Hi everyone!

My boyfriend and I are trying to buy our 1st property in the UK. We had the offer accepted by the vendor but now the lender (Nationwide) refuses to make a valuation of the property, saying they are not sure if the property is a BIFS and they don’t know which kind of concrete has the construction been made of.
The property is 227 Firbank Road in M23.

Any help?

Thanks in advance 🙂

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Hi Marc,

Thanks again for your precious feedback!

I’ll definitely keep you posted!

Kind regards


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Hi Ilaria,
It’s always hard to say exactly what investigations would by required by any lender.

The condition of the frame-work will almost always be in question and sometimes but not always, the lender will require a visual inspection of the corner stanchions or framework as this is where most corrosion occurs especially if the overlying render hasn’t been maintained or if the site is exposed to driving wind or rain.

I say sometimes, because sometimes lenders are happy to lend following a only a basic survey of the visible parts of the frame and no removal of brickwork is required, whilst others do require the removal of brickwork or render to allow full exposure and visual inspection of the most vulnerable areas of the frame.

It may be worth asking if the current owner has ever had the frame exposed and inspected and if so, what condition it was found to be. This wold be time dependant though, i.e a visual inspection within the last 10 years to have any validity today.

I have sent you an inspection report on a Riley Property which will give you an idea of some of the faults that were found during one properties survey. The report doesn’t represent all Riley houses but I hope it will give you an idea of what issues can arise.

As for lenders, in my experience I have founder Santander to be one of the best banks to deal with in relation to Non-Standard built properties. They also tend to not penalise you with higher than average interest rates, just because the property is non conventional in construction (brick built). Sadly and rather strangely the UK is the only country in the world that places preference on brick over alternative construction types, despite most industrial and commercial properties being built using steel framed construction.

The price of the property appears to be in line with what I would expect for this type of build. As a rough estimation, I think it is priced at around 20% less than similar brick constructions in the area, which is fairly typical for a steel framed building. The valuation gap is a little lower for BISF houses due to changing perceptions and the knowledge that these houses were built as permanent structures and not as temporary buildings. On average we find BISF houses to be valued around 10-15% below market value in certain areas, particularly where housing is in great demand.

The Riley house may require a replacement roof in the future which may cost between 7k & 10K but at least it doesn’t appear to be made from asbestos which could cost more to remove. External insulation may also need to be added costing a further £8.5k+, but the latter would be due to preference and not a requirement but it would make the property much warmer. (We are finding more and more lenders insisting that properties should be insulated before a mortgage is offered).

There is undoubtedly a lot of work that needs doing inside the house. The ceiling may need replacing in the kitchen and possibly in other rooms too, as well as a new kitchen installation to suit your needs. The kitchen would easily cost £5k+ but if this is something you would choose to change over time, it’s not such a big problem.

If I was considering this house, my main concern would be facing difficulties selling in the future just as you are facing buying difficulties now but in the future your property will be older and lenders may be even more reluctant to lend on this build type, particularly as this particular construction type is rare making it less favourable to lenders and surveyors. However if you are thinking of staying here for a very long time, then this probably wouldn’t be a problem for you.

My advice is to take a second viewing and possibly take a builder friend along with you, to determine any further costs that you may incur to bring the inside of the property up to a level that you are happy with, as these costs alone could run into many thousands, but these renovations will need doing eventually and despite the initial low cost of the property, you could end up paying far more than expected. This is before you even consider any structural work that an invasive survey may find.

Invasive surveys aren’t cheap either, so before you go down that route, I would prefer to know exactly where I stood on the basic interior renovation costs first, which would need to be paid on top of the mortgage payments.

I’m all for steel framed properties as they can and do offer, affordable living spaces that can be turned into palaces over time with hard work and imagination.

What I wouldn’t want is for you to spend anything up to £1000.00 for an invasive survey before taking into account other costs, such as remedial work inside. This needs to be added onto the house price so that you have a realistic idea of what the overall property cost will be.
Obviously the best way would be to approach a lender who doesn’t require an invasive survey, but this is very hit and miss, as you can never predict what the lender would insist on before any loan is agreed.
My guess is that all lenders may request an invasive survey, simply because they are not familiar with this pretty rare construction type but that is only my personal view, the reality may be different.

The only drawback to this, is that an invasive survey where the lower frame is exposed, gives a true account of the condition of the frame.
By not having an invasive survey, you will never know if what you are buying is structurally sound or not, which could in turn lead to costly repair bills in the future.

At the same time though, if the frame and structure is found to be in excellent condition, you will at least have the peace of mind that your investment is sound, as £110,000 is still a large amount of money in reality.
If you were buying an expensive car you would want to know that the chassis was in good condition and not rotten or corroded and the same applies when buying any steel framed property.

Despite all of the above, I must add that I am biased toward BISF properties because I familiar with them in every way. I know that no matter what problem I found, chances are I could repair it myself as a competent DIYer even though I am not a builder.
There is nothing on a BISF house that I know couldn’t be repaired or replaced fairly easily apart from the roof because I hate heights.

Now, if I was just as familiar with the Riley house construction, I may have the exact same view of the house but sadly I am not familiar at all with this type of build and my knowledge is purely based upon reports and inspections that I have read. So please take that into consideration when reading my response.

Whatever way you choose to go, please keep me informed of the outcome. It would be just as good to know that your purchase went ahead without a hitch and that you were happy with the outcome.
Only time will tell but I wish you well and will always try to assist where possible.



P.S Other people may have different views and it would be good to hear from current Riley House owners should they wish to join this conversation.

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Hi Marc,

Thanks for your kind reply.

I would like to ask you if you think that the bank will require extra investigation (e.g making holes in the walls and so on ) and considering your experience.. what would be your suggestion? Should we leave it or should we try with another bank?

If you want to have a look into the property.. please visit : https://www.reedsrains.co.uk/property/semi-detached-house-for-sale-firbank-road-manchester-m23-id-200695185



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Hello Ilaria, and welcome to our community.

Sadly I must inform you that the houses that you’re considering is NOT a BISF house.

I must admit that at first glance it does indeed look very similar to a BISF house and even more so due to the apparent renovation that these properties have undergone but there are a few giveaways.

The house that you are looking at is actually a Riley house, constructed in the 1940’s by Riley Constructional Systems, Cawood, Wharton & Co Ltd.
There were only around 2000 of these ever built as opposed to 36,000 BISF houses.

They are of a Rolled Steel Channel frame construction and although externally similar to BISF houses, the internal layout is very different, especially on the first floor.

Looking at the front of the property, one giveaway is the width of the front door spacing in comparison to the small bedroom window situated directly above.

On a BISF house, the width of the front door opening is exactly the same width as the bedroom window above. This is always true of all BISF Houses, however, if you look carefully at the Riley House, you will notice that the door is a little wider than the bedroom window above and you can also see that a glass panel was built at the side of the front door to accommodate the width, otherwise the front door would have been very wide indeed.

The good news is that they are NOT registered as defective under any Housing Act Legislation, however they are quite rare and not many lenders or surveyors will be familiar with this property type.

This may lead to problems with selling the house at a later date, not dissimilar to what is happening right now in your case.

I’ve posted an image below to give you an idea of what these houses looked like originally.

I hope this answers your question and please let me know how things turn out for you.

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