Questions to ask when buying a new build
Buying a new build home is exciting. But it can also be a worry if you've not done it before. Using the latest survey of new build homeowners conducted by HomeViews, we reveal the most common regrets and questions to ask when buying a new build home.
When it comes to buying a new build home, how can you be sure you’ve asked all the right questions?
While we have lots of tips and advice on our site for new build home buyers, what better way to make an informed decision than by asking someone who’s been there and done that. Or even better, thousands of people that have been there and done that.
That’s why we were happy to join with HomeViews on their recent research report. Their New Build Buyer’s Guide 2022 draws on thousands of new build homeowner reviews to give you the information you won’t find anywhere else. By understanding thousands of homeowners’ biggest buying regrets, we hope you’ll feel informed about what questions to ask when buying a new build.
Questions to ask when buying a new build
Here are the 10 things new build buyers wish they’d have asked before, with advice on each.
1. How good are the developer & management company?
According to HomeViews, 36% of new build homeowners they asked wished they had researched the developer of their home and the management company. If you’re buying from new, the developer will help with immediate problems, but longer-term, it’s the property managers who will address any issues you raise. The quality of your property manager can have a major impact on your quality of life in your home.
Our guide can help you find out more about the new build developer you are buying from.
But a lot of people are surprised to find problems in the quality of service they receive from their property management company.
HomeViews reviewers said:
[“I wish I’d known…] just how poor their quality and after sales are. I expected some snags but not to this degree. Also, you always read how poor after sales teams are with new build properties but I can tell you first hand that these guys are the worst. They don’t want to know, they don’t honor their obligations and they fob you off.
The property management company is not very reactive and the green areas should be better maintained.”
What can you do to avoid this?
Most management companies will have at least a Facebook page and Google reviews you can research. And see what homeowners are saying about them and their responsiveness on the HomeViews site.
Ideally, your management company should be a Leasehold Knowledge Partnership Accredited Company as this means they hold the ethos that leaseholders should be making the decisions about their buildings and support fairness and straight dealing.
2. What are the parking arrangements?
According to HomeViews, parking is regularly mentioned as a problem by new build homeowners, particularly for those with more than one car or who have regular visitors. Excessive street parking can make life difficult in smaller roads where neighbours do not have enough off-street parking space.
This is something to think carefully about up front to ensure you have the space you need. Don’t assume you’ll be allocated a space, that it will be the space in front of your building or that there is nearby parking. Check the specification of your contract before you sign. There may also be an added annual fee for parking. And if you’re thinking of getting an electric vehicle, find out how charging points will be accommodated, if practical.
See our guide for more top tips to buying a new build home.
3. What is the quality of the garden?
Many buyers of newly built homes mentioned problems with drainage and gardens. They said they wish they had known more about what to expect in terms of topsoil provision and the potential for flooding.
Respondents said things like:
“Really poor standard of garden – floods making the area unusable where the children cant use their outdoor playing area.”
“We found the soil quality, levels, and turf quality not very good. Our particular garden is almost impossible to dig, water collects and does not drain. So quality of top soil and ground underneath is poor.”
“Add £8000 to the market price as you will need to spend this to fix the garden.”
Complaints about the gardens are common for new build developments. Before buying, ask your conveyancing solicitor to check your property has Building Regulations sign-off for the drainage system.
The ground in the garden of new builds is often compacted by machinery and inevitably has some rubble buried beneath the turf. This does impact quality initially but can be improved by adding nutrients and organic matter.
4. Can I book a snagging survey now?
1 in 5 HomeViews respondents wished they had known more about snagging surveys before moving in. Many residents who didn’t have one regretted it afterwards. Snagging was the most-mentioned topic among respondents for new build property buyers outside London.
At the moment, most developers won’t allow buyers access to the property they are buying to conduct a snagging report before completing. But this is due to change, so ask if a pre-completion snagging survey conducted by your independent surveyor would be possible and get them booked in.
Get a New Build Snagging Survey
Whether you're about to complete on a new build home or have moved in to find problems, we can connect you with an independent on-site snagging inspector today.
