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Buying‌ ‌and‌ ‌Selling‌ ‌a‌ ‌Non-Standard‌ ‌Construction‌ ‌House‌

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

13th Sep 2021 (Last updated on 9th Aug 2022) 6 minute read

The UK property industry generally classifies residential property into ‘standard’ and non-standard. A standard property usually means one with brick or stone walls and pitched roofs with slate or tile. Anything that doesn’t conform to this is usually considered non-standard construction.

When purchasing a traditional property, the buying process will often be pretty straightforward. When buying a non-standard or non-traditional property, you’re more likely to encounter setbacks. The cost of maintenance and insurance will often be higher and you may struggle to find an appropriate mortgage lender.

This article will cover the following:
  1. How Do You Know if a House is Non-Standard Construction?
  2. Types of Non-Standard Houses
  3. Can You Get a Mortgage on a Non-Standard Construction House?
  4. Problems With Non-Standard Construction Properties
  5. Why Do You Need a Property Survey?
  6. Non-Standard Construction Home Insurance
  7. Next Step of Buying a House

How Do You Know if a House is Non-Standard Construction?

The main difference between standard and non-standard homes is the building materials used. Standard residential homes in the UK generally mean bricks-and-mortar or stone with the roof tiled or clad with slate. Non-standard construction means the construction materials do not conform to this standard.

An example of non-standard construction materials includes glass or metal walls and plastic, steel or thatch roofs.

Non-standard construction properties often come with a higher commercial risk. The maintenance and repair costs can be more expensive due to their specialist nature. These properties often have a shorter lifespan, a greater fire risk, or can be more susceptible to damp and other structural issues.

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Types of Non-Standard Houses

Anything from standard homes with non-standard roofing materials (such as flat roof homes) to innovative eco-homes could be classed as non-standard construction.

Some common examples of non-standard homes include:

Steel Framed

Steel framed construction is fairly affordable and lightweight. However, steel frames often corrode over time, warp in fire and come with risks of hidden structural issues. Due to these problems, it can be difficult to find a willing and appropriate insurer and mortgage lender.

One type of steel frame property is BISF houses built by the British Iron and Steel Federation. They were originally constructed in 1946 and many have since been found to contain asbestos and suffer from severe corrosion.

Timber Framed

In a traditional brick house, the inner wall will usually consist of concrete blocks. The outer wall is often made of brick. Timber-framed houses, however, have an inner timber frame and an outer wall clad with stone, brick, render or timber boarding.

Timber frame houses have a higher risk of fire and damp-related risks. This means it can be difficult to find an insurer or mortgage lender willing to accept this type of non-standard construction home.

Prefabricated/Modula

Prefabricated or prefab homes began to appear after the Second World War. The UK required a temporary solution to the housing shortage that occurred after the devastation of the Blitz. As a result, these types of properties were built. They can be very expensive to repair and large sections of the structure may need to be replaced.

Concrete

Many concrete homes will be considered prefabricated buildings as this was a common material at the time they were built. Concrete properties were often lightweight and hard-wearing.

However, concrete can often deteriorate and steel reinforcement will often corrode and weaken. This makes the properties unpopular amongst mortgage lenders. One example of concrete homes is PRC properties.

Cob

Cob construction is one of the oldest building methods available. It includes a natural building material that consists of water, subsoil, lime and straw, and many similar materials. It is hard-wearing but requires specialist knowledge to maintain. You can find cob properties in many areas of the UK, in particular across the South West and Devon.

Can You Get a Mortgage on a Non-Standard Construction House?

Some specialist mortgage lenders will offer non-standard construction mortgages. Non-standard properties are at higher risk and more difficult to finance. This means they require their own mortgage deal.

However, many lenders will have their own criteria to follow. Some will only accept certain types of non-standard construction homes.

It is possible to convert a non-standard property into one that is more mortgageable. But this can take a lot of work and result in a lot of repair costs. To do this, you would either have to modify the building or somehow reduce the amount of structural risk. For example, some buyers will reinforce their steel-framed house to an approved standard.

Non-Standard Construction Mortgages in Scotland

Obtaining a non-standard construction mortgage can be difficult in Scotland. Even more so than finding a lender in England and Wales. Fewer lenders will offer these mortgages to potential buyers in Scotland.

Many non-standard construction lenders in Scotland will have postcode restrictions. This means it could be difficult finding this type of mortgage in the Highlands or anywhere away from the mainland. If you have a bad credit score, your options will be fewer again.

If you’re considering buying a non-standard construction house, it’s advised you seek advice from a specialist mortgage broker. This will ensure you have a higher chance of finding the right lender with the best rates for you.

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Problems With Non-Standard Construction Properties

The type of materials used to construct the building will be the biggest factor when it comes to the potential issues that could be found. For example, concrete houses may deteriorate over time whilst thatched cottages pose a higher fire risk.

Non-standard construction properties can be difficult to maintain and might need a greater degree of care. This increases the repair and maintenance costs.

Many mortgage lenders will also be wary about these buildings, making it much more difficult to apply for a mortgage.

Why Do You Need a Property Survey?

The most recommended type of survey to arrange is the Level 3 Home Survey. This was previously known as a building survey.

The Level 3 Survey will include a thorough and detailed inspection of the home in question. The report will then highlight any potential defects or problems that need consideration. However, it’s also recommended that you find a RICS chartered surveyor who has experience with non-traditional homes. They will have the vital knowledge required to locate hidden defects that other surveyors may miss.

Some property surveyors will recommend that you arrange a second, more intrusive survey to assess the building’s structural safety.

Non-Standard Construction Home Insurance

Due to the increased costs and risks, you will require specialist insurance which could cost more. Finding a specialist insurer can be difficult but it is not impossible.

Many mainstream insurers will not possess the vital, specialist knowledge required to assess the risk of the property. This can sometimes lead to them charging too much for premiums or refusing a quote altogether.

It’s recommended that you find a specialist insurer before buying a non-traditional home to protect your property investments.

Subsidence

Most insurance policies will cover loss or damage from subsidence. However, they will usually only cover the repair cost and not the cost of preventing it. Many non-traditional homes will require work and modifications to ensure they are structurally sound.

The excess will likely be higher as subsidence claims are often expensive for the insurer.

Next Step of Buying a House

This has been part of our home buying guide. Next, we take a look at steel frame houses and the risks that can come with purchasing one. To learn more read buying a steel frame house.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is now the director at Cambridge Building Surveyors.