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Top tips for buying a new build home

New build homes are a great option whether you're a first time buyer, have a growing family or "right sizing" in later years. But there are also common problems many home buyers aren't aware of. Here are the most common pitfalls - and top tips for side stepping them - when buying your new home...


The Benefits of New Build Homes

New build homes are appealing to home buyers for a number of reasons:

  • Many people like the fact that they will be the first to live in the property
  • Repairs and redecoration costs should be minimal for the first few years
  • Buyers can often select fixtures and fittings to tailor the property interior to their taste
  • New properties usually come with guarantees. As well as NHBC’s 10-year warranty, other companies provide warranties and insurance for new homes, such as BLP’s housing warranty insurance
  • If the property is built to the correct standard, homeowners can enjoy lower running costs and energy bills

Problems and Pitfalls with New Build Homes

But what about the downsides of buying a new build? Here are some common pitfalls and top tips for side stepping them…

Developers customer service

Whether you’re buying a toaster or a new home the transaction and after sales care can vary. Trouble is, of course, you’d expect a better level of service when you’re spending hundreds of thousands on your home. Sadly, developers don’t compete on quality and after sales service. So it’s down to you to do your research. Here are our top tips:

  • Get to know the developers in the area where you want to buy and research them online. Look out for where they are mentioned on forums and see what people are saying. Don’t let it put you off completely but let these forums inform you of the issues you need to be alive to.
  • Get talking – If the development has been partially completed ask the neighbours how they found the process of buying. You might pick up some top tips for negotiating and things to watch for in your contract.
  • Visit the developer’s other sites: How do they look? Do the new residents speak highly of their homes and the developer?
  • Never rely solely on the developer’s promotional material. Get a feel for what you’re buying by visiting the site and the local area. Look at transport links, do your journey to work, walk to local facilities and so on.

For more information see our guide on how to choose the best new home builder

Premium Pricing

Just like a new car, a new build house will depreciate in price the minute you turn the key in the door. Even in a rising property market you may not get your money back if you have to sell within a year or two. Here are out top tips for tackling this:

  • Compare the new build home you are looking at with similar “old” properties in terms of value, space and rental value in the local area. Check the price per square foot, and compare it with the resale market so you understand the extent of the premium you will be paying.
  • Negotiate with the developers. Find out what other properties on the site have been sold for on Zoopla or Rightmove. There can often be deals to be done at the end of their financial year, or when there are only a few properties left to be sold.
  • Shop around for good deals. Many developers offer incentives to differentiate them from other local developers, such as free furnishings, a car parking space, or by paying your legal fees or stamp duty. If you can’t negotiate money off the price, the offer to pay your stamp duty is probably the best freebie to take up as it will probably save you the most money, but be aware that any incentives offered by the developer over about 5% will impact on how much your lender is willing to hand out.
  • Plan to stay put for a few years. Future proof your purchase by ensuring it fits with your personal plans for the next few years. Could your new partner move in? Could you comfortably fit a new baby in?
  • Think about adding value. When buying think about whether there is scope to add value in the future – a conservatory on the back, or a landscaped garden or loft conversion. You may not be able to afford it now, but it may be an option in the future or make your home an attractive proposition to future buyers wanting to add value

Whether you’re about to complete on a new build home or have moved in to find problems, we can connect you with independent on-site snagging inspector today to get those problems fixed.

Leasehold vs Freehold

Whether your new build home is freehold or leasehold is fundamental. Leasehold means that you have a lease from the freeholder to use the home for a number of years. The leases  for new build are usually long term – often 90 years or 120 years and as high as 999 years.

There are often certain conditions attached to a leasehold property. Restrictions can include obtaining your freeholder’s consent for alterations to the property, sub-letting and owning pets. Some can be reasonable and sensible especially if you are buying a flat.  Leaseholders are responsible for paying for maintenance and buildings insurance, and usually also have to pay an annual ground rent, as well as fees to the freeholder, such as when you remortgage or wish to do building works. Although ground rent may be nominal, it can escalate quickly (doubling every 10 years) and make your home unsaleable.

