Several non-standard construction houses, including Wates, were classified as “defective” following a review by the BRE in the 1980s. Defective houses can create a lot of problems for sellers and buyers alike if they aren’t properly repaired.
So, what is a Wates house?
Wates is a type of prefabricated non-standard construction house built from pre-cast reinforced concrete (PRC). Over 22,000 of these houses were built in the UK from 1947-1956 in response to the post-WWII housing shortage. They were classified as “defective” following a review carried out by the BRE in the 1980s.
In our complete guide, we will answer the top nine most popular questions on Wates houses. We cover everything from getting a mortgage to the best ways to sell a Wates house.
Whether you’re struggling to sell a Wates house, find a mortgage provider or are considering buying, this is the guide for you…
Want home sale guidance now? Take our free quiz for personalised Wates home-sale advice:
1. What is a Wates house?
Wates is a type of prefabricated non-standard construction house built from pre-cast reinforced concrete (aka PRC). They were developed by Wates Ltd.
The UK faced an extreme housing shortage following the Second World War. Materials and skilled labour were also in short supply at the time.
To meet the housing demand, a new form of construction was pioneered known as pre-cast reinforced concrete (or “PRC” for short).
Wates houses were designed to be cheap and easy to assemble. They are made from large panels of concrete which are pre-cast in factories and assembled on site.
Over 22,000 of these houses were built in the UK from 1947-1956. Five principal types of Wates houses (known as types A to E) were produced.
Wates houses, along with several other PRC homes, were designated as “defective” following a review carried out by the BRE in the 1980s.
2. How are Wates houses built?
Five principal types of Wates houses (known as types A to E) were produced. Each type has minor variants in construction.
Generally, the Wates system was made up of precast floors and solid precast internal walls. Precast sandwich panels formed the outer walls of the building. The floors are supported by the inner leaf of the sandwich panels at the loadbearing exterior walls.
The various sections were precast in a factory and assembled on site.
All Wates houses have traditionally constructed pitched, tiled roofs.
3. Are Wates houses defective?
Wates houses are classed as defective under Part XVI of the Housing Act 1985.
The Building Research Establishment carried out a review of non-standard construction properties in the 1980s. The condition surveys revealed that certain types of non-standard construction homes suffered from structural defects. This led to them being designated as “defective” under the Housing Defects Legislation.
Generally, mortgage lenders will not lend on “defective” homes unless they are provided with a PRC Certificate. This confirms that structural repairs have been properly carried out.
4. Do you need a PRC Certificate for a Wates house?
You do need a PRC Certificate for a Wates house if you want it to be mortgageable. PRC Certificates can only be issued once a PRC house has had a licensed PRC repair. Mortgage lenders rely on the PRC Certificate to confirm that the repair has been carried out to a satisfactory standard, under a mortgage approved scheme.
We have put together a handy table summarising the most common types of repairs carried out on Wates houses.
*Fewer and fewer lenders are willing to offer mortgages on Wates houses with this level of repair. It is likely that you’ll need to upgrade the repair works to the PRC Homes Ltd Licensed Repair Scheme to be acceptable to most major lenders.
If you’re considering buying a Wates house, you should always obtain a certified copy of the original PRC Certificate from the seller for two reasons:
- It will give you peace of mind that the proper repairs have been carried out, and
- It will enable you to apply for a mortgage as you can provide legal evidence of the repair to the bank or building society.
Make sure to check the PRC Certificate is original and authentic before proceeding any further. The certificate should have been issued by an experienced and qualified PRC Structural Engineer.
Make sure to get a second opinion before you commit to the purchase if there’s any doubt.
5. Can you get a mortgage on a Wates house?
Generally, you will not be able to get a mortgage on a Wates house unless it has been repaired to the required construction standard. Banks and building societies will need to see evidence of the repairs in the form of a PRC Certificate. Even then, some may refuse to lend due to the extra risks associated with non-standard construction.
Banks and building societies will have different acceptable licensed repair types according to their lending criteria. However, most mortgage providers will only consider lending on Wates properties that have had a full PRC Homes Licensed Repair.
If you’re struggling to get a mortgage on a Wates house, here are some of my top tips to improve your odds:
- Speak to a mortgage broker. I would recommend speaking with a mortgage broker if you’re struggling to find a suitable lender. They’ll be able to introduce you to providers who are happy to offer mortgages on Wates houses.
- Lower your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Mortgage providers categorise non-standard properties as “higher risk”. Therefore, they’re sometimes more hesitant to lend. If you increase your deposit amount, this will bring down the perceived risk for the lender.
- Consider your personal mortgageability. There are other factors that will affect your ability to get a mortgage, not just the construction type! Lenders consider things such as your credit history, any existing debt and employment status. MoneySavingExpert has some top tips to help boost your mortgage chances.
6. Do Wates houses contain asbestos?
It is safe to assume that any unmodified Wates house will contain asbestos. Wates houses were built from 1947-1956. During this time, building materials containing asbestos were widely used. If in doubt, an asbestos survey will be able to flag the location, type, and condition of any asbestos in your Wates house.
There are several places you might find asbestos in a Wates house or flat. We have set out the location, item and risk in this handy table below:
You should assume that all textured coatings in a Wates house contain asbestos until you have a full up to date survey carried out.
7. Should I buy a Wates house?
Wates houses are almost always cheaper to buy than an equivalent standard construction house. This can make them a more affordable option for some buyers.
However, there are some important things to consider before purchasing a Wates home:
- PRC Certificate. Before you proceed any further, you should ask the seller for a copy of the PRC Certificate. If the house hasn’t been repaired to the approved standard, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a mortgage.
