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The New Build Conveyancing Process Explained

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

11th Jul 2019 (Last updated on 30th May 2022) 6 minute read

The conveyancing process for a new build property is ‌complex compared to previously owned buildings. Therefore, it’s essential you hire a qualified conveyancer to help you through each stage and explain the additional considerations.

Step by step, we’ll help you understand the new build conveyancing process and how it compares to purchasing a traditional, older property.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Do You Need a New Build Solicitor?
  2. What is the New Build Conveyancing Process?
  3. How is the Process Different?
  4. How Long Does Conveyancing on a New Build Take?
  5. What Other Searches Are Required?
  6. Learn More About Conveyancing

Do You Need a New Build Solicitor?

It’s recommended that your chosen solicitor has experience in dealing with new build transactions, but it is not a definitive requirement.

The conveyancing process for new build properties is ‌much more complex, so it’s vital you hire a verified and reliable conveyancing solicitor. The risk of things going wrong is higher, so you will require the help of an experienced and qualified professional.

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What is the New Build Conveyancing Process?

1. Reserve the property

To start the transaction and make an offer, you’ll have to reserve the property by paying a reservation fee. This is often non-refundable but deducted from the final price. The property will then usually be reserved for 28 days.

It’s important to note that many new build properties will need to be bought ‘off-plan’. This means you'll have to commit to the sale without seeing the house finished. Instead, you will have to rely on looking at show homes and the specifications provided to you. If this is the case, make sure you’re completely happy with the design before committing to the sale.

2. Find an experienced conveyancer

Competition is quite high for new-builds so, as a buyer, you’ll want to find a reliable conveyancer quickly. Because of the extra work required, you’ll notice that solicitors charge more for new-build properties, so comparing conveyancing quotes is the best way to begin. You’ll need to find someone who specialises in new build developments and the complexities of the tasks at hand.

There will be strict time constraints when purchasing a new build so it’s essential you find an experienced conveyancer. Many solicitors believe the conveyancing process for new developments is more complex, so the more help you have, the better.

3. Arrange conveyancing searches

To ensure you receive the results quickly, your solicitor will have to apply for the searches ASAP. Therefore, it’s important that you make payment of the search fees to your solicitor at an early stage to help avoid delays. Some solicitors might offer a fixed fee conveyancing service, but this doesn't cover the searches, only their legal fee.

The conveyancing searches will provide you with information about the property. They'll also help you determine whether it's worth the asking price, making it a worthy investment. They also ensure that the developer is constructing the property legally.

They will also review planning permission, building regulations, new home warranty schemes and information about the management company.

For more information, read conveyancing searches explained.

4. Secure your mortgage

Your mortgage lender will first request a surveyor to conduct a mortgage valuation to determine the property’s market value. If the house is unfinished, then the valuation will be based on the plans and specifications provided.

It’s important to remember the expiry date of your mortgage offer. Most mortgage offers expire after 6 months. This should be long enough for you to get to your completion date. However, if construction of the property is delayed beyond the offer’s expiry date, then you will need to get an extension or a new mortgage offer.

5. Exchange contracts and pay the deposit

As previously mentioned, it’s common to be given a deadline of 28 days from reserving the property to the exchanging of contracts. Your conveyancer will check the contract, the title of the property, the planning documents and any other important paperwork. You’ll also be asked to sign the necessary documents.

The deposit is paid to your conveyancer, who will then transfer the funds to the developer’s solicitor. The deposit is usually 10% of the sale price and must be paid after the exchange of contracts. If the developer asks for over 10%, seek advice from your conveyancer before agreeing to pay it.

The exchanging of contracts means that the house will officially be yours. However, it doesn’t ‌mean that you’ll have a concrete completion date.

The completion date can only be fixed once the house is finished. Most new build contracts state that completion will take place 10 days after the developer confirms the property is ready. This is known as ‘completion on notice’.

6. Find a snagging surveyor

A snagging list is like a property survey for new builds. It's more thorough than a mortgage valuation, as it identifies issues with the ‘finish’ of the property and items of repair. It’s possible to do this yourself, but it’s recommended to hire a reliable snagging surveyor to conduct a thorough inspection.

If you uncover issues, you can take your snagging list back to the developer and request repairs. The developer will have a reasonable amount of time to rectify the issues but they will not be obliged to repair everything on the list.

If problems are highlighted after you’ve moved in, you risk the developer claiming the issues are due to wear and tear or carelessness.

For more information, read how snagging lists can help new property owners.

7. Complete

The day of completion is usually 10 days after the developer confirms the house and all agreed furnishings are ready. However, a concrete completion date might not always be given, as it depends on the property’s condition, the snagging list and other external factors.

On the confirmed completion date, they will give you the keys, building logs and owner’s manuals. You can then move into the property.

For more information, read
what happens on completion day?

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How is the Process Different?

The biggest difference is that new build properties will often still be in development. This means buyers will often have a longer waiting time as the home first needs to be built.

There are also several issues that may arise when purchasing a new build home, making the conveyancing process more complex compared to previously owned homes. These risks include:

  • Failure to arrange NHBC inspections
  • Issues with planning permission
  • The property not being built in accordance with the initial plans
  • The developers failing to complete agreements for roads and sewers
  • Completion date being rushed

The new build conveyancing process also includes additional searches that do not need to be conducted when buying a previously owned house. However, despite the added work, the process can sometimes be quicker as there is no upward property chain to delay the transaction.

How Long Does Conveyancing on a New Build Take?

Most developers will insist upon a 28-day period for you to exchange contracts after you’ve paid the reservation fee. The completion date will vary, depending upon how advanced the construction of the property is at the time you reserve it.

Whilst the new build conveyancing process is much quicker than previously owned properties, it’s still important to find an experienced conveyancer to comply with the developer’s deadlines.

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What Other Searches Are Required?

Alongside the usual conveyancing searches, such as local authority searches, your solicitor will also check:

  • Whether the property is freehold or leasehold
  • Planning permission
  • Restrictive covenants
  • If the home has access to gas, water, drainage and electricity
  • The conditions of your formal mortgage offer

Learn More About Conveyancing

This is part of our conveyancing guide. Next, we will explore all the costs that come with the conveyancing process. To learn more read how much are conveyancing costs.

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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.

Gareth Brooks

Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

Solicitor and Partner, RMNJ Solicitors

With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.

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