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Questions to Ask When Buying a New Build House

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

24th Mar 2020 (Last updated on 3rd Jul 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 to a modest degree 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, or research for yourself, is what other developments have they worked on? 

Many new build homes will be bought off-plan, meaning you'll be buying it unfinished and based on computer-drawn images of what it will be like. Because of this, it’s important to see evidence and reviews of the developer's work. If another development is nearby, you could go and physically see their work.  

Websites like that of the House Builders Federation contain reliable data concerning the quality of property builders and their previous work. 

What Does the New Home Warranty Include?

There are three main providers of new home warranties in the UK. By far the most common is the the National House Building Council (NHBC), while there is also the Local Authority Building Control Warranty (LABC) and Premier Guarantee. All operate under the government’s Consumer Code for Home Builders.

The warranties often provide homebuyers with peace of mind but it’s important to know what’s included and why. When considering a new build purchase, ask questions of the developer like what does the warranty include and how long it will last - it's usually 10 years but there are exceptions.

Warranties are 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 can be used by the warranty firm or the developer 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 whether white goods (cookers, fridge, washing machines, dishwashers etc) are included in the sale and whether they have seperate guarantees.

Can You Use Your Own Conveyancer?

Many developers will recommend a conveyancing solicitor or mortgage lender; however, it is widely considered the best option to hire your own independent conveyancer. 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 - check for details of new home conveyancing that your chosen solicitor has worked on. 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?

Of vital importance is to check whether the property is 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 you're thinking of purchasing a leasehold property, 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 between 90 and 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; check your solicitor is aware too. 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 exit fees or other charges 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 were more extensive 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 as some homes may come with restrictive covenants. 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 outside. 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 appearance 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.

You may wish to hire a surveyor to assess the new-build property, assuming it is completed and not an off-plan purchase. 

How Much is the Council Tax?

Part of planning your budget for a new home includes factoring in the local Council Tax.

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 April 1991 for England and Scotland. In Wales, the date is 1st April 2003. 

Ask About the Local Area

When buying a new-build property, chances are that the development wasn’t there a few years or even 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 can help you decide where to live and will 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.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.