Selling Non Standard Construction: Prefab, BISF, Self-Build & More

Written by Myles Hemingway

Myles is our self-confessed ‘word nerd’ and property geek. You’ll find him mythbusting everything from house repayments to maisonettes, as well as giving you our spin on the latest property news and industry trends.

What is non standard construction? Are properties of this type hard to sell?


Non standard construction houses are for many of us, a grey area of property. In some cases we may even be selling one, unaware that it's causing a large portion of buyers to stop dead in their tracks and do an about turn. Not ideal when you're eager to sell your house quickly.

Reason being that non traditional construction is much like it sounds - unorthodox. It's anything but the usual type of housing, and in some cases can be tricky to spot. So as you'd expect, it's often a cause as to why buyers, as well as lenders, tread with caution (eyebrow raise).

However, that's not to say that selling non standard construction houses has to be difficult. In fact, in the case you're clued up on how to sell one of these kooky properties, it's actually quite straight forward. In some cases it could even be as quick, if not quicker, than your average property sale, providing of course you're clued up on how to do so. With this in mind then, what does non standard construction mean? And are there any specific types of non standard construction houses that you should be particularly aware of? We reveal all.

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What is non standard construction?

If a property is referred to as 'non standard construction' (or non traditional construction), it's a sign that either the way it's built or the materials used, differ from those typically used to construct a house.

So in terms of materials, this could be properties that feature a large amount of timber, concrete or even metal in their construction. Glass is also another one to watch out for. Whereas when it comes to building methods, this could be because a house is what's known as a panel assembly (houses build of prefabricated panels) or an eco house, sunken into the ground to 'preserve the environment'. Regular viewers of Grand Designs will know what we're getting at here.

In short then, non standard construction is an technical way of saying that your home as one of a rare breed. Perhaps it's a product of an outdated building method, holds a certain heritage or uses building materials in albeit a rather unique fashion. Only that's not a bad thing. Granted, it may make it harder for you to sell and insure, but often properties of non standard construction are some of the most desirable out there, be that through the eyes of a homeowner or an investor.

Is non standard construction insurance hard to get?

Insuring a house of non standard construction is entirely possible, however to do so you may have to overcome a few (slight) hurdles. By that we mean, the process may be no as simple as it would be with a more regular home, or who you approach for insurance may be slightly more specialist. With that in mind, here's just a couple of the hurdles that you can expect...

  • Your choice of insurers will decrease - Because insurers operate on the basis of risk, very few will be jumping at the chance to insure anything that's non standard construction - reliable homes are how they make their money. And as we all know, alternative construction methods bring with them their own host of possible issues and potential costs. Most of which require specialist attention to rectify - attention that doesn't come cheap.

    Therefore, it's almost certain that if you own one of these properties that you'll have to opt for a form of specialist insurance, one specifically designed to cover non standard construction. Because of which, your pool of potential policies can quickly become limited and in the end, leave you with a lot less options. Plus, it's rare that such policies will feature on price comparison sites too, so all the legwork will be on you.

  • The price of your insurance will be above average - As homes of a non standard construction are a bigger insurance risk, the cost of a premium will almost always be above average. Costly repairs = a steep premium, as both specialist knowledge and materials required to fix a property like this come at a price. What's more, these specialist insurers will be well aware that your options are limited, so may even jump at the chance to charge you more simply because they can. Food for thought.

  • Acceptance may be liable to a home inspection - With these types of properties not exactly being 'run of the mill', there's a solid chance that an insurer will only grant you cover once your property passes a home inspection. This is because that with such a 'risky' prospect, insurers will want to be doubly sure about what they're insuring and be confident in its condition and market value. Otherwise, they risk loosing out!

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Is there such thing as a non standard construction house repayments?

Yes, you can get a non standard construction house repayments, however there is a caveat.

You see, because of the risks associated with this type of property, lenders will usually look for a larger deposit - i.e. a lower LTV. In some cases they may also charge a slightly higher interest rate, but that will of course differ depending on the provider. Why is getting a house repayments on a non traditional build slightly more pricy? Here's 3 reasons why...

  • There's more associated costs with this type of property, which could hamper your ability to make repayments.
  • The actual market value of the property is less stable, perhaps because of reliability or stigma around that type of property. Cladded flats being a prime example.
  • If you default, the lender will likely find it both harder and slower to recoup their losses, due to the property's lack of saleability.


FYI: If you're planning on building a non standard construction home then you need a different type of loan - a self-build house repayments. Get one of these and not only could you build something extravagant as a Huf Haus (more on these later), but it could also work out cheaper. For a self build house repayments you typically only need a 5% deposit.

