What to check for when buying a new build property

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to move up the property ladder, buying off-plan can be appealing for many reasons. However, if you’ve never bought a new-build property you may not be aware of how the buying process can be different to buying an older property.

Here at Enact conveyancing, we’ll guide you through some of the things you should be aware of before you commit to buying off-plan.

What are the benefits of buying a new home?

Buying a new home has several benefits such as you’ll be the first owner of the home meaning you have a blank canvas to work with. Most property developers allow buyers to pick several specifications throughout the property, ranging from budget-friendly options to higher-end upgrades. While from the outside your home will look like many others on your estate – the interior will have your stamp on it.

Also, as the UK looks to become more environmentally, the property will be compliant with the latest building regulations. From the insulation to heating and plumbing systems – it will all be installed to the latest safety and efficiency standards. This should ultimately mean lower running costs.

Once the property is complete and you move in, any issues that crop up should be covered by a third-party insurance backed warranty. This typically lasts for 10 years after you move in giving you peace of mind that you’re covered should anything major occur to your property.

If you’re a first-time buyer, while you will have to wait for the property construction to be completed, there’s no chain meaning your conveyancing process should be straightforward.

Furthermore, there are several government-backed schemes available to first-time buyers to help them get onto the property ladder. For example, there’s the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme which can only be used with a new build property.

What you may not be aware of when buying off-plan:

Check what’s included in the sale

Developers will often use marketing tactics to incentivise buyers to buy one of their properties; the sooner their stock is sold the quicker they can move onto another housing development. Therefore, make sure you don’t miss out on any offers they are making; these often include:

  • Flooring upgrades
  • Paying your legal fees, this again could be a considerable saving that you could put towards furnishing your new home
  • Upgraded kitchens and appliances

The takeaway here is to always ask what is included in the sale. You can negotiate around the property’s specifications or other incentives.

The price isn’t set in stone

When looking at buying a new build property, buyers may not be aware that the asking price isn’t final. We’re familiar with negotiating the asking price with existing homeowners and the same can be said for buying off-plan. This could be another way to save money if the developer accepts your lower offer.

Show home secrets

Understandably when a new build development comes to market the developer cannot allow buyers to see the potential property they want to buy as often it isn’t built at that stage. Therefore, they create a series of show homes for potential buyers to get an idea of the types of properties that will be available.

However, what you see isn’t necessarily what you’ll end up with when it comes to your actual property. To begin with, a developer will use an interior designer to fully furnish the home(s) with several props and tactics to make the home feel light, airy, and spacious.

For example, interior designers often use large mirrors to create the illusion of space while using colour schemes that enhance spaces and light reflective paints.

It’s not uncommon for developers to build show homes with higher ceilings and fit them with bigger windows to allow for more light to enter the property.

Don’t be surprised if the furniture and appliances are smaller than average to make a room appear proportionately bigger. What’s more, there may be rooms that are missing key items such as your white goods in the kitchen or wardrobes in the bedrooms. The idea is that people are given the impression that they can move into a property immediately, but several items that are important to everyday living will still need to be purchased on top of buying the property itself.

The best way to work around all these tactics is to get a blueprint of the property you’re looking to buy and compare it with the show home. Once a development becomes semi-progressed you could ask to see a similar property to yours that isn’t a show home to get a better idea of the space you’d be living in.

What about the garden?

It’s not just the interior of the show home that gets a glow-up. The garden will also be subject to a degree of landscaping to make it look attractive to buyers. However, it’s unlikely that your garden will have the same finish – be sure to ask the builder what landscaping they will include as part of the finish.

Also, don’t forget to check your plot size – which direction does the sun face and could your garden be overshadowed by neighbouring properties?

When will the property be finished?

No matter how well planned they are new build developments often run behind schedule. When it comes to getting a completion date from your developer take it with a pinch of salt.

Delays out of the control of developers can range from brick shortages to adverse weather conditions, therefore they will only offer an anticipated legal completion date. As it gets closer to this date ask the developer how realistic the completion date is and if necessary, have a contingency plan just in case there are any last-minute hold-ups.

When will the scheme be completed?

In addition to finding out your own completion date don’t forget to ask when the development will be finished. Depending on the scale of the scheme versus when you move in you could still find yourself living on a construction site for months, if not years. This could cause ongoing disruption from noise and dust to unfinished roads so it’s worth bearing in mind whether that’s going to be a problem or not.

Does the developer offer a warranty?

While it is standard practice for a new-build property to be sold with a warranty, typically of 10 years, it’s not a legal requirement so it’s wise to double-check if your developer offers one or not. A warranty is, however, a requirement of all mainstream mortgage lenders and a resale would be challenging without one, if it were to take place within 10 years of the property’s completion.

Snagging lists

While your warranty will protect you from any major structural issues that could go wrong with the property don’t forget to keep on top of any ‘snagging list’ issues the builder may be aware of.

Getting a property complete for buyers to move into often goes down to the wire and therefore, things that aren’t showstoppers may still need to be completed or you may notice some defects when moving in. Make sure the builder corrects these before they move on to their next project.

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