In this episode, we talk about the quality of new build homes in 2023. It can be difficult to find a development that is of exceptionally high quality, even small developments can be poor quality! What can we do about it?
Check out some of the snags we have found on our YouTube channel.
The quality of new build homes in 2023
Google says the latest definition of Quality is: Conformance to Customer Expectations. This new definition makes customer satisfaction even more central to the delivery of quality. It is interesting that this definition puts customer satisfaction as the main driver in delivering quality.
NHBC Standards 2023
The Standards help builders and developers deliver the highest possible quality new homes while facing some emerging technical challenges and opportunities such as offsite manufacture and sustainability. New homes built today will be with us for generations so, as well as being high quality, safe and comfortable, they must also be sustainable.
So we have two definitions of what quality stands for, but how does this look in reality?
Developers’ definition of quality
Most professional snagging companies will state somewhere either in their webpage bio or in their sales literature stating that they are there to make sure you get the quality new build home you deserve or have paid for.
Delivering quality should be the goal of every developer no matter their size or the number of units they build. Forget if they have 5-star status or not (this is the industry patting itself on the back because the companies with 5 stars are deemed to be the best and as such will get more sales through having 5 stars). They covet this and do not like losing their 5-star status.
I know this first-hand because I have been in enough build sales meetings throughout my career discussing customer surveys to know how important it is to developers. I have also witnessed how they manipulate some surveys if they think they are going to get a bad survey from a customer, this is because one bad survey takes ten good surveys to wipe it out; no developer wants this. They also need 90% satisfied customer surveys to achieve their 5-star status.
Another reason why developers don’t like bad surveys is that they are bonused on their results along with other key performance indicators such as the number of houses built, health and safety etc.
Where does quality start on-site and how is it managed?
Quality on your development starts on day one even, before a bucket has broken ground. It starts at the planning stage and finishes when the development is completed, and the developer has moved on to the next site.
Through the planning process, sub-contractors and trades will be sourced and appointed to construct your new home. It starts with the groundworks contractor who is appointed to install the infrastructure such as roads and sewers. They may even be the same groundworks subcontractor who builds the foundations ready for the superstructure brickwork to start.
Some developers have quality control checklists in place that each subcontractor has to fill out and sign the checklist to say they have followed it and their work is to the desired standard and quality. The site manager is then supposed to go with the subcontractor to sign the sheet off and agree that the work has been completed satisfactorily.
In reality, what happens is the subcontractor foreman or contacts manager will turn up to site, get all the books out which cover his work for the week, make himself a brew and sit down and fill them out, he will then present them to the site manager to sign, he will then take a copy and submit it to the developer’s quantity surveyor for payment.
You might as well chuck the checklist in the bin; it has no value when it comes to quality and is purely a tick sheet exercise.
What should happen is the site manager and subcontractor should take the checklist on site and go through it agreeing if the work has been completed to a satisfactory standard and then together, they should sign it off. If the work is not to standard or the desired quality then the checklist should not be signed off by the site manager.
So, if your developer tells you, they have a quality checking system in place and the house has been signed off by the warranty provider take it with a pinch of salt.
As an example let’s look at the NHBC key stage inspections.
NHBC Key Stage Inspections
This is the foundation trench, not the brickwork or the
Only if they are doing building control
This is the brick and blockwork and if they are using timber frame
Pre – Plaster
This is the first fix stage so all joinery plumbing and electrical wiring
Final inspection or CML
This is a walk around the house to make sure it is to a habitable standard.
So, there we are 5 key stage inspections, how long do you think these five inspections take in total?
They probably only take between 40 minutes and 1 hour in total. That is because each stage is prepared ready for the inspection before the site manager calls out the inspector to sign off each stage.
One of the reasons for this is the site manager is bonused on the number of reportable items he gets, so they don’t want any reportable items in the book because it costs them money.
If you look at it this way, developers are more like management companies. They probably only directly employ four people on any development, these are the site manager, assistant site manager, salesperson and the forklift driver, and the rest of the trades on site are subcontractors.
Who is responsible for the build quality on-site?
You might be asking if this is the case then who is responsible for the build quality on-site? The answer to this is your site manager, he or she has the responsibility to make sure your new home is built to the correct standards and quality. Delivering it on time is another story.
The best way to describe this is it’s a lottery, if you get a good site manager who cares and has the ability and experience to deliver a quality product then you are onto a winner. On the other hand, if you don’t get a good site manager, one who doesn’t care then you get exactly that a new home that is not built to standard or quality.
It really does fall down to the site manager as to what quality of new build home you are going to get.
It is the site manager’s responsibility to check the quality of workmanship and if he or she is not happy with it then they should make the tradesperson do it again until the work is to an acceptable standard.
The problem we see daily when we are snagging our customer’s new homes is that no one is checking, or the majority of site managers and assistant site managers aren’t.
There are sites which we go on and it really is a pleasure to go and inspect their houses because we know both ours and their customers are getting a good house.
Developers need to look hard at the quality of new build homes they are producing because there is some serious room for improvement. You are never going to get perfection because it does not exist and before you start saying it does each person’s idea of perfection will be different what is perfect for one person won’t be perfect for the next person and so on.
What can be done about the quality of new build homes in the UK today?
Each and every site manager has the ability to put professional snagging businesses out of business!
Think about it, if every new build home developer built was to an excellent standard there would be no need for professional snaggers.
The problem is they will never achieve it no matter how many checklists they put together. If the person doing the checking does not do it or doesn’t know what an excellent standard looks like then we are back where we started poor quality houses and unhappy new build homebuyers.
I started this business to make a difference, make a difference in the quality of newbuild homes being handed over to new build homebuyers. After five years are we making a difference, I believe we are, at least on some developments what I am seeing is on the sites where we have been on a few times we are noticing some of the issues we raised are no longer there because the site team have picked up on it and improved.
I have also had managers and trades come up to me and ask what I have found when snagging one of their houses because they are proud of what they have built and truly want to improve and hand over a quality product.
I have had site managers and assistant site managers who have watched my YouTube videos and told me you won’t find any of them on this site.
There is a long way to go, as not all site teams have this attitude, for the ones that do I salute you well done.
For the ones that don’t, they need to take a long hard look at what some of the better sites are producing and improve.
Think about the end user your customers, who are paying large sums of money to buy your houses and ask yourself if would you be happy with the house you are about to hand over. If not, what are you going to do about it?
For more questions about snagging and advice from a snagging expert, get in touch.