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Airey Houses – What are they and should I buy one?

14th April, 2022

Airey Houses are named after the builder Sir Edwin Airey (of Leeds), and were constructed during the post-war period across the UK. A type of non-standard construction housing, Airey houses often give rise to a host of questions to both buyers and sellers alike. We’ve written this guide to give you a complete overview of Airey houses, including their history, construction methods, mortgageability and common problems. You can consider this the complete guide to Airey housing. 

If you’re looking for the answer to a specific question, such as what is a PRC on an Airey house? Or can I get a mortgage on an Airey house? Use our menu below to navigate quickly through the article. If you’ve got more time on your hands and want the full download on Airey housing, read on for all the information you could want and more. 

 

What is an Airey House? 

Airey houses are a type of non-standard construction, similar to BISF or timber frame houses, that are also known as ‘prefabricated’ (or prefab) houses. They’re named as such because they’re composed of precast columns and a prefabricated concrete structure that is assembled on site. But more on that later. For now let’s talk about the history of Airey houses and how they came to be so populous across the UK. 

Between 1945 and 1955, 26,000 Airey houses were built across the UK. Sir Edwin Airey based the design of the house on his earlier experience with concrete housing; he had previously designed the concrete duo slab system in the 1920s. 

But why were so many Airey houses built? Well in the aftermath of the second world war the government was faced with two issues that affected the housing market. First, there was a shortage of housing due to the damage caused by the war. Second, many munitions factories were under-utilised as their weapons manufacturing was no longer required. The government decided to encourage the building of a number of houses that weren’t built traditionally. I.e. they didn’t make use of the standard method of construction with tiled roofing and masonry. 

The benefit of these non-standard construction houses was that they were easy and quick to erect, cheap to construct, and made use of many of the materials that the factories produced (such as concrete and steel). They were also relatively easy to build, which meant that you didn’t need a highly skilled labour force to construct the properties. This helped with unemployment too, making use of the unskilled and depleted labour source at the time.  

 

How are Airey Houses built? 

Airey houses are built from precast concrete columns that are clad with concrete panels. The panels are attached to the concrete columns by using loops of twisted copper wire. The columns themselves are reinforced with steel tubing, which was quite revolutionary at the time as most houses were reinforced using bars. 

Building an Airey House

Airey houses did not have cavity insulation, and the cladding used to surround the property was not 100 percent weather proof. This made Airey houses both very cold and prone to rust and decay. 

On the inside, the walls of Airey houses are clad with fibreboard or plasterboard. The ground floor is composed of solid concrete whilst the first floor is typically constructed using fabricated beams. Sometimes these were timber, depending on the availability of materials. 

The roofing on Airey houses is traditionally pitched and constructed with a rafter/purlin construction method. Typically the gable apexes are clad with plain tiles. However, on some builds these are clad with timber or PVCU boarding. 

In general, the materials used to construct these houses were chosen to minimise imports and make use of British manufacturing. 

 

Can I get a mortgage on an Airey House? 

To get a mortgage on an Airey house you will usually need to have repair works done and obtain a PRC certification. We’ve mentioned it already, but Airey houses were designed to be erected quickly and cheaply with a low level of building expertise. As a result, the lifetime of the properties isn’t nearly as long as traditionally constructed houses. 

Throughout the 1980s many issues affecting the durability and stability of Airey houses became apparent. This was particularly apparent in areas that experience more extreme weather such as Wales and the North East of England. The inclement weather penetrated the cladding and caused rust and corrosion to the steel reinforcement of the buildings. This, in turn, caused damage to the concrete frameworks. 

Mortgage on Airey House

This led the Home Secretary to deem a number of different non-standard construction builds as ‘defective’ under the 1985 Housing Act. UK banks and building societies no longer wanted to lend on properties that were deemed as defective as they were considered unsalable. The UK Government offered to buy back many of these properties from the tenants, or in some instances they funded the repairs. This funding is sadly no longer available as most repair work to Airey houses has been carried out. 

It is possible to get a mortgage on an Airey house, but you’ll need to get a PRC certification to show that appropriate repair work has been carried out. But more on that later on! If you’re considering purchasing an Airey house and will be using a mortgage, it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist mortgage provider in advance. 

 

Should I buy an Airey House? 

This of course comes down to personal preference. Airey houses are quite distinctive and certainly recognisable. They are loved by many local communities and have become part of the fabric of many areas. If you do decide to buy an Airey house then make sure that it has had the appropriate repair work carried out and that this is evidenced with a PRC certification. The benefit of buying an Airey house is that they’re often located close to city centres because of when and why they were originally built. 

 

What is a PRC Certificate on an Airey House? 

Before explaining what a PRC certification is on an Airey house it’s a good idea to clarify what PRC means! PRC literally means Precast Reinforced Concrete. PRC is a construction product that’s formed by casting concrete in a mould and then curing it in a different location. It’s typically used for parts such as floors and wall panels in an Airey house. 

We mentioned earlier that Airey houses will require repair work to be carried out (if it hasn’t been already) to obtain a mortgage. This has to be supervised by an approved PRC inspector. Typically a structural engineer. This sort of inspection is different from a survey and is specific to PRC properties. Once the inspection of the repair work has been completed the PRC certificate will be issued. 

 

How can I sell an Airey House? 

Selling any type of non-standard construction property comes with its difficulties. There are a limited range of lenders who are willing to provide a mortgage, and so you may end up having to appeal to a smaller market. This can prove challenging if you’re trying to sell your house fast

You could try to sell the property at auction. Investors who are looking to convert the property to a HMO or a buy to let are less concerned with construction methods. They will likely want to get a tenant in situ and so non standard construction properties are often of interest to them. However, selling at auction also has its pitfalls. You are limited to a much smaller market, and you don’t have full control over the sale price of the property. There’s also no guarantee that it will sell. 

If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to sell your Airey house then consider a cash house buyer. Cash house buying companies are typically able to complete much more quickly than traditional buyers. SmoothSale offers a fee free service to buy your house for cash and will guarantee to buy your property. We’ll even pay your legal fees! We buy any house, in any condition, and we can complete the sale in a timeframe that suits your onward plans. Why not get in touch today on 0800 368 8952 or get a cash offer today! 

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