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Questions to Ask When Buying a New Build House

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24th Mar 2020 (Last updated on 26th Mar 2020) 9 minute read

Buying a new build property is often appealing to prospective buyers due to the lack of a property chain and the option of personalising it as it’s being built. However, there are still issues that come with new build homes and so it’s important to ask the appropriate questions before committing to the sale. 

Compare My Move has worked alongside our experienced property experts to create an article with the right questions to ask when buying a new build home. From questioning the developers to discovering more about the building’s warranty, we have everything you need to know to make an informed decision when buying a new build property.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Other Developments Have They Worked On?
  2. What Does the New Home Warranty Include?
  3. Can You Use Your Own Conveyancer?
  4. Is the Property Leasehold or Freehold?
  5. What Other Costs Come With the Lease?
  6. Who Do You Contact if Something is Wrong With the Property?
  7. What Changes Can You Make to the Property?
  8. What Type of Foundations Were Used?
  9. How Much is the Council Tax?
  10. Ask About the Local Area
  11. Saving Money During Your Move

What Other Developments Have They Worked On?

Before choosing to buy a new build, one of the first questions you should ask the developer, is what other developments have they worked on? As with any company you wish to hire, it’s important to see evidence and reviews of their work. If the development is nearby, you could even go and physically see their work.  

Websites like the House Builders Federation contain reliable data concerning the quality of property builders and their previous work. Most schemes will be optional and may not include your personal developer, but it’s worth a look if you’re concerned or curious.

What Does the New Home Warranty Include?

National House Building Council (NHBC) warranties are often applied to the majority of new builds in the UK. They often provide homebuyers with peace of mind but it’s important to know what’s included and why. Ask questions like what does the warranty include and how long it will last.

Many NHBC and similar warranties last for the first 10 years the property is purchased. However, they’re often viewed as simply insurance policies as you have to make a claim, with payouts not always guaranteed. Many warranties may include small print that the NHBC may use to avoid paying for or carrying out work. Don’t forget to read the fine print with any contract you come in contact with. 

You should also ask if there is a “snagging provision” in your contract to ensure you’re able to get any minor issues fixed with your building developer. Don’t forget to enquire about your white goods (cookers, fridge, washing machines, dishwashers etc) and ask the developer to hand over guarantees during completion. 

Can You Use Your Own Conveyancer?

Many developers will recommend a conveyancing solicitor or mortgage lender. However, this is likely a referral that is designed to make them money. You can take their suggestion if you find the professional has the necessary experience and qualifications, but you can also find your own. Compare conveyancing quotes, research the companies and look for reviews. You need to find the perfect quote for you, not your developer. 

The conveyancing process for new builds is quite complicated and so it’s important to find the right solicitor for the job. You’ll want to find someone with an open line of communication, someone who can help you with the legal jargon and documents as well as ensure a smooth and stress-free process. 

Is the Property Leasehold or Freehold?

Another vital question to ask is, is the property leasehold or freehold? Although there are some exceptions, flats will usually be leasehold whilst homes will be freehold. But always check with the developer first. If it is a leasehold, then you’ll have a lease from the freeholder to use the property for a number of years. This amount of time for new builds is typically long-term, often around 90-999 years. 

The majority of flats and apartments are leasehold properties. The developer should advertise this, but if you’re unsure, it’s important to ask for clarification. You do not only need to be sure which it falls under but also ensure that your solicitor is aware. A leasehold property often comes with extra charges and limitations which can seem concerning if you did not immediately know. 

Restrictions with a leasehold property could include having to get consent from your freeholder before making alterations, sub-letting or even owning a pet. You will be responsible for the maintenance bills and building insurance, and may even have to pay annual ground rent.  

If the property seems right for you, ask your solicitor and the developer to walk you through the terms of the lease. You will need to know the restrictions, extra costs and what may change in the future.   For further information on leasehold properties and ground rent, you can visit the gov.uk website. It’s important to keep updated as the government has discussed banning leasehold new build houses, but it has not yet been confirmed.

What Other Costs Come With the Lease?

From maintenance costs to home insurance, there are many costs of buying a house. If you’re not prepared for the fees to come, you may go over budget. Other costs you’ll have to consider are service charges, ground rents and conveyancing costs. Find out as much as possible before you commit to buying the property. Ask what costs are included, how you’ll need to pay them and most importantly, when. 