Do estate agents have to tell you about non standard construction?

Nope.

Just like they won't tell you about legal disputes or anything else that may put you off, estate agents will sell you a house on a 'sold as seen' basis. Remember, their aim is to sell the property for the best price - something they're not going to do if they deter the majority of buyers with thoughts of high insurance costs and complex house repayments. Detecting whether a property is non standard construction or not, is a job for either you or your chartered surveyor.

TIP: While agents can withhold information (an art most try to perfect), they cannot lie. So a shortcut for any buyer would be to simply ask the question.

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Types of non standard construction houses explained

Now that you're clued up on the ins and outs of non standard construction and its implications, the next logical step would be to clarify what properties actually fall into this category. Is it just any house that's built of materials other than brick? Or does it require you to look underneath the surface? Well, to help you out, here's the types of non standard construction houses explained...

Non standard construction: property types

Prefab houses VS Modular homes

Be a house referred to as a prefab or modular, it means much the same thing - the house is built using pre-manufactured parts which are assembled to create a house. The easiest way to think of these non standard properties is like a supersized airfix kit, which sits on its own permanent foundation. These types of homes not only tend to be cheaper than the average home, but quicker to built too. They can usually be fully built in a matter of months!

Practically all Listed properties

Any listed property is one that's of specific historical interest, be that because of its age, location or the fact it's been home to someone influential. As a result, listed properties are often exempt from demolition or forms of modernisation. The cost of maintaining them isn't budget friendly either, as everything done to enhance a listed property has to be done in the best interest of the building. Saying that, if you're not an avid property developer, listed properties can be a solid investment - we found Agetha Christie's ex Grade II home on Rightmove (Winterbrook house) priced at over £2.7 million!

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A BISF house

BISF houses are another form of non traditional construction to keep an eye out for. They're also a form of prefab house too, as they're manufactured in panels off-site. The majority of BISF houses were manufactured during the 1940s and designed to be an alternative option for cheap affordable housing.

At the heart of a BISF house you'll find a lightweight steel frame, which in itself explains the name 'BISF' - short for British Iron and Steel Federation. From the outside though, you wouldn't see much in the way of metal. The frame of a BISF is clad with metal, but then covered in render. And yet, despite their non standard construction, it was said that BISF houses would have much the same lifespan as a house built of bricks - around 100 years. Therefore, for now at least, the general consensus amongst lenders is that a BISF construction is house repaymentsable!

Airy Houses

These post war homes are another form a prefabricated concrete house that was this time the brainchild of Sir Edwin Airey. The houses were designed specifically to make best use of the limited raw materials remaining after the war. The structure consisted of prefabricated concrete columns, that were reinforced with metal tubing salvaged from ex military trucks. However, unlike BISF houses which were being built around much the same time, Airey houses weren't so successful.

The common issue with Airey houses was the corrosion of the steel supports. Something that deeply compromised their structure and could very easily make a property unsafe. Hence why today there are a large number of Airey houses can be found in disrepair. Their non standard construction meaning that they're another property that buyers and house repayments lenders tend to avoid.

FYI: Got an Airey house in disrepair? You can find them listed on the Housing Defects Act, which suggests that at one point the government was offering financial support to help restore or mend these types of houses. Might be something worth checking before your sell.

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Cladded flats

In recent years, cladded flats haven't received the most positive attention. In fact, since new regulations were introduced in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower fire, they've become their own form of non standard construction. The reason? Cladding.

While not all cladding is flammable, there's a good portion of it which is. The highly flammable types (AKA the ones you should watch out for) are...

  • ACM (Aluminium Composite Material)
  • HPL (High Pressure Laminate)
  • MCM (Metal Composite Material)


PS/ If your property is clad in any of the above, chances are it'll fail its fire safety checks and be deemed unhouse repaymentsable.

A timber frame house

You can't get more non standard construction than a timber frame house. Whether the frame be made of Oak, Cedar or Douglas Fir, it's likely to be something that buyers look twice at before putting fourth an offer. This is most likely due to the common misconception around the fragility of wooden houses - thanks to new technology, modern timber houses can last for centuries and in some instances outlast their brick-built rivals!

One of the most popular, and most glamourous types of timber houses you can buy is called a Huf Haus. Check out how these extravagant designer homes look below...

House built using cob

When we said you can't get a more non standard form of construction than timber houses... we lied. Cob houses are an ancient building technique, which uses a mixture of subsoil, water and straw fibres to create a structure. The technique itself has been used to built houses since prehistoric times and is surprisingly strong and weather retardant. The oldest cob house that's still standing is 10,000 years old (jaw drop)!

