Let me start by saying, not all house developers are the same. Choosing the right one for you can be the difference between having a home you love and one which you never wished you had bought. Read on, or listen to this episode of our podcast, to learn how to choose a builder.
Check out some of the snags we have found on our YouTube channel.
Before you choose a builder, do your research
Choosing the right developer will depend on the ones who are building in the area you would like to live in. It will also come down to price, the design of the house and if you like it or not.
It is important to research your developer before you buy, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and look at social media to see how they look after their customers. Most developments have a Facebook page. Be careful though, as many developers don’t engage on social media.
It is advisable to visit the development at different times of the day. I would also spend time looking around the area, as most new build developments are quiet during the day because most people are out at work, but in the evening, it could be completely different.
Check if the site manager on the development has won any awards such as the NHBC Pride in the Job Award. This shows you the site manager is at least building to a quality and standard recognised by the industry. You can usually tell if they are as the site will be clean, tidy, and organised. If the site looks like this, then you at least know they will have taken as much care of your new home as they have with the site. Beware that if the site looks like the opposite of this it will likely also reflect how they have built your new home.
Don’t just rely on the sales marketing brochure or the quality of the show houses on the development to show you the finish of your new home, these will have been maintained on a regular basis. What I would do instead is look at the houses or apartments on site. If these are not available for you to look at yet, ask if you can visit another development because the quality can vary and will most likely not be to the same standard as the show homes.
If your builder has a 5-star rating with the House Builders Federation, look back over the past 5 years to see if they have maintained their star rating or if it has fluctuated. This will give an indication of how they deal with their customers. Be careful though as this only covers HBF members and not all developers are members.
Before you choose a builder, ask questions about the after-sales service and complaints procedures because it’s inevitable that you are going to have some snagging issues when you move into your new home.
This is an area where some but not all housebuilders fail their customers when trying to get their snags resolved. Any snagging issues within the first 2 years must be dealt with by the developer so it is important to understand their procedures. If the development is partially complete and homes are lived in it may be a good idea to knock on your neighbours’ doors to see how they have been treated by the builder and what they think of the development.
New home buyers’ top tips
Buying a newly built home is a significant investment and one which the new homeowner needs to be mindful of, I have put together my top ten tips for new home buyers below.
My top ten tips for new home buyers are:
# 1 Once you have located the area that you want to live in, you will want to visit as many developments in the area as possible. When you visit the developments look at the condition of the site, is it tidy, does it look well managed or does it look untidy and in a mess? This will tell you about the site manager’s commitment to the site and quality. Remember all house builders are not the same.
# 2 When you have decided on the builder and development where you want to live, you will want to visit the sales centre to look at the show houses. The show houses are there to impress you this is the developer’s shop window, and they will have been maintained to a high standard as no developer wants you looking at an inferior product. If you can look at the style of house you want to buy if one is available on site, other than the show houses if these are a different style, this will also give you an idea of the quality of the build.
# 3 When you sit down with the salesperson be prepared. Have a list of questions such as who is the warranty provider (if there is no warranty provider be very careful). Ask about the builder’s defects procedure, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need.
# 4 Ask the salesperson if there are any future planned developments around the site and who owns them as this may affect the value of your property.
# 5 Check exactly what you are buying especially the boundaries of your new property, as boundary disputes can turn into costly legal matters. Make sure the roads are being adopted by the local council as you don’t want to have to pay a maintenance charge for the road.
# 6 Check if there is a management company, and what fees they charge.
# 7 Ask the sales executive for a copy of the New Homes Quality Code and read it. The code outlines the requirements the builder must meet when marketing and selling their homes.
# 8 Be prepared for the original completion date your builder will give you to possibly move, this happens a lot so be prepared.
# 9 During your home demonstration it is important to check that any extras you have paid for have been done and installed. Ask questions, lots of questions, and request for the builder to fully demonstrate the heating and other systems. During your demonstration check for any defects and list them on the demonstration form.
#10 My advice is to have your new home professionally snagged by an independent snagging company as soon as you can.
Advantages and disadvantages of buying a new build property
Advantages of buying a new build property
With a newly built home, you will be the first person to live in it and you can put your own stamp on it. You will have the opportunity to choose your colour choices such as kitchens, wall tiles and any other optional extras to make it your own.
Newly built property’s come with guarantees, as well as warranties such as the NHBC 10-year warranty which gives some security. There are other providers such as Premier and LABC which are the same company, you might find your builder has not used one of the big 3 and have a warranty you have not heard of, make sure you fully understand what your rights are under this agreement.
Most newly built homes have energy performance certificates that outline the energy performance of the property. This leads to reduced fuel costs. Decoration and repairs should be minimal in the first few years. New homes also have a higher level of security.
Buying a new build is a good return on your investment as new homes have a higher specification than buying an older property. It also (usually) has an easier-to-purchase, simplified buying process.
Disadvantages of buying a new build property
You will be living on a live building site until it is completed. This can also mean that your house is more than likely going to be delayed.
The high density of units on the site can result in a lack of privacy, gardens overlooked etc, as well as insufficient parking and small garages.
The quality of your new home may not be to the highest standard and your developer’s aftercare service may not be the best (this is why it is always important to thoroughly research your developer before buying).
Leasehold v freehold checks on the leasehold charges before you buy and communal charges are also potential disadvantages to buying a newly built home.
Additional questions to ask when trying to choose a builder
When buying a newly built home it is important to ask as many questions as possible. Do not be pressurised into rushing into a contract with the builder until you are completely satisfied, and have found the property that best suits you. Be aware that most builders will have a time frame for you to exchange contracts. With this in mind, they will suggest that you use their solicitor. Do not use the builder’s solicitor! I would recommend that you use your own solicitor.
Here is a list of questions to ask your builder, this list is not exhaustive or definitive:
1 / when do you expect the property to be complete (the builder will normally give you a time frame of say a 2-month window)
2 / are the houses traditionally built (brick and blockwork) or timber frame construction, what is the programme (how many weeks does it normally take to build)
3/ what is the cost and are there any discounts such as help to buy(the sales advisor will also have a dealing margin which they can negotiate)
4 / do you take part exchange (most builders have a part exchange policy)
5 / Is the reservation fee included in the cost of the property
6 / is the property leasehold or freehold
7 / what choices or upgrades are available for me to choose
8 / when is your half and full year for completion
9 / check all drawings and specifications that the sales advisor shows you and ask for copies of any that you are asked to sign to say you agree to them
10 / use your own solicitor the builder will push for you to use theirs along with their mortgage broker
11 / check when the builder expects the development to be completed
12 / check that the roads will be adopted and when the final surfacing will be carried out
13 / how many social houses are on the site and where are they in relation to the plot you desire
14 / ask about their customer care procedures
15 / who are their energy suppliers (gas, water, electricity and broadband etc)
16 / what is the council tax band
17 / are there any public open spaces and is there a management company
18 / what are the management company fees
19 / how good is the site manager and has he won any awards such as the NHBC Pride in the Job Award
20 / are there any tree protection zones with tree preservation orders
21 / are there any covenants on the development
22 / how many parking spaces does the plot have
23 / is the site on mains drainage, is there a pumping station and who maintains it
24 / is the surface water drainage connected to the mains
25 / if a detached garage is with the plot does it have power
26 / what is the postal address including the postcode
27 / do you allow professional snagger in before we complete
28 / check the conveyancing plan to see exactly what areas you will be buying
29 / are you affected by any shared driveways
30 / is the area at risk of flooding
31 / What schools are in the area
32 / what is the areas crime record
33 / where are the local doctors and dentist surgeries and local hospitals
34 / are there any environmental issues in the area
35 is their Radon Gas on site, if yes what precautions have been taken
36 / are there any rights of way, footpaths or bridal ways
37 / who is the warranty provider and what do they cover (defects, structural defects, drainage etc)
38 / what guarantees do I receive
39 / ask the sales advisor for a copy of the new Homes Quality Code (read it thoroughly)