What is a PRC Property?
Precast reinforced concrete or PRC houses are a type of non-traditional housing. They are not made from the conventional materials of brick or timber frames but are instead built with precast concrete panels. PRC properties will often be on the market at lower prices as not many lenders will be willing to grant mortgages on them, making them difficult to sell.
The number of PRC houses in the UK grew increasingly throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s due to a shortage of building materials after the war. There are many different types of PRC properties available, but buyers are often warned to proceed with caution as their non-standard construction can make the buying process much more difficult.
As Compare My Move is the home of moving homes, we work with a number of property and finance experts to create insightful guides that will aid you through the buying and selling process. In this article, we will explain the problems that come with purchasing a PRC house and the issues buyers could encounter when applying for a mortgage.
What is Precast Reinforced Concrete?
Precast concrete is a construction product that is formed by casting wet concrete in a reusable mould and then cured in a controlled environment off-site. Elements made from precast concrete can be joined with other elements to create a complete structure. It is typically used for structural components such as:
- Wall panels
Whilst structural steel frames are an alternative solution, many buildings will contain a mixture of construction techniques as precast concrete is sometimes seen as more economical and practical.
Thousands of houses were built using this method across the UK in the 1940s and 1950s as there was an increased need for homes after the war. PRC properties are often constructed from precast concrete panels - they were often built this way as building supplies were in short supply during the height of their popularity.
Throughout the 1980s, issues affecting the durability and structural stability of PRC homes became apparent. Due to problems with moisture, the steel reinforcement became less protected over time causing them to rust. As a result, significant damage was caused to many of the properties’ concrete frameworks.
Many concrete housing systems have since been designated as ‘defective’ by the 1985 Housing Act. This meant that mortgage lenders would no longer approve mortgages for PCR houses unless remediation work had been carried out under an approved repair scheme.
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What Are The Most Common Types of PRC Construction?
To help you better identify some PRC houses, we’ve created a list of the most common house types that have been deemed defective under the 1985 Housing Act:
Airey PRC houses are 2-storey, semi-detached homes with external walls built from exposed aggregate PRC panels with vertical concrete posts. To repair these buildings, you would need to remove the posts and replace them with Thermalite blocks, insulation and a brick outer skin. You will require a PRC certificate when applying for a mortgage for this type of home.
There are 2 types of Cornish PRC houses: Cornish House Type I and Cornish House Type II. Approximately 30,000 Cornish Type I and Type II houses were built in England and Wales between 1954 and the mid-1960s, many of which have been structurally refurbished.
Type I houses are typically bungalows, 2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses, whilst type II houses only include 2-storey semi-detached homes. The external walls of these buildings will be made from PRC columns and panels.
Hawksley houses are often mistaken for traditionally constructed buildings as they have a brick facing. In reality, they have been built with PRC beams. This type of PRC housing will be2-storey semi-detached or terraced houses with between 2-4 bedrooms.
Reema Hollow Panel houses have external walls made from PRC panels - to repair these buildings, you would have to treat the concrete panels and insulate them with a brick outer skin. They are typically either bungalows, semi-detached or terraced homes. Some of the issues found in these types of houses include cracked floor beams and cracked and spalled windows.
Unity PRC properties have external walls made from stack-bonded precast concrete panels and storey height PRC columns. The repair process would include removing the external concrete walls and replacing them with Thermalite block, insulation and a brick outer skin.
Wates PRC properties are also classed as ‘defective’ as they were constructed using PRC panels - you will typically find 2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses made from this type of PRC construction.
Problems With PRC Properties
Throughout the 1980s, it became apparent that PRC structures had multiple issues as they were starting to deteriorate due to the concrete panels cracking. This resulted in banks, building societies and other mortgage companies no longer willing to lend on PRC houses as they became classified as ‘defective’ and ‘unsalable’. At the time, the UK government offered to buy back the properties from the tenants or even fund the repairs. This funding is no longer available as many of the homes have been appropriately repaired.
Due to these issues, one of the biggest problems buyers will still encounter today is getting a mortgage as most lenders won’t approve a mortgage on this type of property unless the required structural repairs have been carried out and a PRC certificate has been obtained. This can be a rather difficult, disruptive and costly process.
Many of the repair systems required for PRC houses involve removing existing walls and rebuilding the property in traditional construction. Some properties will also require existing party walls to be rebuilt. If you’re considering buying a PRC home, it’s recommended that you arrange a RICS Home Survey Level 3 (previously known as a building survey) to receive professional advice on the possible repair work needed and its costs.
If the repair work has since been carried out according to the standards set out in the 1984 Housing Defects Act, then you should be able to obtain a PRC certificate. PRC properties that have been repaired without this document will be difficult to sell and obtain a mortgage on until the appropriate work has been carried out.
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Getting a Mortgage For a PRC House
Mortgages for concrete build properties can be difficult to obtain as they are considered ‘non-standards construction’ houses, making them higher risk and therefore more difficult to sell and insure. Lenders will not accept a mortgage on a PRC house that has not had the correct repairs and an official PRC certificate.
Each mortgage lender will have a different stance on lending on PRC properties. They will likely have their own eligibility criteria for the property to qualify as reliable security for the loan. Their main concerns will centre around the structural integrity of the building as well as the risk of future issues. It’s important to note that some lenders will add additional caveats when approving a mortgage on a PRC property, such as a larger deposit or higher interest rates.
If you’re looking to purchase a PRC house, it would be wise to speak to a mortgage or financial adviser first. There are a number of specialist lenders who will accept non-standard construction properties - your mortgage adviser should be able to help you work out the best deals and provide reliable advice.
What is a PRC Certificate?
A PRC certificate is the document that confirms the repair system has been successfully carried out. If the PRC property in question does not have the appropriate PRC certificate in place, a mortgage lender will not consider offering a mortgage against the house.
Many lenders will not be willing to lend on a PRC house unless specific structural repairs have been carried out that are in accordance with an approved PRC licence. The work must have also been supervised by an approved PRC inspector. Once this has been completed, a PRC certificate will be given.
What Happens if the PRC Certificate is Missing or Lost?
Whilst some certificates do get lost over time, if the PRC certificate is not available, it’s often because the document has never been issued. If this is the case, you will be required to organise a fairly intrusive inspection of the property, to establish what work has been done and to what standards.
This inspection should be completed by a professional PRC Structural Engineer. They will have to expose certain parts of the home to decide whether anything has been repaired. If the work does not meet the required standard for PRC certification, additional work must be arranged.
Selling a PRC House
Due to the obstacles presented when obtaining a mortgage, selling a PRC property can be notoriously difficult. This is why many buyers interested in these types of homes are often cash buyers, limiting the seller’s audience.
When looking to sell a PRC house, there are 2 main options to consider to ensure a simpler process:
- Pay for the appropriate repair work to be carried out to ensure it’s suitable for mortgage lending.
- Sell to a cash buyer or through an auction.
If you decide to repair the property, make sure you use a specialist builder to complete the work correctly. If the property is a semi-detached or terraced house, then you will need your neighbour’s consent as the shared boundary will also need to be converted to standard construction. Converting a PRC property to a brick house can take a minimum of 8 weeks.