What you need to check before buying a new build property

Buying a new build home can catch out unsuspecting buyers. Here are the key points you need to check before buying a new build property.

New build site

The price isn't set in stone

Many people don't realise that the asking price for new build property is usually negotiable.

You would think about making a lower offer on any other home, so why not on a new build? Buying "off plan" doesn't mean that you cannot negotiate. You may get a great deal if you negotiate hard, so don't be afraid to ask the question - you never know what the answer may be.

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Find out what is included in the sale

Developers want to shift stock as quickly as possible. As soon as a site is sold up, the developer can move their team away and start it all again. They will sometimes even include some pretty attractive incentives, such as:

  • Paying your stamp duty
  • Offering floor covering upgrades
  • Paying your legal fees
  • Fitting white goods for you

Always ask what is included. Negotiation doesn't always have to be about price. Think about asking for some of the other things that will make your life easier in a new home.

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The show home may differ considerably from the one you ultimately buy

Show homes are there to do one thing and one thing only - encourage you to buy. The developer will have spent a lot of money on the show home interior and will have employed professional designers. The show home may differ considerably in size and layout from the one you end up buying.

Think about how you will make your own mark on the home that you will be buying. Get a good idea of where your plot will be and how different it could be to the pristine show home.

Think about how the location of your plot will affect the noise and light levels in particular, taking into account both existing surrounding properties and those yet to be built.

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Ask if there is a warranty

Most new homes have a warranty that lasts for ten to fifteen years – but not all builders are signed up to these. Ask the developer if they include a warranty. You don't want to foot the bill if a problem occurs after you move in.

On top of this, a new build home without a warranty can be worth a lot less on the second-hand market if you decide to sell over the next few years.

Protect yourself by buying a new home with a warranty.

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Think about your finances

You may already have a mortgage offer on the table. Savvy buyers will make this one of the first things they resolve. But your mortgage offer only lasts for a set period of time - usually 90 days.

If your circumstances change significantly during this period, then your existing offer might be withdrawn. It is advisable not to make any significant life changes during this period, such as:

  • Getting into further debt
  • Changing your job
  • Spending some of your deposit

If your financial situation significantly alters, your lender will probably reassess your application.

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When will the new build be ready to move in to?

Fairly or unfairly, builders are notorious for not finishing their work on time. Delays can occur even on the most prestigious of new developments.

For example, if the developer tells you the property will be ready in 8 weeks, ask them how realistic that timescale is, and whether anything could hold up completion of the work. There are always delays of one sort or another with a building project, but the more accurate the predicted date is, the better prepared you can will be.

Shorter timescales (e.g. a few weeks) will usually be more accurate than long wait times (e.g. 6+ months), but even last minute delays can hold up your move. If possible, build some "wiggle room" into your plans, so you aren't left living out of a moving van if dates change.

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Ask how many more homes there are to be built

One of the issues with living in a new home whilst the site is still being developed is the noise, muck and ongoing disruption. If the builder is nearly finished, then obviously the interruption to your life will be less then if you are the first to move in.

Ask the builder how many months they have left on site generally, and decide if this is something you can live with. If it's a problem then look for a plot that is away from the ongoing work.

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After the move - Don't leave the snagging list hanging

When you move in, the builder may have a list of outstanding jobs left to complete – this is called the snagging list. Unless you stay on top of the developer, the list of snags may not be prioritised. When there are multiple recently-completed homes to juggle, the builders could well prioritise the snagging of the most assertive owners.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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