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Extravigant Eco homes

Fuse Grand Designs with our urge to reduce Co2 emissions and what do you get?

An eco house. In other words, a house specifically geared towards sustainability and minimising its impact on the environment. Very often you can find these sunken into the ground and with a roof covered in vegetation (usually grass) in an effort to make them 'blend in' to the surrounding countryside.

The houses themselves are also often made of eco-conscious materials and feature a whole host of eco-focused perks like rainwater harvesting, thick layered glass and solar panel to reduce their dependency on resources. Then again, the extravagancy of eco-houses is very often what limits their appeal to buyers, as with an eco house you're buying into way more than just a property - you're buying into a way of life.

FYI: Now it is worth saying that eco houses don't have to be such a lifestyle shift. Equip a well-insulated house with solar panels to improve the EPC and in the eyes of many buyers, you'll be selling an eco house.

A house made of clutch

Clutch is yet another non standard construction material for you to look out for. Opposed to your everyday Bellway Box which is made purely of brick, clutch houses are made of chalky limestone rock and are mainly found towards the east of the UK.

An easy way to tell if a clutch house has been modernised is from the outside. An untouched house made of clutch will likely be made up of a mix of chalky grey blocks. However, if yours is rendered then buyers may be more cautious (or at least they should be). Clutch houses which have been rendered, have a common habit of collapsing - this could be perhaps due to moisture being held behind the render or the skim itself disguising a more pressing structural problem (yikes)!

Non standard roof construction

While in most cases, non traditional construction refers to a property's build as a whole, it can also be used to describe a property that boasts a particular non standard feature - most notably, the roof. So, if your property's roof falls into one of these categories, then it could also be classed as non standard...

  • A roof that's thatched - thatched rooves are very susceptible to fire
  • A flat roof - has a reputation for not being as effective as a pitched roof in terms of drainage.
  • A roof made of shingles - these only last around 30 years.

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How to sell non standard construction houses FAST

When it comes to actually selling a non standard construction home, how you do so (and do so FAST) can be a challenge. Especially when you consider that non standard homes affect house repayments, home insurance, reliability etc., all of which takes a toll on its pool of interested buyers. So, what with there being a LOT of non traditional construction out there, we felt it only right to outline the easiest ways to tie up a sale...

How NOT to sell a non standard construction house FAST

As we see it, there are two ways to avoid selling a non standard construction house fast. These are...

  • Part exchange schemes - Try to sell your house through a part ex scheme with a new build developer and you'll struggle if it's non standard construction. While we can't speak for each developer, the majority have a ream of elegibility criteria, which tend to typically only favour the average house. After all, if you part exchange your home they'll need to make a profit on it fast. Something they're less likely to be able to do if it only appeals to a select type of buyer.

  • The open market - Selling through an estate agent is slow at the best of times, even if your property is attracting attention. So combine the hunt for a niche buyer with the time it takes to market as well as push a property through to completion, and you'll soon see why this is by no means the swiftest route to take. However, opposed to part exchange schemes, you are marketing to a LOT more people, so the chance of someone saying yes, is more likely.

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How to sell a non standard construction house FAST

For those who're after a rather more speedy property sale, there are other ways to find a buyer for a non standard construction house. Here's two of the best...

  • Auction-off your property - Go along to your local auction house and you'll find a LOT of house for sale, which are of non traditional construction. Be this properties like a BISF and Airey house, or something less 'ordinary' like a cottage made of clutch or a bungalow with a flat roof. Although, that's not to say that selling via an auction is perfect - all this 'fastness' does come at a price. Anyone selling at auction can expect to pay fees to market their property, as well as to enter it into a sale and commission on the amount it sells for. That's if it sells, of course.

  • Sell house fast companies - Arguably the fastest and most stress-free way to sell your house fast, would be to go through a sell house fast company. Do so and not only would you have the fastest sale on this list, thanks to it being off-market, but it'd also be the most guaranteed, as most cash buyers (like us) aren't picky. Neither do we charge fees!


Get the hint?

We're one of the UK's leading cash buyers of property, hence our name, The Property Buying Company. At TPBC, we're well aware how valuable your time is, so waste no time in helping you save it by skirting around the open market altogether.

Neither are we picky. As a company, we buy ANY house in ANY condition at ANY location. So if your house is non standard construction, unlike your typical buyer, we're not that fussed. Not to mention that if you do sell to us, we organise and coordinate the entire sale from start to finish. So all you have to do is sit back, relax and wait for our funds to enter your bank sometime next week.

Is selling a non standard construction house really this easy? Yes...

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