Buying a Bungalow

23/10/2017
Buying a bungalow is an excellent choice if you have problems with mobility and/or are retired or approaching retirement because they are built without stairs by definition. That said, they can also be well worth consideration if you are planning a larger family: it's normally relatively easy to convert the loft space into a second storey and expanding sideways is less complicated than it would be for a home with more floor levels.

They also quite often come with larger plots of land than other properties, once again an advantage if you are planning to extend. Click if you'd like a free Structural Engineer quote for an extension or refurbishment on a bungalow.

Soaring land prices in the UK mean that bungalows are more expensive in terms of rooms per square metre than other property types. Sometimes they have issues in terms of their layouts - you can find, for example, a bathroom the other side of the house to the bedroom/s.

Prefabricated reinforced concrete (PRC) bungalows, however, have particular issues. They were purposefully built with material that was easy to construct speedy to put up during the immediate post-war period and into the 1950s, to address the chronic lack of houses.

Unfortunately it is far less durable as standard construction materials and suffers from comparatively rapid degradation. This means that you might find it very difficult or impossible to get a mortgage for buying such a bungalow and similar difficulties in selling the property. PRC bungalows also aren't generally built on large plots of land.

However, there IS a silver lining; read on and find out how you might make a PRC bungalow work in your favour...

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What is a bungalow and what does it look like?

The word bungalow derives from a Gujarati word meaning a Bengali-style dwelling and refers to single storey houses popular in Bengal in the time of the East India Company because they were better suited to the monsoon climate which predominates there. They were normally built a step up from the ground, were cheap in terms of materials and land prices were low. The word - and concept - was imported back to England.

A bungalow is built as a single storey property and often has a veranda and/or a porch. It most commonly has a pitched roof which often contains a small loft. Where a second storey has been built into a loft, it is of a much smaller area than the ground floor and windows are of the dormer type, sloping with the roof. As stated, it often is built on a plot with a fair amount of land.

Prefabricated bungalows have flat roofs which are less durable and are not normally built on large plots of land. They do not have the same character or individuality as other bungalows, look 'blocky' and horizontal and are most often in estates where there are many of them.

Cottages are generally regarded as smaller than bungalows and more often than not have been built with a second storey.

What issues are associated with bungalows?

The majority of bungalows in the UK were built in the 1930s and 40s, however there are still a fair number in existence from earlier periods. Click on the following links to find out more about general issues affecting:
Bungalows built in the 1930s and 40s are, like other properties built in the same period, basically sound; they generally have reasonable foundation and damp proof courses for example. Bungalows are arguably always less susceptible to subsidence, all other things being equal, than non-bungalows because they exert much less pressure on the ground on which they're built.

However, they are generally more than 70 years old so you can expect some degradation in the construction materials and problems also arise because the concepts of the time which worked often fall short of the standards required by more modern living.

You can, for example, have electrical wiring problems if they haven't been rewired and roof materials, tiles etc., may be in need of repair and replacement.

Windows

Original windows will have been single glazed and subject to condensation; often the replacement double glazed windows put in subsequently are also found to have issues, particularly if they are ill-fitted, which can lead to damp and draught problems, for example. New windows should have trickle vents which eradicate the condensation problem.

Cold Bridging

Cold bridging is known to affect properties of this period and can particularly afflict bungalows which have had a loft conversion. Essentially the roof, which forms the ceiling and some of the walls of the storey, absorbs the cold and can form a source of condensation when warm moist air is drawn towards it. This can create a damp problem. Properly fitted insulation can correct this to some extent.

Problems related to extensions

As stated, bungalows are often extended and refurbished and, where two constructions meet (extension and original building), because of the different heat capacitances and porosity of the different materials, you often get damp. Modern buildings have a cavity wall and usually dry lining whereas the older building will have solid walls. Any problems are exacerbated if the extension work is sub-standard.

PRC bungalow issues

There are in the vast majority of cases issues in the load bearing columns of these properties. The original steel rods used in the prefabricated concrete slabs were low quality, so they suffer from corrosion and metal fatigue, which weakens the structure of the bungalow. PRC panels are also highly susceptible to condensation, dampness and draughtiness.

It was because of the discovery of these defects in the 1980s, when Right to Buy was originally launched, which led most major lenders to rule that they would no longer accept these properties as satisfactory security for mortgages.

You can, however, buy PRC bungalows for cash - and quite cheaply - and then remove the PRC panels and replace them with traditional block work and brick and/or Structured Insulated Panels. Typically, the refurbishment takes between 5 and 8 weeks. You can theoretically extend or build a second storey on the original material, but most experts would suggest that you go for a complete rebuild instead.

If you are considering replacing the panels of a PRC bungalow, you would be well advised to research planning permission and building regulations appropriate to the work. Click if you wish to get a free quote for our Structural Engineers, who can assist you with this project.

Some mortgage lenders have even been known to agree to a reduced mortgage loan for buying a PRC property with the offer of more funds conditional on completion of the refurbishment described. Regardless, choosing to replace the PRC panels is a great way to increase the resale value of these properties, not to mention the uplift in ambience to your dwelling(!).


What sort of home buyers survey would a bungalow require?

The main factor here is the age of the property.

You are always advised to get a full Building Survey if the property you are considering buying is more than 70 years old. This applies to any property that was built prior to 1947 and most bungalows were built before this.

PRC bungalows were normally built around or slightly later than 1947. They are likely to be comparatively smaller than other bungalows and unlikely to be extended. A HomeBuyer Report is sufficient for these properties - they are generally simple in design and quite small - and is recommended given the structural issues described. If the PRC panels have been replaced, you would still normally get a HomeBuyer Report.

For non-PRC bungalows built later than the 1950s, you would normally get a HomeBuyer Report because of the modernity of the property. You would only get a Building Survey if the bungalow is unusually large and/or if it has been extensively refurbished or extended. In the vast majority of cases, a HomeBuyer Report is quite sufficient. 

Unsure about what home buyer survey you need for your bungalow? Call 0333 344 3234


*RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability
Want help now? Call us on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges apply)


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