Triangle Legal Services

10 Questions to Ask When Buying a New Build House

Are you considering buying a house on a new build development to get on the property ladder? The appeal of a brand-new home, with its pristine walls and modern amenities, can be hard to resist. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to have the right information. At Triangle Legal Services, we’ve guided countless homebuyers through the new build conveyancing process, and we know exactly what key questions to ask.

1. How good are the developer and management company?

Before committing to a new build, research the reputation of both the developer and the management company. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous buyers, and check if the builder is registered with the National House Building Council (NHBC) or a similar body. A reputable new build developer will have a track record of delivering quality homes on time and providing good after-sales service.

If your new build is part of a larger development, the management company will be responsible for maintaining communal areas and facilities, so it’s important to know their reputation and the fees they charge. Asking these questions will help you avoid potential issues and ensure you’re investing in a property built and managed by reliable professionals.

2. What’s included in my new build home?

When buying a new build home, you need to have a clear understanding of exactly what’s included in the purchase price. Show homes often feature premium fixtures and fittings, but these may not be standard in every property.

Always ask for a detailed specification list that outlines everything from flooring and light fittings to appliances and garden landscaping. Don’t assume anything – even seemingly basic items like turf for the garden or TV aerials might not be included as standard.

Also, inquire about any additional features or upgrades that might be available and their associated costs. This information will help you budget accurately and avoid unexpected expenses or disappointments after moving in. Your new home needs to meet your expectations from day one.

3. Can I choose the kitchen and bathroom fittings?

When personalising your new-build home, ask about your options for kitchen and bathroom fittings. These rooms are often the heart of a home, and having input on their design means your home will reflect your personal style and meet your specific needs, potentially saving you the time and expense of making changes after you move in.

Many builders offer a range of choices for fixtures, fittings, and finishes, especially if you’re buying off-plan. You might be able to select everything from kitchen cabinets and countertops to bathroom tiles and shower units. However, the extent of customisation can vary greatly between developers and may depend on how far along the construction process is.

Make sure you’re aware of any deadlines for making these choices and any additional costs associated with upgrades or changes. There might be a certain allowance for customisation within the purchase price, while others may charge extra for deviations from the standard specification.

4. How long is the new home warranty, and what is covered?

New build homes typically come with a warranty that provides protection against some defects and issues. Most warranties last for 10 years, but the coverage can vary significantly depending on the provider and the specific policy.

The warranty usually offers extensive protection against structural defects for the full 10-year period. However, coverage for non-structural elements like fixtures and fittings might only extend for the first two years. Getting a detailed breakdown of what’s covered and for how long can help you plan for future maintenance and potential repair costs.

Don’t forget to ask about the process for making a claim under the warranty, how to report issues, and the expected timeline for resolution. Some providers may have specific procedures or timeframes for reporting different types of defects.

5. Is it a freehold or leasehold property? 

You’ll need to know whether your property is freehold or leasehold. This distinction is particularly relevant if you’re eyeing a new build flat or apartment, which is often sold as leasehold properties.

For leasehold properties, several factors come into play:

  1. Lease length
  2. Annual ground rent
  3. Service charges

These elements can influence your ability to use the property and impact your long-term costs. A short lease or escalating ground rent might affect your property’s future value and your options for selling or remortgaging.

Leasehold new build homes have become a contentious issue in the property market recently, and the government has announced plans to ban leasehold new build houses in the future. However, until this ban takes effect, buyers should thoroughly investigate the terms and conditions associated with any property they’re considering, whether it’s a house or an apartment.

6. What is the council tax band?

One question that new build home buyers often forget to ask is about the council tax band for their prospective property. This oversight can lead to unexpected costs in your monthly budget.

Newly built homes are often assigned a council tax band after they’re completed, which means you might not have this information readily available during the new build buying process. However, it’s possible to get an estimate based on similar properties in the area or by contacting the local council.

