Buying a newly built home

Although some of us dream about a lovely period home, it may turn into a nightmare when you realise that ‘character’ can actually cost you a packet! A recent survey done by the Daily Star newspaper discovered that more than one third of home buyers throw away an average £2,500 in repairs when they buy a second hand property. Old windows, boilers and insulation are the expensive culprits – none of which are a problem if you buy a newly built home. But that’s not the only good point to buying a brand new house. Buying a new build also helps the environment and means you don’t have to deal with greedy previous owners forcing you into a bidding war for the property.

Why should I buy a newly-built home?

A Fresh Start

A brand new home is real fresh start for any family. You can decorate every single room exactly to suit your individual needs. This means there's no more putting up with the bright pink carpet that the previous owner adored!
For the first time in your property you now have the say-so for every single part of the decor in your home. These choices extend to include important and costly decisions such as carpets, curtains, bathrooms and even kitchen worktops. But as well as looking exactly how you want, a brand new home is very kind to your pocket as well. Newly built homes are much better insulated than older properties and include double-glazing windows as standard. This means you can retain heat in your property more easily than in a rickety old building.

Helping Mother Nature

If you've been worried about global warming then you can rest assured in your brand new home. Most newbuild houses are kinder on the environment as the efficient boilers, heaters and insulation mean you don’t have to waste electricity and gas. Most new homes also come with an energy rating certificate which means you can be sure that you are reducing your carbon footprint – and helping save the planet.

A Good Night’s Sleep

If helping the environment doesn’t make you sleep easier then the top notch security of a new build definitely should. New homes are far safer and more secure than older properties. Fire safety, in particular, is helped by the standard installation of smoke alarms, fire doors, and fire retardant materials. It is also written into UK law that the architectural design of new homes, and even new extensions, must adhere to rigorous fire safety standards – which greatly increases your chance of escape should a fire break out. Another bonus is most builders will include security locks, burglar alarms and security lighting as part of your standard specification.

Ace Deals

You can really negotiate some cushy extras when buying a new build - if you know what to look for. Eager housing developers are adept at knowing what will encourage a curious buyer into a sale. Financial incentives include getting your stamp duty paid or a certain amount of cash back after you move in. But you can also haggle for special bonuses like wood flooring throughout the property, included curtains, carpets, special tiling in your bathroom or kitchen, and top quality landscaping for your garden. A lot of builders will also include white products such as a fridge freezer, dishwasher or washing machine so always ask before you agree a price!

No Property Chain

You are free of the nightmarish property chain. You don’t have to wait for the owners of your new property to find somewhere new, and deal with the complications if they don't. Once you agree on a move in date, very little should stand in the way of your move. And if you have any doubts, you can even ask your solicitor about getting the completion date written into your contract.

What are the negative points?

There are very few downsides to buying a brand new home but it's always worth considering the big picture when making your decision.

A Tight Squeeze

Some new homes tend to be smaller than old properties as developers try to fit as many as possible onto a piece of land. Developers also increase the number of houses by reducing the number of driveways for parking. This can mean you end up with communal parking areas instead of your own assigned space – which could mean you might be stuck for a spot.

A Poor Garden

Be careful of your brand new garden too. Newly developed gardens are sometimes just made up of compacted sub-soil. This is then covered by turf, which looks great initially, but if the quality of the soil is very low, or the turf is not laid correctly, then the lawn will not root correctly - meaning your brand new lawn could have serious drainage problems.

Sounds like...

A hundred years ago most walls were built of solid concrete but advancements in building practice now mean that plasterboard walls are usually a much cheaper and quicker option for builders. While the look is generally the same as solid walls, plasterboard walls tend not to support as much weight as a solid wall. This can affect your future plans for extending your property. But importantly plasterboard walls also tend to do very little to prevent sound travelling throughout the property - and even into next door!

Hitting a Snag

New homes can often be rushed to completion by greedy developers and as a result they can end up with tons of little defects, or snags, as they are officially known. Snags can set back your move in date by months causing massive frustration and delay. It can also be difficult to get builders – who have most likely moved on to a new job – to come back and fix the tiny problems. If you are worried about snags then you should be extra careful about buying at the end of the developer’s financial year. They will want to meet their targets and the builder may cut corners to hurriedly finish the development. However a plus side of buying at the end of the developer’s financial year is the fact that they may be desperate to meet their targets and might even offer generous incentives! If you are on a budget, check new developments that have a lot of unsold homes that are either finished or nearing completion.

What should I do before I buy a new home?

Buying a brand new home can be a simple process if you do your research well. Before signing anything, it can be really useful to check out the actual site first. Look to see how well the building site is managed and kept – this can give an indication of the builder’s attitude to the job. Also knock on the doors of anyone who has moved into the estate already - they will be a fountain of useful information about the quality of the workmanship and customer care you can expect. It’s also a chance to meet your new neighbours early! Always remember to check your house plans carefully. The artist’s impression should be taken with a pinch of salt and it’s much more useful to find out things like the orientation of your garden so you know when you will have sun for example. Also check your plans for the size and orientation of windows, the ceiling height, and what storage is available so you will have a better idea of what your property will actually be like when you move in. Examining your plans closely is also invaluable for knowing what furniture you have already will fit and what needs a rethink. Don’t forget to look at the garage specifications either as they are often designed for small cars! You do have some comeback, however, if you have been misled about the property specifications. Contact your local Trading Standards Office, who may prosecute the developer under the Property Misdescription Act 1991.

Beware the Show Home

Unless you are buying strictly off plans then it is likely you will be shown around a show home. This is a property which is supposed to resemble the home you are buying so that you have a better idea of what your finished house will look like. Although they can be useful guides, it is well worth knowing that developers often spend a fortune on making the show home look as good as possible. As well as using professional interior designers and landscapers, clever developers also use many tricks to make the property look better than it actually is, including the following;
  • Every light in the house will be on to create the impression that there is plenty of natural light.
  • They may use smaller furniture than you would normally use to give the impression of bigger space. Some developers have been known to fit children’s furniture in many of the rooms of the property!
  • They will remove all the doors inside to improve the ‘natural’ flow of the house.
  • There will be a lot of glass furniture and mirrors in the property to provide a feeling of space.
  • Bedrooms will only contain a bed and a small bed side table. The room will look completely different when you move in your chests of drawers or wardrobes.
  • The lights and other fittings will be expensive and not included in the specification you are buying.
  • Gardens will be professionally landscaped – which may not be in the standard specification you have bought.

What if there is a problem with my property?

More than 160,000 new build properties are built each year in the UK and the majority of these houses are built by high volume house builders. Dealing with such a large number of properties can mean that developers struggle to maintain consistent standards in these houses – and small problems (snags) will often arise. A handy way to deal with snags is to use an independent snagging company such as New Build Inspections. They will send professional builders around to your property to give it a thorough inspection for defects. The best time to do this is before you finally sign off on the contracts. This gives the developer time to address the defects and snags you have identified before you move in. Using an independent snagging company is well worth the extra cost but if your budget simply cannot stretch to the extra cost then you can do a DIY job by downloading a snagging checklist from Snagging.Org

What sort of guarantees should I look for?

All newly built houses come with a ten year warranty but ALWAYS check that your house has this warranty in case you are dealing with a dodgy builder. There are three main warranty providers in the UK which are: National House Building Council, Zurich Municipal, and Premier. The ten year warranties provided by these companies cover things like the builder going out of business before your home if finished, or the repair of any snags discovered within the first two years, and include the ten year guarantee on structural defects in the home. But check with your builder what warranty you will be given as each company offers a slightly different package. Remember these warranties don’t guarantee that your home will be free from defects after you move in and can sometimes be primarily an insurance scheme for the developer and not the home owner. Even bearing that in mind most property experts advise never buying a new property without a warranty provided by one of these companies. You can also get an architect's certificate which is a statement saying that your property has been built in accordance with standard and accepted building principles. This is not a warranty and cannot act as one but you should ask your solicitor to check the architect's professional indemnity insurance – because you can claim using the architect’s certificate if a structural defect does arise.

Safe as Houses

Finally buying your new home is your chance for a fresh and exciting new start. Doing some simple research and ensuring you have your warranty and snags checked means that nothing is likely to go wrong. All that is left is for you to decide where everything goes!

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