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.

Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform