There is a huge appeal in purchasing a property on a new-build development for many buyers. Not only are they able to move into a brand-new home, with no work to burden them on arrival, but most will also come with a warranty, covering any issues or defects within a predetermined period of time. That being said, as with buying a traditional property, new home developments inevitably come with certain worries and concerns. Making sure you know everything about what you’re buying is crucial, although remembering all of the questions you should be asking a developer is easier said than done.

Matthew Firth, managing director of Essex-based development firm Granville Developments, is well positioned to highlight the questions you should be asking new-build developers, having created innovatively designed, high quality homes for the past 40 years (during which time Granville Developments won Best Residential Development in 2020’s UK Property Awards, for their selection of luxury bungalows in Coggeshall). Here, Matthew has put his expertise into practice and provided his professional insights into the questions that all new-build buyers ought to be asking.

1.  “What else have you built?”

‘When considering any new development, regardless as to how established the developer is, it’s imperative that you explore their previous work. Further to this, should they have finished a development that’s close enough to visit, go and take a look! If you’re able to visit one of their completed developments, don’t hesitate to politely ask any homeowners you see in the area about their experiences with the developer – without being intrusive, of course. It’s definitely worth making sure they have a good track record before you commit to a purchase.’

2. “What will I get with my new-build home?”

‘Initially, your new-build is likely to be nothing more than a foundation. If you’re lucky, the framework of the house might be up, but either way, there will be very little to see. With this in mind, it’s essential to ask for a comprehensive list of everything that will be included in the finalised property. What appliances will be included? How will the garden be landscaped? If you’re in the market for a new-build flat, you should also ask whether your purchase includes a dedicated parking space. Finally, to avoid any discrepancies further down the line, be sure to get all of your findings in writing before signing a contract.’

3. “What does the new home warranty include?”

‘New-build buyers are provided with great peace of mind, thanks to the National House Building Council (NHBC) warranties that are applied to over 80% of the UK’s newly built homes. It’s important to remember, however, that NHBC and other warranties are fundamentally insurance policies, meaning that – although they are likely to apply across the first 10 years following the purchase of your home – you will need to make a claim and a subsequent payout cannot always be guaranteed. Find out exactly what is included in the warranty of your new home and verify that the snagging list can be rectified directly with the developer. Further to this, always ensure you have access to any guarantees or warranties for the white goods included within your new-build.’

4. “Is it a freehold or leasehold property?”

‘New-build flats will almost certainly be a leasehold property. This means that you have a lease from the freeholder, allowing you to use the property for a predetermined amount of time – usually between 90-999 years on a new-build. In 2019, the government instituted a ban on the sale of leasehold new-build houses, but if you’re buying a new-build flat, there may still be a chance that the property is freehold, so it’s certainly worth asking.’

5. “Have any of the other properties in the development been sold? Who bought them?”

‘Regardless as to whether you’re buying a new-build or an established property, knowing who your neighbours are is incredibly important. They could be families, young professionals or anything in between. Perhaps a property investor has snapped up a few, in order to rent the homes out. The developer should be able to update you on how many units have been sold and who has purchased them.’

6. “Is there any help available when purchasing the new-build?”

‘Considering the purchase of a new home is likely to be one of the biggest expenses you’ll make in your lifetime, there’s no shame in seeking out a little help. There are schemes in place, such as low deposits and help to buy, which site staff will be able to discuss with you, in order to point you in the right direction. Not only this, your developer will also be ideal in referring you to an independent mortgage advisor; their impartial advice will be hugely beneficial in identifying which mortgage you should be utilising.’

7. “Will you establish a long stop completion date?”

‘When buying off plan, there’s always a possibility that your new home won’t be ready as soon as you had hoped. Whilst not only irritating, this can also cause problems with mortgage companies, as their offers are typically valid for a maximum of six months, meaning you may have to reapply for a mortgage if your new-build home is delayed. With this in mind, it’s certainly worth asking the home builder to insert a completion date into your sale contract, as this will entitle you to compensation should your property be unavailable by the given date.’

8. “Are there any restrictive covenants?”

‘Restrictive covenants are put in place to restrict homeowners from altering the appearance of their property, ultimately ensuring everything remains uniform. It’s of paramount importance that you know whether you will be affected by this prior to purchasing your new-build home, or in the future should you wish to make changes to your property. These covenants can also impact your ability to sell the property in the future, so play close attention to them.’

9. “Do you have any intention of extending the development?”

‘No one wants to be promised a beautiful view from their south-facing garden, only to find out, after living in your new home for a year, that the house builder is extending the development and your beautiful view will soon be somebody else’s house. Be sure to ask your developer whether they have any further phases in mind before committing to your purchase.’

10. “Can I purchase my own appliances and materials?”

‘Is the new build you’re after perfect in every way… except for one little detail? Did the house of your dreams offer a glossy, marble countertop in the kitchen; something not offered by the developer? In this case, ask whether you can purchase your own materials and appliances for the builder to install. This might not always be a possibility, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get.’

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Daniel Peacock.

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