Mortgages for a property of unusual construction | moneyfacts.co.uk

nigel woollsey

Nigel Woollsey

Online Writer
Published: 29/11/2019

At a glance

  • 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 will need to find a lender willing to accept these quirks.

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. 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 what might be classed as non-standard or unusual construction is very wide and covers everything that is not built with brick walls and a tile roof.

If you want to buy a property that is outside of the norm, then you will need to find a mortgage lender that will accept its construction type as part of their underwriting criteria.

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 limit the range of lenders available to you. This may mean that some of the best mortgage deals are out of reach. 

The decision to lend against your property depends on the provider’s underwriting criteria and the assessment made by the surveyor valuing the property.

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.

Lenders will want to check that the property is viable for a mortgage and will use a standard valuation process to do this. With certain properties the surveyor decide that they require more in depth information to be able to make an accurate valuation. They may then request a specialist report for example, a timber frame house may need a damp and timber report to check for its condition. This information is then used to finalise the valuation to the lender who can then form a decision about whether to lend or not. 

Those wanting a mortgage for an unusual property will find that both your choice of lender and mortgages available to you will be less than for properties of a standard-build.

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.

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

Lenders don't usually charge more for their mortgages due to the construction type of the property. However, you may find your choice of lenders and mortgages is more restricted due to the types of property they are happy to accept. Less choice may mean you cannot access some of the market leading mortgage rates available.

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?

Those looking to buy a property with an unusual construction type or a converted property are likely to find that it is the challenger banks and building societies more often likely to accept these for a mortgage. 

However, as with any mortgage product, the market can vary, with providers moving out of or into various markets for different mortgage products. A mortgage broker can help buyers to stay up-to-date with which lenders are active and looking to provide mortgages for unusual properties. 

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:

  • Pre-cast reinforced concrete (PRC) – Properties with a concrete construction (including reinforced concrete) need to be closely inspected as they get older. Many post-war buildings, such as local authority housing were built quickly with concrete, with the view they would only have a short lifespan. However, the majority continued to be in use for decades longer than planned. Some local authorities declared these buildings to be defective due to the PRC used in their construction. Lenders may ask for evidence of these buildings having been through an approved repair scheme or warranties.  
  • 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.
  • 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 – any lender will require this to decide if they can give you a mortgage against the property. This also provides you with valuable information about the condition of the property and the potential future costs of repairs.

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.

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

  • 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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