist office.

History can be a fascinating experience, but not everyone enjoys living in a historical building

Making compromises is part of living in a historical building. A complete conversion cannot be accomplished legally if you are interested in the property. But think about it: Would you fit the latest gadgets into a vintage car, or would you restore it to its original condition and take great care of it?

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