Tall storeys, sad tales

If you live in a concrete building, you could find it almost impossible to sell, warns Dido Sandler

Concrete is back with a vengeance. As the housing market lifts and homeowners consider selling, many tens of thousands of people may find themselves trapped - unable to sell because no-one will lend money to a buyer of a concrete-built property.

Often pre-fab, often high rises, mostly built between the 1930s and 1960s, many of these properties are the archetypal council monstrosities, but some surprisingly upmarket properties designed by famous architects are also affected.

People who bought from their local council under right-to-buy may not have realised that the lack of something called a PRC certificate will preclude any lender giving a mortgage to a new buyer, effectively making it impossible to sell. The 1984 Defective Premises Act forces owners to get such a certificate to prove the building material is safe from "concrete cancer" - a condition that makes concrete crumble and buildings fall. But according to Malcolm Hollis, Professor of Building Surveying at Reading University and spokesman for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, while councils may have carried out repairs to secure buildings, you might still not be able to get a PRC. The repairs, although sound, may not be technically acceptable.

To make loans against properties, lenders also need proof that they are not built using higher allumina cement (HAC). This material has decayed in the past, causing buildings to decay and collapse. Not being able to find records of the building materials used can result in lenders refusing mortgages.

Another afflicted and expanding group is people who live in concrete constructions with a PRC certificate and without HAC, but who still cannot sell because mortgage companies will not lend against properties they view as difficult to sell.

Patrick Bunton, manager at London & Country, a mortgage broker in Bath, says owners are finding there is nothing structurally wrong with their property but they are penalised because the housing slump has made their home high-risk as a lending proposition. Most mortgage firms now refuse to make loans on any form of concrete construction. Phil Reed, corporate communications manager of National & Provincial building society, says: "Lenders have tightened up their lending policies, having had their fingers burnt in the late Eighties. They will not lend money where once they may have been prepared to take the risk."

As well as people who live in concrete constructions, those with studio or one-bedroom flats, those above the sixth floor in a high-rise, and those above a shop or in a council housing estate are all encountering problems selling their homes. These types of dwellings lost the most value by proportion in the slump. So long as there is still a relatively cheap supply of more desirable and more saleable residences on the market, lenders are more averse to the higher-risk properties.

Caroline and Edward McBride set their hearts on a flat in a concrete construction block in Bayswater, London, but they had problems trying to get a mortgage. "It's a real pain. We really like the property and architecturally it's very significant," said Mr McBride. (The couple asked us not to use their real names, so as not to jeopardise negotiations with lenders.)

Mr McBride is a director of an advertising company and Mrs McBride is a PA. The flat was designed by Kenneth Frampton, the distinguished architect and architectural writer who is now Professor of Architecture at Columbia University in the US.

Records showed there was no HAC used in construction. Valuers found nothing structurally wrong with the building but, one by one, lenders refused loans. The couple tried Bristol & West, Nationwide and Alliance & Leicester building societies, Abbey National, and several smaller lenders to no avail. National & Provincial building society, shortly to become part of Abbey National, said it would lend against the property, but changed its mind when it found out the McBrides were retaining another mortgage on a property they had been unable to sell.

Mr McBride notes the managing agents were able arrange insurance for the building without any problem. "If the insurers had no problem insuring the property, why won't the lenders lend?" he asked.

The problem has cost the McBrides hundreds of pounds. They found the lending institutions would only come to a decision after they had sent a valuer in, which cost pounds 100-pounds 200 a visit. Finally they approached John Charcol, a mortgage broker in London, which persuaded the Halifax to lend on the flat. "The Halifax saved our lives. They've got a database of buildings and seem to be able to distinguish on an individual basis rather than general rules," Mr McBride said.

Walter Avrili, operations director for John Charcol, said: "The benefit of going through a mortgage broker for non-standard properties is they can save you time and money. They know which lender will do what. You can save the necessary valuations." The downside of using a broker, however, is you will normally have to pay a fee of possibly hundreds of pounds.

A word of caution, though, for people like the McBrides. Even if they do get the mortgage, the resale value may be poor if mortgage lenders continue to shy away from the property. However, sellers of properties despised by lenders but structurally sound may take heart from the continuing recovery in the housing market. The more sustained this is, the more likely lending policies are to loosen in the future.

There is no end in sight, however, for people stuck with former council properties without PRC certificates. The only sale that may be possible is to cash buyers, usually at a heavy discount.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution