Conveyancing Solicitor Tips for Buying a New Build Property


This article was updated 31 May 2022.

Home buyers will usually look at what’s available in terms of prices, location, the style of property and purchase options before buying a house. But when buying a new build property, there are other crucial factors to consider. In this article our Conveyancing Solicitors provide top tips and questions to ask when buying a new build property.

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Key Things to Consider

Does the Builder have a Good Reputation?

Research the builder on the internet. If there are issues with the builder, then it’s more than likely that a disgruntled home buyer will have posted a negative comment online. If you find that the feedback more than just an isolated moan, then you may think twice about visiting that builder’s sales office.

Is the Builder Registered with a National Guarantee Company?

Most builders in the UK are registered with the likes of the National House Builders Council (NHBC), which demonstrate that they meet certain quality standards. That’s why you’ll often see builders advertise that they’re NHBC-registered.

There are others but you need to ensure that the builder is covered by one of these schemes. Some small builders merely provide an Architects Certificate, and while there’s nothing wrong with a house that has been certified in this way, such cover doesn’t extend to protecting your deposit if the builder goes out of business before you complete your purchase.

See what Purchase Options are Available

Some builders operate the Help to Buy scheme, which is for first-time buyers and enables those who qualify to take out a loan in addition to the main bank or building society loan, thereby reducing their initial deposit.

There are also Shared Ownership Schemes, where you buy a percentage only of the property and the unpurchased portion is rented by you until you can afford to buy more shares in the property. Builders who operate Shared Ownership Schemes will normally have full details of how they work. There is lots of literature and again, if you think it might be right for you, then do some research on the net. Bear in mind though that they’re not right for everybody.

Ask to see a Specification of the House you Want to buy

If you’re interested in buying a particular house, ask the builder for a specification, along with confirmation of whether it’s likely that the specs will change. The law doesn’t allow them to change the specification greatly, but you should ask to see it nonetheless.

How Big is the Development Going to be?

In many new build housing developments it’s likely that the builder will place amenity areas on the development, such as a community centre or children’s play centre. Ask to see a layout of the whole development, so you can see where your house will be in relation to any open spaces or areas such as these.

When will the House be Structurally Complete?

This may well be crucial to your plans. Bear in mind that builders will not give a fixed completion date for a house that’s still being built or where you’re simply buying a plot to start with. At best, you’ll get an estimated date, but there can be delays through technical issues or bad weather.

As a result, if you have a related sale you may not be able to complete this on the same day as your purchase unless the chain agrees to complete under the same terms (this would be highly unusual). You may therefore need to look at securing alternative accommodation in the interim

Is the Builder adhering to the Consumer code for home Builders?

The Consumer Code for Home Builders, which was last revised in 2019, is very extensive, but is well worth researching. In short, it gives certain protections to buyers of new build properties, such as the right to cancel the contract and get back your deposit if the matter isn’t completed by what’s provided in the purchase contract as the Long Stop Date.  This is a date that is agreed for a property to be complete. The Code is supported by warranty providers such as NHBC, Premier Guarantee and LABC.

What Might the Brochure not be Telling you?

When you’re selecting a new build house to buy, it’s often the case that you’re buying off plan. Unlike an existing house which you can physically inspect, you can only see a marked out plot on a plan and match this with the sales brochure. That means there will a few things that the brochure won’t tell you.

For instance, is the garden north or south facing? It may not sound important and it may not be important to you, but ask any gardener which they prefer, and they’ll probably say south facing. Similarly, will there be any manholes or inspection chambers placed on the property, as this may be quite important if you’re into nice lawns.

Are there going to be any street lights directly outside your house? If you’re buying a house close to a main road, are there any plans for a bus stop to be placed outside your house or very near it? When buying a new build property, it’s easy to forget about these issues, which could ultimately affect your quality of life.

You must also bear in mind that new build sale contracts also commonly contain a term that developers are allowed to vary the design and size of the property within certain limits without notifying you. It can also contain a term stating that you would be obligated to complete on the purchase even where there are certain items that need to be completed at the property e.g. carpeting or skirting. These are referred to as ‘snagging items’

Choose your own Financial Advisor if you wish

The sales person you’re dealing with will probably recommend a financial advisor for you. And if you’re put in touch with them, by all means see what they have to offer in terms of advice. But don’t feel forced to go with their recommendation, as it’s your choice who you go to.

Think Twice Before Paying a Large Reservation Deposit

If and when you do decide on the new build home you want to buy, you’ll be asked to sign a Reservation Form and pay a reservation deposit. This is normally £500.00 but it can vary. If you’re asked to pay a large reservation deposit, then it’s a good idea to think twice.

The purpose of a payment is to reserve the property to you for a set period of time until you’ve actually signed the proper contract and paid the balance of your deposit. If you fail to do this within the stipulated time (normally 4 weeks, although it can be extended at the discretion of the builder), then you stand to lose your reservation deposit. Provided you do contract to buy the house, then that sum will become part of your deposit.

Don’t be Rushed

If you aren’t sure, simply tell the sales person you’re dealing with that you want to think about it for a little longer. A professional sales person will fully understand that. If you feel you are being pressured at any point, you can inform them that you have to speak with your Conveyancing Solicitor before proceeding further; and our Conveyancing Solicitors can review the paperwork and advise you.

Maintenance Costs

One advantage of a new build house is that they often meet the latest environmental efficiency standards and shouldn’t require maintenance for a long time. So bear this in mind when you’re calculating your budgets.

Regardless of whether or not you’re buying a new build, you need to sit down and work out your finances. That way, you can get a good idea of what the cost of owning a property is going to set you back.

Remember, it’s not just mortgage payments that are going to come out of your bank every month. You’ll need to budget for gas and electricity bills, council tax, water charges and the cost of travelling to and from work.

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