If you are buying a new build flat you will have no choice but to buy it on a leasehold basis. You need to ask the developer and your conveyancing solicitor to walk you through the terms of the lease, what restrictions are included and what charges apply now and in future years. See our guide on Leasehold charges – what to know before you buy  

New built houses should not be sold as leasehold. Our campaigning in this area led to the Government committing to ban the selling of new houses on a leasehold basis and for new ground rents on all leasehold properties to be set to zero. This proposal has not yet come into law. In the meantime, houses sold as leasehold are sold with high ground rents that can double every 10 years and onerous fees. The vast majority of buyers of leasehold houses have found that their freeholds have been sold to large institutional ground rent investors and these investors are now asking for hugely inflated sums (£40,000!) to sell them the freehold to their homes. They are also finding that they cannot sell their property as prospective buyers will likely be refused a mortgage. It’s nothing short of scandalous and something we raise in our report Homes Held Hostage.

There is no justification for a homebuilder retaining the freehold when only one property is built on that land – you should avoid buying any such property or insist that you will only buy it if they turn it into a freehold.

Delays in moving in

This is particularly the case if you are buying “off plan” before the development has been completed. We recommend you get the builder to agree a ‘long stop’ completion date which means he’ll be liable to pay you compensation if he doesn’t finish the work by that date.

For more information on the legal process of buying your new build home, and things to watch for at every stage, check out our guide Buying a new build – the conveyancing process explained

Getting a mortgage

Delays can also be a problem when it comes to your mortgage – take a look at our separate advice on getting a mortgage for your new build home

Workmanship and Finish

NHBC warranties and the like are not going to cover workmanship and quality finishes. So make sure you’re happy at every stage of the build with how your new home is shaping up but especially before you complete.

By the time you instruct solicitors you should have seen copies of the plans and specification of what the developer intends to build. The more detail this shows, the better.

In fact, properly prepared plans and specifications will tell you exactly what you are getting – to include design, measurements, the type and quality of materials and decorative finishes. Anything less, and the developer has scope to reduce the specification and build you something of lower quality than you might otherwise expect.

If you’re buying off plan, don’t rely solely on the developer’s promotional material and a visit to the show home.  These are not the same as a proper specification and mean that you are dependent on trust to get what you want.

Watch out for Warranties

NHBC and similar guarantees are supposed to give peace of mind for the first 10 years after construction of the property. The policy attaches to the property, so that it benefits successive owners during the 10 year period. You should be aware however that the NHBC is an insurer and the guarantees are in reality insurance policies. If you make a claim, NHBC may use the small print to avoid paying for or carrying out remedial work.

Make sure there is a snagging” provision in your contract to allow you to get little issues sorted  – such as doors catching on carpets – directly with the developer. During the first two years from completion of your home, NHBC will step in if you make a claim against the developer and the developer fails to carry out the remedial work.

We would urge you to diarise the two year time limit, because if you want to make a claim under the initial guarantee you must notify the developer (in writing and copied to NHBC) before it expires. Even though the claim is made to the developer, NHBC have a dispute resolution service which you can use free of charge.

And when it comes to your white goods – such as cookers, dishwashers, fridge freezers, hobs and washing machines and dryers – you have specified in your new home, you should ask the developer to hand over guarantees to you on completion. You’ll want to have this stipulated in the contract.

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  1. Hello Nando, any planning proposals submitted after your searches were conducted will not be covered. For more information on searches, please take a look at our guide.

    Comment by Sara Hind — July 15, 2019 @ 2:56 pm

  2. Hi,
    We have just moved into a brand new house. We are in a cul de sac location (chosen on purpose). The cul de sac overlooks farm land. We have found out today that there is a planning application being considered to build a further 33 Homes on this land. During the conveyancing should this Planning Application have been picked up by our Solicitor? I am going to look at the plans as its been brought to my attention that IF the application is approved MY CUL DE SAC would be the only means of access to this new development?

    Comment by Nando Langton — July 11, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

  3. Hi – I’ve recently purchased a new build from a developer and upgraded certain extras. When we viewed these items we were neither happy nor certain they were as agreed.

    We have asked the developer to provide detailed specifications of the extras vs standard items – there is no detail on the developer website and despite the request they have failed to show any evidence.

    What is the bet course of action to take to find out if we have received what was paid for?

