BISF Houses and their Known Problems

From good intentions to nightmare homes

BISF houses have proven to be problematic for people who are either selling or buying a home.

If they're part of a chain they can cause people to become reluctant to complete. You may not even find out your own house is a BISF build until a prospective buyer completes a survey.

So it’s vital to be sure on this before you start any buying or selling process.

What is a BISF house?

Keeping things as simple as possible, a BISF house is one that was created by a body called the British Iron and Steel Federation. These houses began to be built around the country from 1946 onwards. The BISF itself was a national initiative that was borne out of good intentions. The group was formed in 1934 in an attempt to bring some coordination to steel production.

There is a lot of confusion around BISF houses, and the principle reason for this is their similarity to prefabricated homes, or at least some kinds of prefabricated homes.

Problems with BISF houses

This association with other prefab houses has caused a major problem. Some lenders have not issued mortgages to people if they own a BISF home, or want to buy one. This is because prefab property has long carried an image of being poor quality. More to the point, it is a common belief that prefab property is not durable or strong due to steel frame problems.

The BISF houses are indeed steel-framed, and they don't have a traditional brick or a tile roof, but instead a roof made out of steel.

However, the properties were actually constructed with the clear expectation of lasting as long as more conventionally built houses. While other prefab buildings can suffer considerable disrepair within ten years, BISF homes simply won’t. So the negative association is, at least in that respect, misguided.

However, there is one problem connected to BISF houses that is a reality, and is also a considerable concern. BISF houses can contain asbestos.

Asbestos and BISF

Asbestos can be found in the roofs of some BISF houses. This obviously has some worrying implications, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that selling the BISF house will be impossible. It won’t be, as long as you consider and focus on a few factors.

Generally speaking, the asbestos will not be a problem if it’s not disturbed. While this is by no means an adequate reason to leave it there, it shouldn’t pose any immediate problem unless it is tampered with.

It shouldn't take long to remove asbestos, but it will obviously involve a cost. If you’re selling, as long as you factor this into the selling equation, you should find that asbestos won’t be an issue.

It's something you can’t ignore though, for obvious reasons.

Recommended: A Guide to Selling a House with Asbestos

Buying a BISF property

If you have a wish to buy a property in the area you want to live in, and it is a BISF home, then there are a few things you can do to ensure a mortgage won’t be a problem. Some lenders may not want to arrange a mortgage for what is termed a ‘non-traditional’ property, and before you go down the road of trying to buy one, it’s worth doing your research first.

One key thing you can do first of all is talk to local surveyors.

There is a chance that there are a few BISF homes in the area, and a surveyor will be able to give you an idea of the view of lenders. They should be able to tell you how lenders view BISF homes in the area, and if they lend at all. They may also be able to tell you if there are extra costs attached to mortgages if someone wants to buy a BISF property in the local area.

Recommended: 5 Common Property Problems Surveyors Find

Bear in mind that these types of homes may be mortgageable.

Every lender is different, and there may be local differences that mean you can obtain a mortgage. It’s well worth doing the following, as a ‘checklist’ before you dismiss the idea of buying a BISF property:

  1. Talk to local surveyors to see if they have experience of working with local lenders with such properties. They may be able to advise
  2. Contact local building societies to see if they’ve lent on such properties. They may be less inclined to avoid risk if it’s a property in the local area
  3. Always flag the issue up with lenders early in the process. This will save you valuable time

You should also consider is that a lender will only refuse a mortgage on a property if there is not enough security for the loan. Sometimes this is about the employment status or credit history of an applicant. But sometimes lenders view the structure of a property as being a mitigating factor.

Selling a BISF house

This is, in a sense, easier, because of the recent growth of organisations that buy any house in any condition and the fact that most properties will sell for some sort of price.

Just because it’s a BISF home, don't crumble at the first offer you receive. The building can be sold for a decent price, as long as it is looked after and the asbestos issue is resolved. In fact, BISF homes are very durable.

If you’re short of time and you just want to rid yourself of the property, then consider selling to a “We buy any house” service. They will most likely have experience of such a situation.

So remember, there are problems attached to BISF houses, but with a few sensible decisions, and a focus on knowing where you stand, you should be able to get the result you want.