Estate Agents Shocking Lack of Knowledge For BISF Customers!

Estate Agents Shocking Lack of Knowledge For BISF Customers!

What Does Your Estate Tell Potential Buyers Who Ask Questions About Your BISF House? The Answer May Shock You!

At we constantly receive complaints from BISF home owners who feel let down by their Estate Agent.
By far the largest area of complaint appears to relate to the knowledge, or rather. the lack of, that some estate agents have in relation to BISF houses in general.

Incorrect information is then unwittingly passed on to potential buyers, who if not put off already, arrive at the viewing totally misinformed. This can cause confusion for the buyer and frustration for the seller, not to mention a few red faces.

Agents can and do charge a lot of money to promote and sell your house, but is your Agent providing accurate information to prospective buyers? Are you really getting a high level of service for your for the level of commission you are being charged?

Non Standard House decided to find out!

We contacted a number of UK Estate Agents who were advertising a BISF properties for sale by posing as a potential buyer, interested in buying our first BISF property. We put together a shortlist of basic questions which we would typically expect every agent to know before hitting the phone lines.

Our List Of Questions

 QuestionCorrect Answer(s)
1What is the construction type of the house?BISF
British Iron & Steel Federation
Steel Framed House
2Is the house a prefab?No
3What are the lower exterior walls constructed of?Cement render on metal lathe
(unless replaced following external refurbishment)
4What are the upper exterior walls constructed of?Prefabricated Steel Panels.
Sometimes clad with UPVC or other exterior cladding.
(Unless replaced following external refurbishment)
5Does the property have standard cavity walls?NO
6What type of wall insulation does the property have?In standard form the property walls have a light filling of paper covered mineral wool insulation.
7What is the roof covering made of?Corrugated Asbestos sheeting
Corrugated Steel Sheeting
Replacement Lightweight Steel Roofing Sheets
8When was the house built?Post -War 1944 Onward.
6 years production period that ceased in 1950-51.
9Can I obtain a mortgage on this property?Yes. Provided certain lenders are used. ie. Halifax, Santander
10Can I obtain contents insurance?Yes. Provided certain insurers are used who insure non standard construction homes.

It is not unreasonable to expect an agent to have some knowledge regarding the properties they sell. Simple background enquiries as to the construction type and history of the property are not an unreasonable expectation. They are after all being paid to market the property on your behalf and one simple rule of sales is to ‘know your product’.

Would it not be reasonable to expect your agent to promote the benefits of owning such a unique home as is a BISF house and to at the very least sell your property in an informed and professional way?

After all they are the professionals in the housing sales market…..Right?

Well lets take a look at the results.

BISF Estate Agent Results

Estate AgentQ1
Lower walls
Upper walls
Former Bairstowe Eves Ebbw vale
Sutton Coldfield

Not one of the estate agents that we contacted in our short survey provided 100% correct information.

Burchell Edwards Estate Agents came closest to providing a near perfect score had they not classed the property as a prefab that had been constructed off site and then lowered down onto a concrete slab! This is simply not the case as all BISF properties were constructed on site. They also stated the build date was sometime during the 1950’s when it should have been the 1940’s but this is a minor error.

So congratulations go to Burchell Edwards of Sheldon, Birmingham who provided us with the most accurate information about BISF houses.

Some of the other replies given by different agents varied from vague to just plain wrong and even worse in our view was the fact that several of the Agents we spoke to came across as aloof and not at all interested in pitching the property to us.

Out of all the calls we made, perhaps the most uncomfortable in our view was from Bidmead Cook & Fry Thomas. The first young woman that we spoke to could not provide us with any significant answers to our questions but we were soon passed on to a more mature sounding lady. Expecting the conversation to improve we found that this was not going to be the case as the woman we spoke to sounded irritable and in our view displayed a ‘Yes, what do want attitude’.