    Many thanks

    Comment by Kieran — June 28, 2019 @ 9:24 am

  4. Hi, restrictions to landscaping, exterior decor etc are usually because of of a planning restriction or being in a conservation area where there’s a requirement to preserve the way the street looks. If you want to give us some more information or become a member so that we can look into this for you and give you some tailored advice, drop us a line at hello@hoa.org.uk

    Comment by Sara Hind — June 25, 2019 @ 3:02 pm

  5. Hi Sara,
    Thanks for coming back. Yes, It is related to fibre optics broadband and also for the TV. Apparently you cant install dish or antenna as it has to come through a communal dish. So if I want to go for e.g. SKY TV i have to go through the middle man.
    Now I also came to know that you even cant change to color of the door without asking the builder.
    If it is it true, can it be legal, can builder enforce such restriction on the Freehold properties in England?


    Comment by S Joshi — June 21, 2019 @ 2:39 pm

  6. Hi S Joshi, I’ve never come across this before. Who is placing this restriction on you? Are you sure it isn’t to do with fibre optic broadband cable availability? It’s still not available in all parts of the UK. Best regards The HOA Team

    Comment by Sara Hind — June 19, 2019 @ 11:11 am

  7. Hi,
    I am looking to buy a new build house in Bedford area, but i came to know that you cannot approach Internet provider, landline or TV services provider (i.e. sky, virgin) of your choice. You have to go through a specific providers from open fibre networks (which is expensive compare to the directly going to the provider). Anyone knows how long this restrictions is applied on the owners? is it life long, or only till the builder finishes his work in the area.


    Comment by S Joshi — June 19, 2019 @ 9:30 am

  8. Hi – They would need to check their title documentation though as if it is a flat for example there could be restrictions or some new builds and shared ownerships. The mortgage company may not allow it either or they may have to switch to a different mortgage. Have a read of our guide on this https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-selling/should-i-sell-my-home-or-rent-it-out/

    Comment by Marianne Cole — June 14, 2019 @ 9:44 am

  9. My daughter and partner bought a new build last year. Can they rent it as the relatioship has ended

    Comment by Alycia — June 13, 2019 @ 7:08 pm

  10. Hello Jenna, this is certainly something that’s worth asking for. You’ll also want to make sure that the bottom of your garden will be left in good condition e.g. if the garden has been turfed, any trampling or storing of items on the turf and it’s likely to die off. Kind regards, the HOA Team.

    Comment by Sara Hind — June 4, 2019 @ 2:41 pm

  11. We have purchased a new build home that is ready for entry end of June. My husband received a call from the sales team asking permission to use the bottom metre of our garden until August. Should we be receiving any sort of payment for this?

    Comment by Jenna — June 2, 2019 @ 9:51 am

  12. Please do have a look at our guide on your rights in relation to buying a new build property https://hoa.org.uk/catalogues/buying-a-new-home-your-rights/index.html and also consider put in a complaint in writing to the developers initially. Unfortunately if you don’t have access to the plans though it is difficult to say what exactly they were going to do.

    Comment by Marianne Cole — May 23, 2019 @ 3:29 pm

  13. we purchased a new build flat and the brochure states we should have a shaver socket in the en suite but it has not been installed. they claim as it is because it is not in the show plot. is this right?
    also everyone’s front facing balcony glass has been recently stuck with window film free of charge, to block the view from the road at the front, all but ours and the flat upstairs. they claim we cannot have this as it will change the appearance of the building and we need planning permission? and we would have to pay for this ourselves if permission is granted.
    but unless we draw the curtains we have no privacy.

    many thanks

    Comment by Steven — May 17, 2019 @ 8:32 am

  14. We purchased a bungalow 4and a half years ago from a builder
    And we were under the impression we purchased a show house we now find that we have plumbing problems and no guarantee and this house we purchased was a self build what rights do we have now

    Comment by Roseanne Bruce — May 3, 2019 @ 10:24 pm

  15. Hi there
    We have exchanged on a new build property and are waiting for the completion date.
    We had a look at the property this week and noticed a large branch of a large tree from land backing onto our property (green belt wedge)
    Is hanging over our garage over our land.
    The builder has said they have already cut the trees bordering us back significantly so are not intending to do any more.
    Do we have any rights in relation to this?

