1 May 2018
Author: Stephen Breen
There are plenty of great reasons to buy a new build: from the 10 year NHBC guarantee to the ability to design every little detail yourself. But new builds can also suffer from a host of problems, from construction faults and poorly fitted pipes to vibrating floorboards and even leaking excrement. If a new build is on your shopping list, here’s how to ensure your purchase is hassle-free.
Visit the site
Before you agree to purchase a new property, visit the construction site to see how things are run and speak to anyone who has already moved in. It’s worth asking homeowners living on the site if their property was completed on time and whether they have experienced any problems, before you sign on the dotted line.
Take along an expert
It can be difficult to know if there’s anything wrong with a property when you’re not a property expert – so it helps to take along someone who knows what they are talking about when it comes to structural defects. A builder, for example, is the perfect companion when viewing a prospective new home and should be able to highlight any areas of concern during your visit.
Watch for furniture tricks
New build homes tend to be significantly smaller than traditional properties: with the average semi-detached about a third smaller than a typical Victorian home. This might not be apparent during a viewing however, as developers know how to create the illusion of space. Common tricks include using smaller furniture, large mirrors and clever lighting to give the appearance that a room is bigger than it is. Look at the measurements carefully and compare them to rooms in your current home to get a true picture of the size.
Avoid leasehold problems
If you’re offered a leasehold, this means someone else owns the land that the property is built on. Typically the property will be a flat and you’ll pay a fee to a management company to cover the cost of maintaining the building. Check the terms carefully before you sign – some developers have drafted in clauses that double the ground rent each decade, rendering such properties unsellable.
Look for hidden charges
Whilst ongoing charges are rare with freehold properties, some developers have included clauses that require buyers to pay for costs such as communal paved areas, shared staircases and grass verges. If such charges are unreasonable, buyers may find they cannot sell the property on in the future.
Check roads are adopted
Typically, developers will pass the responsibility for maintaining the roads leading up to your property to the Council. However, particularly on small developments, this doesn’t always happen, leading to a myriad of problems. An experienced solicitor will be able to check to see if roads have been adopted or if costs may be incurred for maintenance and insurance down the line.
Use a pro for snagging
A snagging list is an inventory of problems that the buyer discovers after purchasing a property which the developer must put right. Although buyers expect new build homes to be pristine and perfect, the reality is that there are usually some small problems and snagging is just a part of the process. In many cases, snagging lists will comprise of cosmetic issues that are easy to spot, such as something that looks unfinished, scratches or the odd missing hinge. However, the untrained eye may miss more serious defects and a snagging survey should always be carried out. Costing between £300 and £600, this is carried out by a professional surveyor who will be experienced in looking for typical new build problems.
Check the warranties
Whilst the National House Building Council (NHBC) offers a ten-year warranty which covers structural defects, not every developer uses this scheme. Other schemes include Premier Guarantee, Zurich Municipal and LABC Warranty – and whilst they can appear comprehensive at first glance, terms are not always favourable to claimants. One homeowner with a Premier Guarantee explained that she attempted to claim for windows that were not fitted properly and let in water. The Company responded by treating the majority of her 11 points as separate issues which would each therefore be subject to a policy excess of £1,134.24. Read the terms of the policy carefully, particularly with regards to any ‘index linked excess’.
Find your own solicitor
Housebuilders sometimes recommend particular solicitors but there is no guarantee they will be impartial. Hundreds of homeowners are currently stuck with Taylor Wimpey properties that have doubling ground rents and each of those used a solicitor recommended by the developer who failed to flag up the issue. Find an impartial solicitor – the best choice being a local solicitor with knowledge of the area.
Take care with high-volume builders
Some builders build small, boutique developments – others sell thousands of properties a year. There is no guarantee of quality at either end of the scale but overseeing and maintaining quality will naturally be a greater challenge for the larger builders. It pays to read up on your developer, look for reviews and investigate their previous developments to see if past purchasers are happy.