Buying a home is a big step for anyone, and a house is probably the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy unless you win the lottery and then buy an ocean going yacht or a private jet.
Choosing a new house
This article is going to concentrate on “new build homes”, these are homes that you move into once the builder has built it and they have never been lived in before. There are several advantages to this kind of home. They tend to be more energy-efficient than older properties, they probably include the latest fixtures and fittings and, because the builder is selling them, they are chain-free, meaning that you do not have to wait for the current owner to buy the house that they are moving in to, and they do not have to wait for the owner of their new house to buy their new house and so on…
The first thing you need to do when buying a new house is decide what sort of place you’re after, where you want to live and how much you can afford to spend. If you’re looking for a large detached five bedroom house in the middle of a village, you may have to look a little longer and save a bit harder for a deposit than if you’re going for a small flat in the middle of a town, so be as realistic as possible.
Find a reputable house-builder
When looking for a newly built house, check that any builders you come across are members of the National House-Building Council (NHBC) . Most of the big, national, house builders for example both Bovis Homes, and Bloor Homes along with many others, are members but you should check the smaller local builders. Having said that, there are approximately 20,500 house builders and developers on the NHBC’s Register (known as registered builders or registered developers), who agree to comply with their Rules and Standards when building new homes. To make sure that this happens the NHBC checks the property to check that standards are being maintained at various stages while it is being built.
To give you a guide, more than 80% of new homes built in the UK each year are registered with NHBC and benefit from their 10-year warranty and insurance policy called ‘Buildmark’. Around 1.7 million homeowners are currently covered by Buildmark policies, and over the past 40 years, NHBC has protected more than 30% of existing homes in the UK.
Do your own research
Having checked that the builder is a member of the HNBC you should also do your own research on the house-builder to make sure you’re satisfied with their quality. This might include:
- Searching the Internet for information and feedback on your builder
- Visiting the site to see how it is being managed
- Finding out if the builder or site manager has won any recent industry awards
- Seeing if residents already in the development are happy with the quality of the product
- Looking at previous developments from the same builder and checking with residents who live in them for their opinion.
Once you find the place you want, you may have the chance to negotiate the price of the property with the builder and your success will often depend on whether there are homes that have remained unsold for longer than expected. If the builder has targets to achieve in the near future (maybe their end of year is coming up and they need to reduce the number of unsold properties on their books), you might be able to negotiate a lower price.
You should also remember that there will be other items you can negotiate on, such as payment of stamp duty. It is also worth seeing if you can negotiate extras into the deal, such as flooring (a better grade of carpet), having the garden landscaped (many will not include a finished garden with the property), curtains and so forth. You may even be able to get Solar Tubes fitted to save your lighting costs in some rooms.
Remember the old saying “if you don’t ask you don’t get”.
It is best to instruct a solicitor that has experience of managing the purchase of new-build properties as opposed to a solicitor that normally deals with “second-hand” homes. They will have the experience to negotiate with builders for possibly keeping some money back until a certain amount of problem free time has passed and they can advise you about delaying completion until problems or snags are sorted out by the builder. If possible you should try to use an independently selected solicitor (ask some of the home owners on the development if they can recommend anyone), rather than one recommended by the builder, this avoids any possible feeling that there may be a conflict of interests.
You need to make sure that you have enough money to pay the solicitors’ fees, either as part of your loan or deposit. It is impossible to say how much the fees will be, as each solicitor is different, but your solicitor should be able to give you a rough guide to how much it is all going to cost you.
The term ‘snagging’ is used to describe minor errors or defects in the property that will need to be corrected by the builder. Before the legal completion date, make sure you conduct a thorough snag inspection of the property to identify any problems that need fixing. These might include doors not opening and closing properly, fixtures not being installed correctly, faulty water pressure, loose paving slabs, poorly finished paintwork and so on. You can conduct the inspection yourself as long as you know what to look for, but it is advisable to hire a professional snagging company, who will inspect the property thoroughly and provide both you and the builder with a list of corrections that need to be addressed before you complete. Remember, you’re paying a lot of money for your new home, so it’s in your interest to make sure you’re getting the best quality possible. Once again you should make sure the snagging company is independently selected by yourself and not by the builder.
Re-inspect your property
After the first six months of living in your property, conduct another inspection, or note down any problems with the property since you’ve been living there and notify the developer in writing (preferably by using recorded delivery so you have a record that it has been received). Your builders are obliged to fix any problems identified within the first two years of completion, otherwise the NHBC will. Normal issues, such as shrinkage and drying out, are not covered by the warranty and this can be an area of disagreement – in this case the snagging company my be able to help you.
Patience is a virtue!
The information above makes buying your own new home sounds easy, but remember this is a very general guide.
You should also remember that the process can take months – when the author purchased a new house the house was selected in October and was finally moved into in the following July (it had to be built first as it was “off-plan”, ie all that existed at the time the deposit was put down was the architects drawings – although this allowed some extra sockets and some minor changes to the layout to be made before building work started). You’re going to need the patience of a saint and the stamina of a marathon runner, but the satisfaction of owning your own newly built home might just be worth it.