What is a listed property

Monument protection: a hurdle for buying a house

Apartments in old buildings and historic buildings are very popular. They usually have a unique architecture and are full of history. However, this can be fatal for apartment and house owners. For example, if you want to install new windows or carry out major renovations, the monument protection department often throws you a spanner in the works. But how does a house become a monument and which monument preservation regulations should homebuyers observe? We'll tell you.

Monument protection: a hurdle for buying a house
Monument protection: a hurdle for buying a house

The most important things at a glance

  • Monument protection is a matter of the state.
  • Homeowners are only allowed to renovate monuments with permission.
  • Listed houses are expensive to maintain, but owners receive support.
  • Under certain circumstances, the monument protection can be lifted.

What types of monument protection are there?

First of all: not all memorials are created equal. There are different types of monuments in Germany. There are ground monuments, architectural monuments, garden monuments and area monuments in this country. There is a public interest in preserving all monuments.

Ground monuments: Ground monuments can stand in the way of building a house. These are remains from history. These currently include former fortifications, burial and cult sites, demarcations, production facilities, settlements, businesses and transport routes. Each federal state decides for itself whether such an archaeological find is worth protecting.

Architectural monuments: Architectural monuments are usually individual buildings or complexes - for example, historic town centers, streets or squares. They have a historical, technical, artistic or scientific significance. They may not be changed or only changed with care.

Garden monuments: In some federal states there are also special garden monuments. If these are on public land, the authorities take care of their maintenance. Garden monuments on private land must be maintained by the owner. They receive public grants for this.

Area monuments: Area monuments are usually entire streets. You are under ensemble protection. It is not the individual properties that are monuments, but the interplay between them. The individual houses can be changed, but must retain the overall impression.

What do you have to consider when protecting historical monuments?

There are no uniform regulations for monument protection in Germany. Each of the 16 federal states decides itself on the regulations for monument preservation. What they have in common, however, is that they impose conditions on construction work. This includes, among other things, extensions and conversions, renovations and renovations. These must not change the appearance of a house.

In the case of a renovation, for example, the owner must retain the overall historical appearance. This also includes materials, colors and the technology used. The monument authorities also have the option of stipulating the use of a listed building. If you want to convert an old shop into living space, the conversion may be prohibited.

Even small changes are difficult to implement in a listed building. Exterior lighting and fences must first be approved by the monument authority. The conversions could change the overall historical picture. Therefore, the following applies: Before you make a change to your listed building, speak to your responsible monument office.

You may also undertake monument preservation measures without consent. As long as these do not significantly change the overall picture. These include:

  • replace the roofing
  • dry out damp walls
  • Touch up or renew plaster and paint

If historical wall paintings or stucco applications have to be restored, this must be done professionally. When painting the facade, the monument protection stipulates that the color must do justice to the historic building.

As a rule, monument offices do not approve loft extensions with dormer windows or skylights. This often also applies to the installation of larger or smaller windows. Even with the form, you rarely have a say.

When renovating the interior of a listed building, less strict requirements apply. The conversions must not change the character of the house too much. Here, too, the following applies: speak to the monument office in order to avoid fines.

Ignoring the monument protection is expensive

If an owner intentionally violates the monument protection when converting a historic house, a fine of 60,000 euros can be imposed. As it was decided in the current case of the Higher Regional Court in Oldenburg:

In 2017 a merchant bought a multi-storey building from the 19th century on Norderney and then renovated it - without a permit. Among other things, the old interior walls were removed, door openings bricked up and new ones created and the old ceilings suspended. The Higher Regional Court of Oldenburg saw an impairment of the building's substance and the amount of the fine was justified by the intent. Unlawful interference in monuments would result in great economic advantages for the merchant, but severe, irreparable losses for the general public (OLG Oldenburg, Az. 2 Ss (Owi) 163/20).

Monument protection: what should homebuyers look out for?

If you are thinking of buying a listed house, you should keep a few points in mind. As already mentioned, major renovations are only possible in consultation with the monument office. You must not change the appearance.

As the owner, you are also responsible for maintaining the monument. Although the monument protection laws of the federal states limit the obligation to preserve to what is reasonable, what is reasonable differs from house to house.

As soon as the property can no longer be used sensibly, the preservation of a monument is objectively unreasonable. It is just a monument. This also applies if the maintenance costs can no longer be earned. This applies, for example, to a restaurant in a listed building.

Before you buy a listed building, speak to your responsible monument office. There you can find out which requirements apply to the properties.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of monument protection?

So you have to weigh carefully whether a listed building is worthwhile for you. Because the consequences can be extremely far-reaching. Nevertheless, there are some advantages that speak for such a property.


If you carry out renovation or refurbishment work on a monument, you can deduct the costs from the tax. In addition, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) grants financial support for architectural monuments. You can also get cheaper loans from KfW.

But that is not all. A property that is under monument protection has a stable value. As a rule, this does not decrease. In some cases the value even increases over the years. If you do not want to move into the building yourself, listed houses often achieve higher rental income.


But where there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. You should keep these in mind when buying a monument. Consultation with the monument office must be taken into account for every renovation. This sometimes imposes strict conditions on what you can change and how. This also increases the cost of conversions, as specialists have to be employed in some cases.

Old buildings are usually not well insulated and retrofitting is not permitted for monument protection reasons. As a result, you have to expect high heating costs. Other maintenance costs are also usually higher than for new buildings.

Another important point is that you as the owner must maintain the monument. This also leads to further costs, which make a supposed bargain more expensive.

How does a building become a monument?

When a building becomes a monument, the monument protection authority of the respective federal state decides. Real estate must meet a few points for this. One of them is that the building has historical significance. This also includes a reference to regional culture.

When is a house listed?

Other aspects that can lead to monument protection are an artistic, urban, technical or scientific significance. This is decided individually for each building. Compared to cars that become classic cars 30 years after they were first registered, there is no specific age for houses. There are also no fixed specifications as to which properties a property needs for monument conservation.

Can you apply for monument protection?

If you are of the opinion that your house should be listed, simply submit an application to your responsible monument protection authority. This provides an overview of the building on site. On the basis of the points mentioned above, the authority decides whether it is suitable for the preservation of monuments. If it meets the criteria of the monument protection law of your state, it will be placed on the official list of monuments.

Can monument protection be reversed?

If a property is listed, it doesn't have to be forever. There are ways to have the house removed from the list of monuments. However, this is not easy. As the owner, you must explain why a listed house should be deprived of protection. For this you need proof that the reasons for which the monument protection was declared at that time no longer exist.

One possibility is to sue for the unreasonableness of receipt. The Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) stipulated in 2002 that monument protection is not permitted at any price. The basis was a decade-long legal dispute over a villa from 1888. The owner wanted to tear it down in 1980. The argument: Preservation and economic use are no longer reasonable. The city declared the villa a cultural monument. The owner took action against this and was right before the BVerfG. The house is unreasonable and should be demolished. The preservation of monuments had to take a back seat to what was reasonable for the owner.