- Condition. If a Wates house has not been repaired to a mortgageable standard, you will not be able to purchase the property unless you are a cash buyer. It can be extremely expensive and time consuming to repair a Wates property to a mortgageable standard.
- Financing and Insurance. Non-standard construction homes, especially “defective” ones, are considered “high-risk” by lenders and insurers alike. It can therefore be difficult to get a mortgage and home insurance on a Wates house. Speak with a mortgage and insurance broker if you’re struggling to find a willing provider.
- Stigma and resale potential. It generally takes a lot longer to sell a non-standard construction house. Some buyers can find it hard to look past the “defective” label, even when full structural repairs have been carried out. Keep this in mind if you are planning to sell the property in the future.
- Energy efficiency. Wates houses in their original form are not energy efficient. This can lead to higher utility bills, so make sure to find out if the seller has added any insulation. If not, it may be sensible to get some building quotes for suitable insulation and adjust your offer accordingly.
You should always get a full structural survey (aka a Level 3 Building Survey) if you’re considering buying a Wates property.
If possible, try and get a qualified chartered surveyor who is familiar with this construction type.
The survey will offer you guidance on the condition, structural integrity, and any maintenance issues. It will also give you an estimate of any costs of repairs that can be factored into your offer.
8. Is it hard to sell a Wates house?
Wates houses were classified as “defective” following the BRE’s review of non-standard construction properties. This makes them hard to sell as, in their unmodified form, they’re largely unmortgageable. Even when they’ve been fully repaired, buyers are put off by the stigma associated with non-standard construction homes.
The problems you might face selling a Wates house will vary depending on whether your home has been repaired.
Not sure about the best way to sell your Wates home? Our free quiz can help guide you in the right direction:
8.1 My Wates house has not been repaired
Some of the challenges you might face selling an unrepaired Wates house include:
- You will be limited to cash buyers. An unrepaired Wates house is unmortgageable, so you will be limited to cash buyers. Cash buyers are few and far between and tend to use their strong financial position to buy properties at discounted prices.
- Wates houses can be expensive to repair. Many prospective buyers will be put off by the cost involved in repairing the property to a mortgageable standard. Not all prospective cash buyers will be looking to carry out full repairs. Buy-to-let investors might instead choose to carry out more minor insulation repairs to improve the thermal efficiency of the home before letting the property.
Suitable buyers for unrepaired Wates houses do exist…the trick is knowing where to find them!
8.2 My Wates house has been repaired
Even if the property has been repaired, it can still be tricky to sell a Wates house:
- Repairs not up to standard. For starters, not all repairs are equal. Extensive repairs can be made to a Wates house without meeting the approved PRC licence standard. This means that the property may not be mortgageable, and you’ll still face some of the issues associated with an unrepaired property.
- Associated stigma. Lots of buyers will be put off a home if they find out it is of non-standard construction. Buyers can also find it hard to look past the “defective” label, even when full structural repairs have been carried out.
9. What is the best way to sell a Wates house?
The best way to sell a Wates house will largely depend on whether PRC repairs have been carried out to an approved standard. Unrepaired Wates houses are best sold by auction, as you will have an audience of cash buyers and developers. If repaired, your best option is to sell with a local agent who has experience selling this property type.
9.1 Best way to sell an unmortgageable Wates house
If your Wates home is unrepaired, your best option will be to sell by auction.
Auctions offer a great balance between speed and price. Here are just some of the benefits of selling an unmortgageable Wates house by auction:
- Cash buyers. Auctions tend to attract more cash buyers and experienced developers than estate agents do. They won’t be put off by a non-standard construction build. Investors and developers will be at auctions looking for opportunities to add value and a solid return on investment.
- Speed. Selling by auction is one of the fastest ways to sell a house. Sales can be agreed in as little as 6-8 weeks!
- Certainty. You will also have a much higher chance of achieving a sale. Less than 1% of sales agreed by traditional auction fall through. By comparison, 31% of all house sales fall through at least once before completion if sold on the open market. This figure tends to be a lot higher when selling a non-standard construction property.
- Success rate. Auctions have a higher success rate of 78% (compared with estate agents at just 51%).
- Experience. Auctioneers tend to have more experience dealing with non-standard construction properties than many estate agents. Problem properties, such as “defective” homes, tend to be better suited to auction.
If your property has been repaired, you have more suitable options when it comes to selling…
9.2 Best way to sell a repaired Wates house
If your Wates house has been repaired to the approved PRC standard, you have two options when it comes to selling.
The best one for you will depend on whether you would like to achieve the best price possible, or if you value a faster, more certain sale.
Best price possible
If you want to achieve the best price possible, then selling with a good, local estate agent is the best option for you.
If possible, choose an agent who has a good understanding of Wates houses and how they perform in the local market. The last thing you want is an uninformed agent putting off potential buyers.
Just be prepared that it might take a long time to sell your Wates house this way.
According to a 2022 study by Zoopla, it takes around 25 weeks on average to sell a house. Remember that this is an average. Non-standard construction properties, like Wates houses, tend to take even longer to sell!
If you don’t have the luxury of time, then selling your house by auction might be a better option…
Faster and more certain sale
If you want to achieve a faster and more certain sale, then selling by auction is the best option for you. Selling by auction is also a good plan B if you aren’t having much luck selling on the open market.
You can read more about the benefits of selling by auction in my guide, “17 Benefits Of Selling Your House By Auction [What Customers Say]”.
Take my free Wates home-selling quiz
If you think auction might be right for you, and you’re looking to save a lot of homework, headaches, and guesswork, I can help. Take the short quiz I've designed for you below.
If auction's the right option, I'll connect you with my #1 Leading Auction House. You can get a free auction appraisal and have all your auction questions answered (for free) in the next 24 hours.
By Matthew Cooper, Co-Founder of Home Selling Expert