OPINION: Cost of insuring Victorian homes surges by almost 12pc

St Bene't's is a Church of England parish church in central Cambridge, England

St Bene't's Church is the oldest building in Cambridge - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A good friend is finally getting around to writing the book he’s always threatened, one underpinned by an encyclopaedic knowledge of Great Britain’s oldest buildings. Last week, he sent me a draft to read, accompanied by some fantastic photographs, not all of which will, sadly, make the final cut.

“Let me know what you think,” he added in an attached note, which ended: “I imagine it would cost quite a few bob to insure them!”

I started by reading about the buildings I’m familiar with: local churches and castles which we walk past every day without stopping to appreciate their grandeur and appeal.

Most people would suspect that Cambridge’s most venerable building would be situated within the university. After all, this world-renowned seat of learning was founded in 1209. However, the city’s oldest architectural gem is actually St Bene't's Church on Bene't Street, close to the Eagle pub. The church’s Anglo-Saxon tower was constructed between AD 1000 and 1050, making it close to a thousand years old.

As for the cost of insuring this fine collection of real estate, my friend’s ‘few bob’ is spot-on, not least because calculating the rebuild cost of these magnificent, ancient properties liberally spread across the land would be a mammoth and hugely expensive task.

Fortunately, this is not the case with more modern homes, even though it was reported this week that insurance premiums on older properties have outstripped those payable on more modern homes.

According to Consumer Intelligence, the cost of buildings insurance for properties erected during the Victorian era (1837-1901) soared by 11.6pc to the end of May 2022. The next highest increase in insurance costs (8.2pc) was on homes built between 1940-55, while premiums on properties built between 1955-70 increased by 7.5pc. By contrast, the insurance premium increases on newly-constructed homes, i.e. between 2000-2022, rose by less than 4pc over the past 12 months.

Ken Carter, head of insurance services at online personal finance website Moneymapp warns that a property’s age is not the only factor taken into account when insurers calculate your annual premium.

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“There are a number of factors insurers consider,” says Mr Carter. “For example, detached homes present a different type of risk to terraced or semi-detached properties, while annual insurance on apartments is usually organised by a management company.

“Remember too that insurers will also require details of any area of your roof which happens to be flat. If the area is quite large, insurers will levy a higher premium because they consider the risk of ‘water-pooling’ and the likelihood of subsequent damage to be much higher than if the roof were pitched.

“Finally, don’t forget that the materials used in your property’s construction will also be taken into consideration by your insurer. People living in homes with thatched roofs will appreciate this – and confirm that due to fire risk, their annual insurance premiums will be higher than if they had a traditional slate or tiled roof.”

Data released by Moneymapp.com suggests that as a result of rapidly-increasing labour and material costs, building insurance premiums will rise by "at least" 5pc during the second half of 2022, yet another stark indication that inflation will be with us for some time.

Fortunately, it is possible to keep a lid on home insurance cover, as Mr Carter explains.

“The first port of call for people renewing their buildings or home and contents insurance should be to websites such as Moneymapp.com,” he advises. “Here they can compare costs and details of dozens of insurance companies in the knowledge that there’s a strong chance they will save often significant amounts of money.”

Thankfully, few of us will have to consider insuring anything as grand as the three buildings referred to above – which should save us a few bob as my friend would say – but we all have the opportunity to compare and save on our buildings insurance with just the click of a mouse. As prices rise, it’s an opportunity we should take.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular blog, The Week In Numbers.