Mortgage lenders favour homes built using standard building techniques – typically involving brick, block or stone walls topped by a slate or tiled roof. If yours is a non-standard construction – such as a Cornish unit house – you could face more of a challenge securing a mortgage.

What are Cornish construction homes?

Mortgages for homes of unusual construction present many mortgage lenders with a problem – chiefly, a concern that recovery of the mortgage advance may be compromised by the potentially poor resale value of such a home.

If you default on the loan repayments, the lender’s repossession of the dwelling may realise insufficient funds to recover the original advance.

Since this might be a case in point, what is a Cornish construction house?

The website Non-Standard House (NSH) Construction explains that the Cornish Unit House is immediately recognisable by its distinctive oversized and hipped Mansard roof – a dwelling designed by A E Beresford and R Tonkin in response to the country’s urgent need for quickly-built, affordable housing in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Around 30,000 of these homes were built by Selleck Nicholls & Company and the Central Cornwall Concrete & Artificial Stone Company up until about 1956 – with slight variations between Type 1 and Type 2 versions of the same design and a further subdivision into types A and B.

The boom in post-war housing construction anticipated temporary homes that would last little longer than ten years, although many of them – including Cornish construction homes – are still around today. Like many of the other “temporary” housing units built during this period, Cornish construction homes were designated as “defective” under Part XV1 of the Housing Act 1985 – in this case, mainly because of the erosion and deterioration over time of both the concrete cladding panels and the concrete pillars supporting them.

Damian Youell

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Cornish unit – a form of construction

Cornish construction homes were built using precast reinforced concrete (PRC) panels around a concrete frame to construct the first floor. The second floor was entirely taken up with the mansard roof made from clay tiles hung on almost vertical timber trusses for the most part, but then a final section of a less steeply pitched roof. This completed the iconic and immediately recognisable appearance of the mansard-roofed Cornish unit.


Can I get a mortgage on a Cornish house?

As we’ve mentioned, mortgages for unusual construction homes can prove a challenge – and this applies to Cornish construction dwellings.

There are companies specialising in the renovation of these particular non-standard construction homes. Building works typically take between four and five weeks, culminating in a PRC Certificate of Works typically accepted by many mortgage lenders as making good any former defects in the building.

Some methods, for instance, involve the removal of the concrete cladding panels on the ground floor and rebuilding in standard twin-course brickwork. Acrow props (adjustable steel props) are installed throughout the house to replace the former concrete pillars and columns.

Several local authorities have also trialled replacing the original clay roof tiles with Metrotile lightweight steel roof tiles.

With the appropriate renovations completed (brick walls in place of the concrete panelling on the ground floor) and a PRC Certificate of Works issued, many lenders will consider a Cornish construction mortgage.

However, your choice might be limited by the smaller pool of willing lenders, so you might want to consult experienced brokers – such as ourselves here at NeedingAdvice.co.uk – to help identify those that recognise an approved scheme of refurbishment and repair.


What is a non-standard construction mortgage?

Let’s recap on some of the issues if you’ve asked, can I get a mortgage on a Cornish unit house?

The answer is “yes” – qualified by the fact that you will almost certainly need a certificate from a reputable builder that repairs and refurbishes the original concrete cladding and framework have been completed per an approved programme of works.

It may be worth reiterating the wide range of dwellings of non-standard construction since Cornish construction houses are just one example. The range of possibilities includes:

  • homes with thatched roofs – like that picturesque country cottage you’re interested in buying;
  • homes built around steel or timber frames;
  • houses built with just a single course of brickwork – only twin courses provide the degree of insulation required in modern homes;
  • homes built using prefabricated concrete panels;
  • flats in high-rise blocks;
  • listed buildings – including buildings of historic or architectural interest; and
  • many others.

Next steps

You will likely find it more than a usual challenge to secure a mortgage for a non-standard construction home. For instance, if you are looking for a Cornish PRC mortgage, the pool of willing lenders is likely to be relatively small.

For that reason, you might want to consult experienced experts – such as ourselves here at NeedingAdvice.co.uk – so that we can help to identify those lenders currently prepared to consider Cornish unit house mortgages and assist you in the formal process of application.