Buying an ex-council property

Buying a former local authority property is a great way to get a spacious and affordable family home, but there are things to be aware of. Here’s everything you need to know about buying an ex-council house.

Should I buy an ex-council property?

There are many good reasons to consider buying an ex-local authority house. They are usually cheaper than similar-sized properties in the same area, they tend to be solidly built, have spacious rooms, and are often in good, central locations.

There are several different types of ex-council properties you can buy, including:

  • Detached houses

  • Semi-detached houses

  • Flats

  • Bungalows

  • Maisonettes

Before buying a former council property, however, you need to consider and be aware of some things.

Can I get a mortgage for an ex-council house?

Yes, getting a mortgage for an ex-council property is possible, but there may be extra hurdles you need to overcome. 

One of the most significant issues is the materials used to build the property. Many lenders are unwilling to lend on properties or non-standard construction, including concrete and steel-framed homes, which includes many ex-council houses. 

Ex-local authority homes can also be more challenging to sell, which can be problematic for lenders if they need to repossess the property. This can be because the property may need renovating or because they are in areas perceived to be undesirable by buyers. 

Mortgages for ex-council flats

Getting a mortgage on a former council flat can be more difficult than a house, but it’s still possible. When deciding whether to offer a mortgage for an ex-council flat, lenders consider:

  • If it is in a high-rise: Most lenders are unwilling to offer mortgages for flats in blocks higher than five storeys. This is because of the high maintenance costs associated with high-rise flats.

  • Owners in the area: Some lenders only offer mortgages to ex-council flats in a building where most other flats are privately owned. 

  • If it is a studio flat: Many lenders don’t want to offer mortgages to studio flats with no separate kitchen and living area. This is mainly because this type of property is considered difficult to resell. 

  • If there is cladding: Flats in buildings with certain types of cladding, or cladding that hasn’t been approved, won’t be offered a mortgage by the vast majority of lenders.

  • If there are external walkways: Flats that have access from a communal external walkway are seen as risky to lenders because of the potential security risks. 

If you want to buy a flat with one of these issues, your options might be limited; however, finding a mortgage may still be possible. If there are several issues, you’re unlikely to find a provider willing to lend to you.

How to get a mortgage on an ex-local authority property

Getting a mortgage on an ex-council home is broadly the same as for any other residential property. However, you may need to take a couple of additional steps.

First, it’s a good idea to check who owns the freehold. Even if the council no longer owns a property, they may still be the freeholder of the land on which the property is built. If this is the case, determine what service and maintenance charges you must pay each year.

It’s worth speaking to a mortgage broker specialising in ex-local authority properties. They will be best placed to help you find a lender and a mortgage deal that works for you. Be aware that some lenders set a lower maximum LTV for ex-council houses compared to other properties to mitigate the risk. 

Once you have compared offers and chosen a lender and deal that works for you, you should submit your application. Your broker can help you complete it and collect all the necessary documentation. 

During the application process, your lender will survey the property. However, it’s worth completing your independent survey, especially when buying an ex-council property. This will highlight any structural issues or repairs you must make. 

Pros of buying an ex-council property

  • Affordable: Ex-council houses are usually cheaper than other residential properties. This is largely down to their simple design and the perceived stigma attached to ex-council properties.

  • Lots of space: Council properties were built with families in mind, and the rooms are usually large and spacious. 

  • Well-built: Most council houses were built with durability in mind, so they should stand the test of time.

  • Central location: Council properties were traditionally built close to amenities and transport links. They’re also usually part of established communities and neighbourhoods. 

Cons of buying an ex-council property

  • Mortgage options: Some lenders are reluctant to offer mortgages for ex-council properties, so you could have less choice when finding a good deal.

  • Stigma: There is still a negative association with former council properties that can make them harder to sell in the future.

  • Aesthetics: Council houses were built for practicality and affordability, so they often lack the curb appeal of privately built properties.

  • Undesirable neighbourhoods: Ex-council houses are often in areas with higher crime rates perceived as less desirable by potential buyers.

Our Expert Says...

“Buying an ex-council property can be a great way to get an affordable and spacious family home. However, it’s important you understand the pros and cons before you buy.

Speaking to an expert broker is the best way to understand your options when buying an ex-council house. They can help you find the right lender to get the right deal for you.”

Jonathan Bone - Mortgage Lead

FAQs

If you live in a council house or flat and want to purchase the property, you can do this through Right to Buy.

Right to Buy allows you to buy your council home at a discount if:

  • It’s your primary residence

  • The property is self-contained

  • You’re a secured tenant

  • You’ve had a public sector landlord for three years

The maximum discount you can get is £96,000 outside of London, which is £127,900. The discount you’re eligible for depends on how long you’ve lived in the property, the value of your home and whether it is a flat or a house.

To apply to buy your council property, you need to complete an application form and send it to your landlord. If they agree to sell, they will send you an offer, and you’ll have between 8 and 12 weeks to respond.

You may need to provide a larger deposit when buying an ex-council house. The deposit required will differ from lender to lender, but many ask for a bigger deposit to offset some of the risks associated with lending on an ex-council property.

For example, if a lender has a maximum LTV of 95% for residential mortgages, it may reduce this to 90% for ex-council houses. This means you would need to provide a 10% deposit rather than a 5% deposit.

A property is considered ‘non-standard construction’ if it is not built out of brick or stone and has a slate or tiled roof. For example, properties that could be considered non-standard construction include:

  • Prefabricated properties

  • Timber-framed properties

  • Steel-framed properties

Properties considered non-standard construction are usually more challenging to get a mortgage for because lenders consider them high-risk. 

Home insurance can be higher for former council properties, especially if they’re of non-standard construction. This property type is more likely to have issues, and the risk to the insurer is higher.

If you buy an ex-council flat with a shared access way, you can expect to pay more for your home insurance due to the increased security and vandalism risks.

If you are unsure if a property you want to buy is a former council house, you should first speak to the estate agent selling it. They should have details of the property's history and can tell you if it was once a local authority house.

If the property isn’t for sale, you can find out by getting a copy of the title deed from the Land Registry, but be aware there is a small fee for this.

It is possible to sell your council house once you’ve bought it through Right to Buy, but you must wait ten years before you can sell it without restrictions.

If you want to sell your house within ten years, you must first offer it to your former landlord or another social landlord. The property can be sold at full market price, and if the landlord doesn’t agree to buy the property within eight weeks, you can put it on the market and sell it to anyone.

If you sell your Right to Buy property within five years, you’ll have to pay back some of the discount you received. This reduces each year:

  • First year: 100% of the discount

  • Second year: 80% of the discount

  • Third year: 60% of the discount

  • Fourth year: 40% of the discount

  • Fifth year: 20% of the discount

Important info & marketing claims

You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage. Your savings will depend on personal circumstances.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

*The savings figure of £406 is based on Better.co.uk remortgage customers in February 2024. Read more on our marketing claims page.

We can't always guarantee we will be able to help you with your mortgage application depending on your credit history and circumstances.

Average mortgage decision and approval times are based on Better.co.uk's historic data for lenders we submit applications to.

Tracker rates are identified after comparing over 12,000 mortgage products from over 100 mortgage lenders.

As of January 2023, Better.co.uk has access to over 100 lenders. This number is subject to change.

For buy-to-let landlords, there's no guarantee that it will be possible to arrange continuous letting of a property, nor that rental income will be sufficient to meet the cost of the mortgage.