BLP: UK's top mortgage lenders sign-up to groundbreaking construction assurance scheme

Using offsite manufactured systems and other innovative construction techniques in the residential sector has been held back by the fact that, although developers and clients are often keen to adopt and use them, mortgages on the finished homes were often hard to secure - rendering the properties unsellable and the developer somewhat stressed.

This is all set to change following the work of a cross industry initiative:

BOPAS - the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme

. Spearheaded by

Buildoffsite, Lloyd's Register, BLP Insurance, the RICS

and the UK's four largest mortgage lenders, BOPAS will simplify and quicken the process of obtaining mortgages on unusual building techniques. Although there are other lenders involved in the process,

Santander, Lloyds TSB Group (including HBOS), Nationwide and RBS

have all made a commitment to the BOPAS pilot scheme.

Simon Main, Managing Director of BLP explains:

"Buildoffsite has done incredibly well to promote offsite and non-traditional construction and BOPAS is a logical progression for them. The scheme will provide the highest levels of assurance to those who need it; be it mortgage lenders, their valuers, homebuyers or housebuilders. Non-traditional construction will become more and more popular, especially in light of the increased regulation relating to carbon emissions and energy performance".

Although the scheme has been some 18 months in the making, the working group reached a significant milestone recently when the four major lenders involved in the project signed-off on the proposed template for BOPAS. In so doing, they confirmed that any system which successfully completes the process meets their requirements in terms of durability, maintenance and identification, accreditation of the manufacturers and their constructors and an acceptable level of warranty cover.

David House, Head of Property Risk at Santander explainsthe reasons why the scheme is important:

"As the building industry strives to meet the challenge of producing carbon neutral homes it will increasingly look towards the use of new methods of construction and modern materials. Moreover, many consumers are now sensitive to eco issues and sophisticated in their awareness of the need for energy conservation and reducing their carbon footprint. Consequently, Santander UK anticipates that in coming years our customers will want to purchase properties built from materials and to designs unlike any previously seen in the mainstream housing market. As a responsible mortgage lender we seek to respond to the aspirations of our customers whilst mitigating the risks associated with accepting new types of construction for mortgage security. The Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme enables us to do this because it provides a framework which ensures a consistent and rigorous approach to managing the risks associated with non-traditional construction."

The unique structure of BOPAS is that it combines the expertise of three major bodies to create the Buildoffsite accreditation system: Lloyd's Register, one of the world's leading risk management organisations will manage the scheme and hold a database of accredited manufacturers, developers and contractors that have satisfactorily completed the scheme evaluation process. BLP, through its insurance expertise and some 20+ years of underwriting non-traditional construction systems has provided the template for durability and maintenance and scheme specific design and workmanship checks. The last stage of the process will be a database that will provide information on the construction of all homes that have been through the scheme so that surveyors can be confident that lenders who are party to the scheme have already approved the construction as suitable for lending purposes.

Ultimately, BOPAS will enable surveyors to provide a mortgage valuation on a property built with an innovative form of construction, while confident that it has been built to an agreed standard which lenders have already accepted as mortgageable - subject to the usual conditions.

Philip Santo of the RICS says:

"We are now at an advanced stage of creating an industry standard process for the assessment and validation of offsite manufactured systems and innovative construction techniques that will, when completed, change the construction landscape. We will finally have an agreed process which will enable valuers to complete mortgage valuations, for lenders to be confident about financing and for buyers to purchase with confidence knowing that, even though the construction is not conventional, the property has been built to a recognised standard.

He adds: "The pre-fab buildings of the mid 20th century gave non-traditional construction a bad reputation because there were some high profile failures. With BOPAS that could not happen again as we will have a very thorough appraisal process supported by sophisticated (but elegantly simple) databases and registers that instantly show whether the manufacturer or supplier has met lenders' stringent criteria."

For more information contact David Osrin, Business Development at BLP, on 07889 978803.

Staff Author

Thomas Miller Group