Knowing the council tax band will help you accurately calculate your monthly living expenses. Council tax will vary between bands, and it’s an unavoidable cost of homeownership. By factoring this into your budget early on, you can ensure that your home remains affordable in the long term.

7. How energy efficient is the new build?

It’s wise to ask your home builder about its energy efficiency. Modern construction techniques and materials often result in new build properties being more energy-efficient than older properties, but it’s important to get the specifics.

Ask the developer for the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating. This document provides detailed information about the home’s energy use and typical energy costs. Most new builds achieve high ratings (usually A or B), which can translate to lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

Inquire about the specific energy-saving features incorporated into the home. These might include:

  • High-quality insulation in walls, floors, and roofs
  • Double or triple-glazed windows
  • Energy-efficient heating systems
  • Smart home technology 
  • Solar panels or other renewable energy sources

8. Is there a long stop completion date in place?

During the buying process for a home in development, ask the builder about the long stop completion date. This date represents the latest point where the developer is contractually obligated to finish the construction and hand over the property to you.

While plans typically provide an estimated completion date, delays can occur due to various factors, like weather conditions, supply chain issues, or labour shortages. The long stop date provides protection and clarity in case of delays.

If the developer fails to complete the property by this date, you may have the right to withdraw from the purchase and reclaim your deposit. This will safeguard your purchase, especially if you’re in a chain or have made other commitments based on moving into your home.

When buying a new home, consider asking:

  1. How realistic is the estimated completion date?
  2. What happens if there are delays?
  3. How will you be kept informed about progress?

9. Are there any planned developments nearby?

If you buy a house on a new development, you should always inquire about any planned developments in the surrounding area. While your new home might be part of a pristine development, the landscape could change in the coming years.

It’s crucial to ask your developer or local planning office about future phases of the current development and any other new developments in the area. These could include planned infrastructure projects, potential commercial or industrial developments, or additional housing estates.

New developments could bring benefits like improved amenities and transport links, potentially increasing your property’s value. However, they might also lead to increased traffic, noise, or changes to your view.

It’s also worth considering how long construction work might continue in your area if you’re moving into an early phase of a larger development. While the promise of new amenities can be attractive, living on a building site for an extended period might not be ideal for everyone.

10. Can I use my own conveyancer?

Developers often recommend using their preferred conveyancer to buyers. However, you should know that you have the right to choose your own legal representation.

Using an independent conveyancer who will work solely in your interest rather than being under any obligation to the developer will give you independence when reviewing contracts, identifying potential issues, and ensuring that your rights are fully protected throughout the purchase process.

Our experienced conveyancers at Triangle Legal Services are familiar with new build transactions and can help navigate the specific challenges that come with these properties. We can scrutinise the details of your purchase, and our team is proficient at ensuring necessary planning consents have been obtained, checking relevant building papers, verifying NHBC inspections are complete, and confirming the builder has provided a structural guarantee or warranties.

While the developer’s recommended conveyancer might offer a streamlined process, having your own legal expert can provide peace of mind and potentially save you from future complications. We proactively alert you to potential problems and meticulously work through the steps required to find solutions.

Remember, this is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, so it’s worth ensuring you have the right support and advice tailored to your needs. With Triangle Legal Services, you can trust that we have the legal knowledge to move the transaction forward despite any obstacles.

Have questions about buying a new build house? 

Buying a home is an exciting journey, but it can also be complex and filled with potential problems. At Triangle Legal Services, we’re here to guide you through every step of the new build conveyancing process. Our team of experienced conveyancers specialises in new build purchases and can provide the expert advice you need.

We understand that every property purchase is unique, and we’re committed to offering personalised service tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced property investor, we’re here to make sure your interests are protected and your new build purchase goes smoothly.

Don’t navigate this important transaction alone. Contact us today for a free enquiry, and let us put our expertise to work for you. With Triangle Legal Services by your side, you can approach your new build purchase with confidence, knowing that you have a dedicated team of professionals looking out for your best interests.