Precast reinforced concrete (PRC) houses fall within the more general category of non-traditional housing. This means anything that is not a conventional brick or timber frame structure and includes steel frame, cast in situ concrete and PRC construction. Steel frame and cast in situ concrete are not too problematical. There are issues with them and a buyer would be well advised to have a specialist building survey when buying one. PRC houses are more tricky because many lenders will not grant mortgages on them. This is why they tend to be a lot cheaper.
So what are they? After the war there was a shortage of building materials and a massive demand for low-cost housing to replace the urban dwellings that had been destroyed. Although the idea for building this type of housing had been around for many years it wasn't until the 1950s and 60s that it really got going. There were many different types of PRC houses and they were usually named after the companies that built them. Examples of this are Unity, Cornish Unit and Airey.
After 1979 when Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government came to power council houses started to be sold off. Initially people were keen to buy the non-traditional houses as well as the brick built ones but once they were in the private sector and no longer the responsibility of the local housing authority some of the problems started to become apparent. After a project conducted by the building research establishment, legislation was passed called the Housing Defects Act 1984. This was subsequently incorporated into the 1985 Housing Act. Essentially this condemned many of the PRC designs as fundamentally defective. Most of the problems related to corrosion of the reinforcement and deterioration of the concrete. After that lenders would not advance money on them unless they were the subject of an approved repair scheme.
PRC Homes Ltd was set up as a subdivision of the NHBC (National House Builders Council) in conjunction with the CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders) and this company undertook repairs under the supervision of a structural engineer which basically involved removing the external walls and replacing them with traditional cavity walls. The inner parts of the structure and the roof remained intact and so the building had to be supported during the process. There were examples of local authority repairs that were not licensed under the scheme and lenders would not advance money on those. The scheme was wound up during the 1990's and no longer exists.
A house that has been the subject of a PRC repair with a certificate is generally acceptable as mortgage lending security but if it is in its original state it is unlikely that you will be up to get a mortgage. There are specialist companies that will lend on them but as in all areas of finance you would be well advised to tread very carefully and to seek independent financial advice before getting involved with companies of this nature.
Some further reading: www.prchomes.co.uk
Donald Leslie & Co
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