If you have a landlord, you may also have to pay into a reserve fund which will be set up to ensure there’s money for any future repairs or maintenance. 

It’s also important to research whether there will be event or exit fees attached to your lease. If so, you may have to announce beforehand if you are making changes to your living situation and perhaps even pay a fee. These are all questions you should ask before purchasing your new build property. 

Who Do You Contact if Something is Wrong With the Property?

When buying a new build property, you will want to carry out a snagging list to detect any issues that can be solved before the property’s completion. Proving the importance of a snagging list, the Home Builders Federation's latest satisfaction surveys have shown that 99% of new build homeowners reported 'snags' or 'defects' to their builder after moving in - 34% claimed that the number of problems detected was more than what they had expected to find.

Many of the issues should be detected during this assessment. However, many new builds will need time to settle and issues may begin to appear over time. To ensure you’re prepared, it’s important to ask who you should report to if there are problems with the property. Find out exactly who it is you would have to reach and make sure you get their contact details. 

New rules regarding a New Homes Ombudsman could see homeowners being awarded up to £50,000 in compensation from building developers if the work is not up to par. However, this is still currently in discussion and so it’s important to follow the proper procedures if something should go wrong. 

You should also ask about the length of your warranty and what would happen if you got a private workman to fix any damage. Discover what the official guidelines are, who you must contact and what you are permitted to do yourself.

What Changes Can You Make to the Property?

Before committing to the purchase, it’s worth asking what limitations there are when it comes to changing the property. Some leaseholders may be surprised at the limitations that are put in place by the freeholder and so it’s worth checking beforehand. 

Some restrictions placed could be concerning flooring, building work or even painting the walls. Always ask for permission from your freeholder before continuing with a change.    

If your property is part of a larger development, there may be restrictive covenants set out by the property builders to prevent you from changing the appearance of the home. Whilst researching the property, ask about restrictive covenants so you know what work would be permitted on the house. These restrictions could include extensions, CCTV, anything that may disrupt the uniform of the property and surrounding buildings.  

Some properties may not allow subletting or owning pets. Don’t forget to read your contract thoroughly before signing and to ask for help from your solicitor before contracts are legally exchanged.

What Type of Foundations Were Used?

When buying a house, whether a new build or pre-owned property, you need to consider how structurally-sound it is. Will it last? Are the foundations stable? What were they made of? These are all questions you can ask the developer or site manager. 

If the ground conditions are good, trench fill or strip foundations may have been used. These are the typical solutions and mean the ground conditions are strong enough to hold the property without much aid. 

If piled foundations have been used, they will likely have been chosen to transfer the loading of the property through unsuitable ground. This will also secure and stabilise your property but means the ground needed added aid. This type of foundation could affect your building insurance.  

You should be wary of any clay soils as they have the most risk of movement. Clay soils can change in volume due to moisture levels altering during the seasons. This can then cause subsidence.

How Much is the Council Tax?

Part of planning your budget for a new home includes factoring in the local Council Tax. If the area’s Council Tax is too expensive for you, then you’ll want to immediately dismiss the new build in question. 

Ask what band the property will likely come under and check to see if their suggestion is correct. The valuation bands are based on what the price the property would have sold for back in 1st April 1991 for England and Scotland. In Wales, the date is 1st April 2003. 

To calculate how much Council Tax you should be paying, you’ll need to work out the backwards value of your home. You can do this using a reverse calculator like the one Nationwide provides.

Ask About the Local Area

When buying a new-build property, chances are that the development wasn’t there a few years or months ago, meaning you won’t be familiar with the immediate surrounding area. It’s important to ask about the local amenities and to do your own research as well: 

  • Where are the nearest schools? 
  • Where’s the nearest bus stop or train station? 
  • How far away are the shops? 
  • Where’s the nearest GP surgery? 

These are all questions that’ll need answering before you decide to move in. The answers will impact your daily life so it’s important to think about the necessities and what needs to be closest to you and your family.

Saving Money During Your Move

Whether you’re buying or selling a property, it’s important to find the right professionals for the job. Here at Compare My Move, our team works hard to ensure you’re connected with the most trusted and verified experts to ensure you have the smoothest process possible. 

Whether you’re searching for a reliable conveyancer to make sense of the legal jargon, a property surveyor to assess your home, or a dependable removals company to get you moving, all you have to do is fill out our quick online form and you’ll be instantly connected with the best in the business.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.