You can of course have a snagging survey done at any time once you have moved in, but make sure you get one done early and well before the end of the first two years.
Find out more about snagging lists.
5. What’s it like at different times of day?
Respondents to the HomeViews survey also wish they had visited more than once before choosing their home.
They said things like:
“View the flat at different points of the day to see what level of sunlight you receive.”
“Trains nearby are freight trains and not commuter trains so noisy at times.”
“As our street is very dark, it would have been nice to know that there wasn’t going to be street lighting.”
We recommend you visit at different times of day to check noise levels, daylight/ night-time lighting, roads, potential flooding and mobile signal strength. Walk to local shops, the bus stop, the train station and other amenities, and check security on and around the development.
No property is perfect and there is usually a need to compromise. But when viewing the area, most importantly, does it feel like you could make it your home?
6. What exactly do the T&Cs say?
New build homeowners also wished they had checked their terms and conditions more carefully. Especially, where their development included service charges, maintenance fees and management fees. Service charges – and particularly future rate increases – were something many owners said they wish they had known more about before buying.
This is particularly important if you’re buying a leasehold flat. You should ask your conveyancing solicitor to go through your financial obligations set out in the property’s lease. There are three main types of charges: ground rent, service charges and administration charges.
Verified respondents to the HomeViews survey said things like:
“Do not accept vague responses when asking about service charge / estimated bills / additional monthly/annual costs. They really add up and need to be factored into your calculations if living in this property will be affordable.”
“SERVICE CHARGE prices skyrocket and can increase at the discretion of the developer. I would never have purchased if I knew.”
“We wish we had known more about the annual estate maintenance charges and what these covered.”
This is why having a conveyancing solicitor that is independent from the developer is so important. Read more about why you should shop around – rather than using your developer’s solicitor.
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7. Can I have that in writing?
This is the biggest financial commitment of your life, so when you are buying, don’t assume anything or rely on what you saw in the show room or glossy online brochure. Start by asking where the specifications of your specific property are set out, what can be upgraded, for how much, and when these will be agreed. Copy in your conveyancer to ensure everything you ask for is written into your contract.
This includes everything – from the finish of your front driveway, to the planting in the garden, to the type of microwave being fitted. It’s tedious but worth getting right and in writing.
8. What are the local development plans?
Many new build owners said they wish they’d more carefully checked development plans in the area – especially regarding green spaces, social housing and busy roads. Find out how much work will continue on and around your development once you’ve moved in.
Local searches conducted by your conveyancing solicitor should highlight local plans. Find out more about local searches.
You can also check local area plans and planning applications for your area via the local authority website.
It’s common to buy on a partially completed development, so you’ll want to ask the developer for their programme of works. But remember, there is no guarantee there won’t be delays.
9. Can I choose my exact property?
Owners said they’d underestimated the importance of choosing a specific home within a development in terms of its location and orientation. They wish they’d more carefully considered what level it was on, which side of the building, nearby roads, bin stores, entrances, etc.
So, ask if you can view a completed property identical to yours to get a feel for it. If buying off-plan, scrutinise the plans closely and ask when you can view the property before completing. For more advice, see our guide to buying off-plan.
Respondents said things like:
“…it would have been handy to know how close to the A11 road we would be and the noise during various times of the day.”
“Carefully consider the direction of the flat – south/east get glorious dawns but are cooler in the evenings; south facing flats will be hot all day, etc.”
“I wish I would have known the flat was on the exact same level as the train track. I would have picked either above or below.”
10. Where can I find local forums?
Resident groups can be extremely helpful and may be on WhatsApp, Facebook, on a resident app, or in-person. You can use these to talk with other residents who’ve moved in to your development before you and find out what to expect. Of course, HomeViews reviews also let you read what the neighbours are saying!
Speaking to existing residents is the best bit of research you can do before you buy a home. If you feel brave enough then knock on some doors. Compliment the development, say you’re keen to buy and wondering how they find living there. This could be the start of a great relationship with your new neighbours.
For more advice, see moving into a new build home.