This lady chose to point out incorrectly that BISF properties were not defective under the 1975 defective housing act, however 1985 is the correct year of the act. She did however correctly identify the property as metal framed in construction and was clear that the property was not a prefab. Sadly that is where most of the correct or near correct answers ended. She went on to tell us that she had no idea about insulation, no idea about the roof construction and that she believed the properties to have been built pre-war. She did say that she thought the overall construction was off brick and slate, which as most BISF owners will know is totally inaccurate. So when combined with the ‘Yes, what do you want’ attitude that we received, we would grade this as the worst experience that we received as a potential buyer.

Other answers from our list of questions varied from agent to agent but what was clear was the fact that most did not know what materials the house was constructed from. Considering the fees charged by many estate agents, this is in our view unacceptable.

Overall we received wildly differing answers to our questions, with many being so inaccurate one could argue that the agent was being negligent or at the very least providing a very poor standard of service to the client. It is no surprise judging by some of the answers that we were given, that many BISF home owners find it difficult to sell their properties in a swift and efficient way considering how many errors some agents made.

We shall continue to undertake our telephone enquiries on your behalf in the hope that one or two agencies out there may answer all of our basic questions accurately and with conviction.

We found the provision of inaccurate information to be very off-putting, especially when one considers that many potential buyers may well have no idea at all about BISF construction in any shape or form and it should be up the Estate Agent to fully verse the prospective client. Combine this with the plethora of bizarre advice that we received from some agents and you have a recipe for disaster that is harmful to the client, customer and worst of all, to the profile of British Iron & Steel Federation properties.

With wholly inaccurate statements that include words such as:

  • Underpinned
  • Movement
  • 2/3 insulated
  • Built from concrete block
  • Built in a factory
  • Lightning Conductors

We feel that the reputation of these excellent homes is being undermined by agents who continue to give misguided information that serves to fuel undervalued and reduced sale prices in an already tough housing marketplace.

There are many misconceptions specific to BISF homes and being classed as a ‘Prefab’ or ‘Prefabricated House’ is one that has proven difficult to shake. The use of Steel Sheets and corrugated roofing materials in construction serves enhances this myth but that is where the similarity ends. A good Estate Agent should know that a BISF house is NOT a ‘Prefab’ but it is a ‘Steel Framed Non-Standard Constructed Property’.

There is a lot at stake here for customers and the Estate Agents they choose should at least be able to supply factual information. Many of the answers we received were no different to the common misconceptions found from the average man on the street.

If your agent can’t give you factual information about the basic construction of a BISF house, then we suggest moving on to one who can.

But don’t take our word for it. Try ringing your Estate Agents yourself as a prospective customer and see what answers you are given.

You might be surprised!

Have you had a good or bad experience with your agent? 
Let us know in the comments section below and share your experience with other BISF home owners!

Editor’s note: The names of the representatives that we spoke to have been withheld for privacy reasons.
It is not our intention to highlight any one person as this may cause undue distress or embarrassment.

We reserve the right to withhold the identities of the agents who handled our calls for privacy purposes.


  1. That is a possibility Lynne.
    The first house was built in Northolt in 1944 and records do indeed show that they were in production for 6 years which would take the year up to 1950.
    The vast majority of course were built in the 1940’s but as you say a few may well have slipped past that date and I did consider this when scoring the replies.

    I think though that it is only fair to give the benefit of the doubt on that question and extend the date range to cover the 40’s & 50’s despite such a short build cycle in the latter decade.

    Thank you for your input though Lynne as it is always good to hear an alternate view. :0)

    I shall correct the score and edit my response.

  2. Actually Burchell Edwards may well have been correct about the age of the particular house you were asking about. A few months ago I was considering buying one in Sheldon (their patch) and spoke to some neighbours who had lived there since the properties were built. I can’t remember the exact year – perhaps 1951 – but it was definitely 1950s rather than 1940s, which surprised me as my research had led me to believe that they’d stopped building them before then. I imagine that the builders had just taken a while to use up their stock of parts manufactured in the 1940s.