    Comment by Kate — April 24, 2019 @ 8:45 pm

  16. Hi Mike, you’ll need to check the small print on the offer. It may be that it’s only open to new customers or only available on certain plots.

    Comment by Sara Hind — February 5, 2019 @ 12:39 pm

  17. Hello I have reserved a new build, exchanged contracts and paid an initial deposit on the agreed asking price, but we have completed until the end of February 2019. I have recently seen the builder offering a discount of £8k for anyone reserving before the end of January 2019 (I’ve obviously missed this date). My question is, should I be entitled to the discount as I have not completed?

    Comment by Mike — February 2, 2019 @ 7:33 am

  18. Hello Tom, sorry to hear that the builder is not willing to fix this issue. Have a look at our guide on dealing with new build issues https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-managing-2/fix-problems-in-a-new-build-home/

    Comment by Chandni Sahni — January 31, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

  19. Hi
    I have recently found that our builder made a mistake and placed a lamp post in the wrong location- which now blocks part of my drive. I have complained but they say they will not move it- despite showing them the detailed plans showing where the pole should go. Is there anyone/anywhere i can complain to?


    Comment by Tom C — January 31, 2019 @ 11:47 am

  20. Great! This is very important information. Thank you for giving this type of information and guiding me.

    Comment by Black and White Brickwork Ltd — January 21, 2019 @ 6:28 pm

  21. Hi Michelle, we hear from lots of people who are disappointed to find that the property they’re buying doesn’t match the sales brochure. Take a read of our guide (https://hoa.org.uk/catalogues/buying-a-new-home-your-rights/) and if you need more support, please consider becoming a member.

    Comment by Sara Hind — January 15, 2019 @ 3:01 pm

  22. Hi we are buying a new build and at the time of reserving the property, were shown the wrong drawings resulting in some key differences in the house that’s being built to the one we were expecting, namely the utility room was shown to use with an external door but in fact doesn’t have one, nor does it have a window, which i feel makes the utility a cupboard rather then a room, devaluing our property.
    What can I do about this? the developer will not fit a door due to H&S (although I have an argument for this). What should I be asking for instead and what rights to I have please?
    We have had a number of problems so far and have even considered walking away from the purchase. They are going to have to work hard to keep the sale but what can i ask for / expect?
    We have a meeting this afternoon and I feel very out of my depth 🙁

    Comment by Michelle — January 10, 2019 @ 10:13 am

  23. Hi Natalie, I’m afraid you can’t rely on the sales brochure. Ideally you would have had a detailed plan and specification for the property – check to see if that mentions a water butt.

    Comment by Sara Hind — August 22, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

  24. Hello
    I have a new build and in the specification list under the garden section it stated a water butt (where practical) I have asked the developers to install it as it was on the list they emailed to say they have contacted a plumber. Then then emailed to say they wouldn’t be installing it. I have asked what property’s they are installing them in and they have said none, and that they know that the wording on the website and brochure says it is but the directors have decided not to?
    Where do I stand?

    Comment by Natalie — August 21, 2018 @ 8:16 pm

  25. Hello Jackie, we recommend that potential buyers should have seen all the plans and specification of the property by the time they come to instruct solicitors.

    I don’t know whether you had a plan and specification, but we do get calls from people who have relied solely on promotional glossy brochures and have ended up with something that they’re not happy with. If you don’t have the original specification then the developer can essentially change the build and you’ll get something you weren’t expecting.

    Comment by Sara Hind — April 24, 2018 @ 2:41 pm

  26. Hi there, I have recently exchanged contracts on anew build house. The builders, Persimmon, have now informed me that the front of my house will be rendered instead of brick. Are they allowed to make these changes?

    Comment by Jackie Yeomans — April 12, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

  27. Wise words. Read something like this in Nexlevol Power Notes this morning too.

    Comment by Maritza Lindie — October 2, 2017 @ 12:27 am

  28. Thanks Katie, for your comment.

    best wishes,

    Comment by Sophie Khan — September 29, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

  29. I really like your tip about looking at the developer’s other sites when looking for a newly built home. My husband and I are actually looking for a house right now, and so that is some great advice! I think that I will also make the effort to talk to current tenants of homes that were built by them as well.

    Comment by Katie Dunn — September 29, 2017 @ 5:23 am


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