nigel woollsey

Nigel Woollsey

Online Writer
Published: 29/11/2019

At a glance

  • Properties that do not conform to a standard construction-type can require a specialist mortgage.
  • Providers may have differing ideas of what a non-standard construction is, with some being happy to include stone, slate or flint construction as standard while others will not.
  • While there is less choice than for a standard mortgage, there are still many lenders who will be happy to consider your application.
  • Some high street lenders may decline to lend on certain types of properties – especially those of an entirely concrete construction.

Not all homes are of the bricks and mortar variety. If you’ve set your heart on a new home that’s just a little (or a lot) out of the ordinary, you may need a special type of mortgage. These may be referred to as non-standard build mortgages or mortgages for homes of unusual construction.

What is a property of unusual construction?

There’s a lot of properties out there that aren’t your typical brick build with a tiled roof. A mortgage for these can be referred to as a non-traditional construction mortgage , sometimes or a non-traditional mortgage. Some of these can include the impressive and unique – such as historic properties or converted lighthouses – through to homes made entirely from concrete, as well as steel frames and glass walls! High rise flats, timber frame homes and listed properties can also be considered non-standard construction.

The range of unusual construction is very wide and covers everything that is not of the standard brick construction.

If you want to buy a property that is outside of the norm, then you may need a non-standard mortgage.

What are the difficulties in getting a mortgage for a non-standard build home?

The fact that you may need to find a mortgage provider who will accept a property outside their standard construction criteria can sometimes mean that you will have to pay a premium in terms of pricing. However, this all depends on the provider’s individual preferences and assessment criteria.

Some homes of unusual construction may carry higher risks that can cause the lender to be cautious about lending against that property. For example, thatched roofs – while they look great – are a significantly greater fire risk than ordinary tiling.

A historic, timber-framed manor house from the 14th century may be a rare gem, but is highly unlikely to have been built to meet modern housing safety standards. On the other hand, precast concrete buildings built just after World War II were not designed to be in use for so long and can be plagued with maintenance problems.

Non-standard builds mean that mortgage lenders cannot apply their ‘standard’ tests for assessing risk and value as good security against a loan. Consequently, the lender will have to individually assess your application, as well as undertaking specialist valuations. In addition, they will have to consider what the future value of your property might be and how much it is at risk of being damaged while there is still a mortgage outstanding.

Consequently, you will find that both your choice of lender and offers available to you will be less than for standard-build mortgages.

Will a mortgage for unusual construction cost more or have restrictions?

Almost certainly, yes. As explained above, due to the unique nature of the home you want to purchase, some lenders may not be willing to provide you with a mortgage. Those that do tend to be more specialist lenders with higher rates and might also put certain restrictions in place regarding how you use the property while they hold the mortgage on it.

What sorts of properties are not eligible for a non-standard build mortgage?

There are a few types of property that you will flat out be refused any kind of mortgage for. These include:

  • Park homes
  • Lodges (typically of wooden construction but this can vary)
  • Static caravans.

Purchasing any of the above will only be possible through a personal or secured loan which is secured against another property.

Where can I go to find the best deals for a non-standard build mortgage?

Non-standard construction mortgages are often more welcome with smaller mortgage providers rather than the big, high street names. However, as with any mortgage product, the market can vary, with providers moving out of or into various markets for different mortgage products. That’s why we believe it is a good idea to use the services of a mortgage broker. Rather than being tied to just one lender, these professionals have an in-depth knowledge of the mortgage marketplace and which lenders are more likely to consider lending against your unique properties under the best terms.

Important things to consider when buying a property of non-traditional construction

There are several issues to be aware of when buying a home with a non-traditional construction:

  • Concrete limited lifespan – Properties with a concrete construction (including reinforced concrete) need to be closely inspected as they get older. Concrete tends to crumble as it ages, especially as the steel reinforcing rods used when they are cast in place start to rust and deteriorate. All this can happen without much evidence of it being visible on the surface, requiring intrusive survey methods to detect. For this reason, properties with a concrete construction are often viewed as ‘high risk’ by both lenders and insurance companies, with some refusing to deal with them at all.
  • Maintenance – Non-standard constructions are often plagued by the need for increased maintenance costs. The maintenance history of such a property can be a key indicator of what problems you can expect in the future. While it would be wise to make sure you have a full and comprehensive record of all maintenance, this does not preclude the idea that fresh issues could pop up at any time.
  • Conversion – In order to eliminate or minimise future problems, you might want to consider having a non-standard construction property converted into something more orthodox. These are often referred to as ‘certified repairs’ or as part of a ‘certified repair scheme’. However, such extensive renovations and structural changes can be very expensive!
  • Future demand and later sale – Usually, when you find a new property you love, the idea of selling it again is the last thing on your mind. However, with non-standard construction properties, you’d be well-advised to think very carefully about how easy it will be to sell up if and when you want to. So before you make an offer on that old cold-war era nuclear bunker you think will make a quirky family home, just give some thought as to how easy it might be to sell such a place further down the road.
  • Insurance – As mentioned earlier, the words ‘non-standard construction’ might send insurance companies running for cover. Any kind of insurance for properties of this kind will likely be both harder to find and more expensive. Of course, to mitigate this, you might consider using the services of a mortgage broker who is familiar with the marketplace and those insurers who will be willing to consider granting cover.
  • Valuation impacts – A full and comprehensive survey is almost a given for any non-standard construction property – if only for your own protection. However, the mortgage lender and insurers will likely pay close attention to the valuer’s report – especially if it reveals something of a less than ideal nature.

Other types of non-standard construction

There are a few rarer types of non-standard construction. These are:

  • ‘Clay lump’ construction – Now quite rare and mostly found in Norfolk where they were popular around the 18th and 19th centuries. This is an earth-construction using clay-rich materials, but few survive without some form of later cement or brick maintenance.
  • ‘Cob’ construction – A home constructed of a mix of clay, crushed flint and sand. Popular in Cumbria and the Southwest of England.
  • ‘K Lath’ construction – Constructed using reinforced mesh.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip nigel woollsey

While some banks and building societies will happily consider a mortgage for non-standard construction, you can save yourself a lot of leg work by using the services of a mortgage broker. A good broker will know the market and can choose lenders with whom you have the best chance of being accepted with the least restrictions.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

At a glance

  • Properties that do not conform to a standard construction-type can require a specialist mortgage.
  • Providers may have differing ideas of what a non-standard construction is, with some being happy to include stone, slate or flint construction as standard while others will not.
  • While there is less choice than for a standard mortgage, there are still many lenders who will be happy to consider your application.
  • Some high street lenders may decline to lend on certain types of properties – especially those of an entirely concrete construction.

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