There is no bigger challenge, and at the same time pleasure, of buying or renovating an old stone house, or, as the local people would say: a house with the Dalmatian and Croatian soul! In these houses, the imperative is to keep, to a great extent, their autochthonous, original façade of handcrafted stone that Dalmatian craftsmen have chiselled for many centuries, and at the same time to provide to their hosts all the comfort of today’s lifestyle. Although these are two different extremes by appearance, it is not quite so and there are many examples of perfect harmony of tradition and contemporariness.
When buying an old stone house, the main mediator is usually a real estate agency whose agents are well acquainted with the real estate price trends. However, the practice has shown, that having an expert adviser – an architect licensed to work on cultural heritage buildings is highly advisable. There are several reasons for such engagement:
1. Insight into spatial-planning options
A certified architect shall check with the competent local and regional government and self-government authorities and, if necessary, Conservation Department, which are the options of the adaptation of the facility with regard to existing spatial planning documentation, i.e. which ‘frameworks’ have been laid down for investors and whether they are satisfactory to their wishes and plans. It is not enough just to go to an office and ask for information. Because of the complexity of reconstruction of such facilities, in order to come to a right answer, it is needed to pose a series of expert questions.
2. Analysis of accompanying documentation
Besides the question of ownership, the analysis of accompanying documentation mostly refers to having insight into all construction-architectural documents and determining whether the facility has or doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy.
3. Technical options of adaptation
In this part, a certified architect determines, in co-operation with a static engineer, whether the static elaboration of the facility has been made and which walls are the bearing ones, i.e. which ones can be demolished, and what is an alternative of possible solutions. That is to say, most of the walls that look like partition are actually bearing ones, so in order to avoid unnecessary costs it is important to have a good knowledge of traditional Dalmatian style of building and expert analysis. It is dangerous to renovate the old stone houses without architect’s guidance and expert analysis.
4. Assessment of the facility’s infrastructure
This part includes analysis of electrical, plumbing and sewage installations, determining their condition, need for replacement and the like. Of course, the costs depend on whether the facility is connected to the sewerage or the drainage has been solved by a septic tank.
5. Architect’s assessment
Only when the architect has all of the entry parameters, he/she can start drafting the conceptual design, i.e. to assess whether all that the investor wishes can be made on that facility. A special care is needed for facilities in old city centers, because even one air-conditioner on facade of such building can be a big problem. Most of stone houses are under conservation protection. Even a seemingly simple change in the exterior joinery has to be in compliance with conservation conditions.
In addition to buying an old stone house, you should also be very careful when buying a building land. For example, although a building plot may find itself within a construction zone in accordance with spatial planning documentation, it is necessary to further check the location information obtained from the office of local self-government (municipality), because it is a common case that the documents of higher and smaller instance are not synchronized. Also, it is good to know that location information cannot be considered as the basis for design.
If you are buying an old stone house or some other real estate in Croatia, please feel free to contact us for advice regarding the above issues, analysis of location, or even a highly recommendable pre-investment study!