Are you interested in buying a home that is of non-standard construction? Whether you’re bored of living like everybody else, or have fallen in love with a unique and quirky property that would make the perfect forever home, the question is not as random as it might first appear.
In fact, the method of construction of a residential property is a crucial detail that will affect your mortgage, home insurance and maintenance budget, not to mention the ability to sell the property on in due course.
- What constitutes a non-standard property?
Source: Hocking Associates
The property industry defines a conventional or standard construction as a dwelling made of bricks and mortar, or of stone, and having a slate or tiled roof. Non-standard residential properties, by contrast, are made from other types of house building materials.
Non-conventional frames and walls include:
- Steel framed houses are lightweight and affordable, this type of construction is not very flame resistant, being susceptible to warping which can be disastrous in the event of a domestic fire.
- Early postwar steel framed houses built by the British Iron and Steel Federation (BISF), having asbestos containing roofs, which are a health risk.
- Being made largely of wood, timber framed buildings, whether historic or modern, carry a high fire risk.
- Prefab and modular houses that are largely constructed off-site and assembled in situ. Structural repairs can be extremely expensive.
- Concrete homes can be prone to defects and structural issues that are hard to detect and costly to fix.
- Historic building materials such as clunch (a traditional medieval building material of soft, chalky limestone), cob (an ancient natural building material made from earth, sand, straw or clay, or wattle and daub.
Roofs can additionally be made from a wide variety of non-standard materials including asbestos, asphalt, corrugated iron, shingles, thatch, plastic or fibreglass.
- What are the main issues with non-standard buildings?
Source: Grand Designs Magazine
Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither lenders nor insurance providers are particularly keen on providing finance for non-standard homes, since they are seen as a commercial risk than conventional constructions, and this is really where the problem lies.
Regardless of whether the building is contemporary or historical, there are two things in particular that make non-standard building methods less popular propositions:
- They are more expensive to insure
Old or new, if your home is of non-conventional construction, chances are that you will need specialist tradespersons and companies to deal with any building defects or issues – and that could be costly. The additional expenditure required to maintain a unique building will put off most insurance companies, whose response will either be higher home insurance premiums or a flat out refusal to provide cover for these types of buildings. Your best bet is to look out for specialist insurers who are willing to provide the best level of cover for non-standard residential properties.
- They are harder to mortgage
Mortgage lenders are equally risk averse when it comes to unusual homes built with non-standard construction materials or methods. The perceived risk here is the uncertainty over the building’s future value and the assumed difficulty in selling the property in the event of a repossession. There’s also a big question mark over the lifespan of non-conventional building materials. All these factors make a non-standard home a less stable investment, again resulting in higher premiums, higher deposits or certain caveats being demanded, or a rejection of the mortgage application. Your mortgage broker may be able to advise on specialist lenders for unique properties to get the best deal.
- What to consider when buying a non-standard home?
Knowledge is power, as they say, so if you really have fallen for the charms of a non-standard property, it’s good to be fully informed about the issues and pitfalls you may encounter. With that in mind, here are 4 things you should consider:
- Forearmed is forewarned. Before you buy, collect as much information as you can about the particular construction materials and methods used. Ask the seller about the cost of building maintenance and home insurance, so you know what you are in for.
- Unless you are a cash buyer, you will need finance, which can be tricky. Start saving – the larger your deposit, the lower the loan to value ratio on your mortgage application, and the higher the chances of being successful in getting the loan you need.
- Don’t be shy about seeking professional advice. An independent mortgage broker and home insurance broker are your allies who will be motivated to help you find a competitive deal for your non-standard property.
- Find out if the property is currently mortgaged and who the lender is. Chances are that if they already know the property, they are more inclined to consider lending on it than a mortgage provider who is unfamiliar with the building or method of construction.
Source: Intelligent Insurance