4 November 2022 by

A new build homebuyer’s guide

With its lower maintenance costs, the comfort of warranties, and the ability to unpack and settle in straightaway, it is easy to see the appeal of a brand-new home. It can be an attractive option, whether you are a first-time buyer, upsizing or downsizing your home, or an investor. Here is our checklist of points to consider when purchasing a new build home.

Reservation fee

It is likely that you will need to pay a reservation fee to the developer to reserve the property. It is important to make your solicitor aware of this, as any reservation fee paid by you can be deducted from the deposit paid on exchange of contracts or the balance paid at completion.

Incentives

Incentives are generally dealt with by way of an ‘allowance’ on completion. For example, if an SDLT incentive of £5,000 was agreed, that would mean, on completion, you will send £5,000 less to the developer. Therefore, although no cash is exchanging hands, the developer will account for this within the actual amount that you pay to them on completion, saving you the amount agreed. You will still be responsible (via your solicitor) to submit your SDLT return and for paying this via the ‘allowance’ you benefited from on completion. It is important to inform your solicitor of any incentives agreed so they can ensure that there are adequate provisions within the contract. Your lender may also need to be made aware of the incentives you will be receiving and confirm their agreement to this.

The lease or transfer deed

Your solicitor will review and report to you on the terms of your new lease or the transfer deed (which creates the new plot of land), to ensure that there is nothing in the document that might restrict your use of the property, for example, not being able to sublet the property at a later date.  Quite often, there are new estate roads to be constructed and so it is also important to check that the property will benefit from the necessary rights of access over these new roads and you will be able to use other new services that are intended to benefit the property.

Buying off plan  

If the property you have reserved is not yet ready for occupation, it will be considered an ‘off-plan’ purchase. As your solicitor does not view the property, you should check the plan and specification carefully to ensure it correlates with what you agreed with the developer.  This agreed specification will then be annexed to the contract and there will be obligations upon the developer to construct the property in accordance with this agreed specification.  You should, however, be aware that most off-plan contracts do allow developers flexibility and discretion to deviate away from this specification, provided it does not materially affect the value of the property.  It is important therefore that you are fully advised on the terms of your off-plan contract for this reason.

Long Stop date

There is a difference between the estimated or target completion date and the contractual ‘Long Stop’ date.  The Long Stop date is the date the property is contractually required to be complete by – this is common in off-plan contracts to protect the developer against any unforeseen delays but to also give the buyer a right to terminate the contract should the period of construction become unreasonably delayed beyond an agreed date. What this means is that, although they are hoping to be able to complete the build by the estimated date, there is some flexibility should they be unable to achieve this. If the property is not complete by the Long Stop date, then you may be entitled to pull out of the contract, in which case your deposit would be returned to you.

Extra costs?

Your solicitor will provide you with an indication of any third-party costs from the outset.  However, you should also expect that there will be additional fees payable on completion to the developer and their solicitor such as notice fees, engrossment fees and service charge apportionments. This can only be reported to you once your solicitor is in receipt of the draft contracts and completion statement.

Snagging

If you are purchasing off-plan, an inspection is carried out once the property is complete to discover any minor defects or problems that must be rectified. This can be carried out for you by a professional. Each developer will have their own process for this, and there should be a suitable provision within the contract to deal with the snagging procedure, even for a period of up to 6 months following completion.

Survey

It’s not essential to carry out a survey on a new build property, as your solicitor will ensure that the property comes with full Building Regulations sign-off and that you receive a structural guarantee, usually for a period of 10 years. However, there are exclusions to what new home warranty providers will insure.  Some policies also do not have a defect period of cover (only a structural guarantee) and so, for this reason, it is important that you still consider a home buyer’s survey to identify any potential defects that may not be covered by the terms of the structural guarantee.

More information on new build warranties can be found here.

If you are considering buying a new build property, please contact one of the other experts in our Residential Real Estate team.

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