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Buying a home of non-standard construction

Feb 23, 2024 | Uncategorised

A home of non-standard construction is one that isn’t made from bricks and mortar. Such buildings come with considerations that don’t apply to standard homes, especially when buying and selling.

The definition of “non-standard construction” is simple but broad. A non-standard construction could be any one of the following – or something else entirely:

  • A post-war prefab
  • A thatched property
  • A high-value home
  • A home with a steel or timber frame
  • A listed building
  • A home in an area that’s vulnerable to flooding

In terms of materials, a non-standard construction could have glass, concrete, wooden or metal walls. It could have a steel, iron or wooden frame. It might have a roof made of asphalt, concrete, steel, iron, or timber. Or it might be topped with shingles, thatches or Stramit strawboard.

People buy non-standard constructions for all sorts of reasons. It could come from a desire to live in an eco home, to carry out a renovation project or simply because they like the look of it. However, the buying and selling process has some quirks that need to be taken into account.

What do you need to consider when buying a home of non-standard construction?

Perhaps the biggest consideration when buying a home of non-standard construction is how lenders view the property. You’ll probably need to get a special mortgage and may have trouble selling it down the line.

Mortgage lenders will want to know that the property will hold its value over time and that they’ll be able to recoup their losses through a future sale. With homes of non-standard construction, this isn’t guaranteed.

On top of this, homes of non-standard construction come with costs that brick-and-mortar buildings lack: costs relating to insurance, for instance, and repairs.

In many cases, insurers will have special terms and conditions for homes of non-standard construction. This could be reflected in a higher premium. This is out of self-protection: if your concrete starts to crumble or your log cabin catches fire, your insurer’s payouts will be high.

You should also consider the energy efficiency of the property. It could prove expensive or plain impossible to improve its energy rating.

What do you need to consider when selling a home of non-standard construction?

You’ve got yourself a mortgage and bought a home of non-standard construction. Congratulations! But remember that should you come to sell the property, your potential buyer will need to go through the process themselves.

Some lenders will pass on homes of non-standard construction. In the worst-case scenario, this can leave you with an unsellable property. However, this will depend on the area. If the property is located in a place where non-standard homes are common – a row of prefabs, say, or an affluent area with several listed buildings – then this shouldn’t be as much of an obstacle.

What kind of surveys will you need?

If the property you’re interested in buying is made from non-standard materials, it can be wise to get a Home Survey Level 3 carried out. This was formerly known as a “full structural survey”.

This survey will provide you with a detailed report based on a thorough inspection of the property. It will include a technical report on the construction and condition of the building, details of any hidden risks, advice for your property lawyer, and any repairs that need doing.

Level 3 surveys aren’t cheap. They start at £1,000 and go up depending on the size of the property. However, they’re essential if you want to get a mortgage.

Can you convert a non-standard construction home into a standard one?

The short answer is “sometimes”. You could convert a brick house with a shingle roof into a standard construction by installing a slate or tiled roof. If, however, the house had an irreplaceable steel frame, it would always be non-standard.

Some non-standard properties are clothed in a “brick skin”, often as a way of improving the insulation. This doesn’t mean the property now qualifies as standard construction.

What is a listed building?

A listed building is one of special architectural or historical interest. It’s “listed” in order to be conserved for future generations. Listed buildings can be adapted – but permission has to be sought. Because of their age, they’re often considered to be buildings of non-standard construction.

What is Stramit?

Stramit is a type of strawboard invented in Sweden and brought to the UK after the Second World War. It was used in construction until the 1970s, often for roof insulation. Some Stramit boards contained asbestos, while others lost their structural capacity when wet. For these reasons, Stramit is now considered a non-standard construction material.

What is a prefab house?

Prefabricated or prefab houses are homes that are manufactured off-site and assembled in situ. They’re typically made from modules. In the UK, many prefabs date from the period after the Second World War, when they were deployed at scale to address the housing shortage.

What should you look for in a conveyancing solicitor?

Before you choose a conveyancing solicitor, you should check that they’re fast, affordable, accredited and low on jargon. These qualities are important whether you’re buying or selling a home of standard or non-standard construction.

If a solicitor tries to blind you with legalese, they’re probably not the right person for the job. Clarity is essential when dealing with a topic as complex as property transfer.

Similarly, accreditation matters. You need to know that an official body has given your solicitor a stamp of approval. With regard to conveyancing, for instance, you could look for membership in the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

Getting the right solicitor for the job means that you’re clued up about your options and can make an informed decision. It boosts your chances of getting the outcome you deserve, whether that’s the purchase or sale of a home of non-standard construction.

Are you looking for legal advice about a home of non-standard construction? At Milners Law, we have teams of expert property solicitors in Harrogate, Leeds, Pontefract and Darlington. Get in touch if you’d like to book a free, no-obligation consultation.

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