Why surveys are vital for new build properties

17th April 2019

Always survey a new build or live to regret it

To meet the growing demand for new housing, developments are springing up everywhere, with land between Sutton Coldfield and Great Barr the latest proposed site for 1500 new homes.

But in all the excitement of buying a new home, complete with its 10-year NHBC warranty, it can be too easy to forget the basics of house-buying, like requesting a professional survey of the property you intend to buy, even if you can still smell the fresh paint.

If the property will be subject to a mortgage, the lender will undertake a valuation report and many buyers assume this will suffice. And it’s only natural for people to assume that buying a new-build, means they’re buying something finished to a high standard that won’t need any work doing to it.

But despite horror stories in the media that highlight all manner of problems once home-buyers have moved in, the majority of buyers assume problems happen to other people.

Their roof won’t leak, the sewer is connected properly, the plumbing has been fitted correctly, windows and doors fit perfectly and the electrics meet all the necessary regulations. There’s an NHBC warranty too, so what could possibly be wrong with a recently finished new-build house?

Unfortunately, lots and much of it hard to see, unless you know what to look for.

Out in the real world

Recently, one of our many residential conveyancing clients took our advice and undertook a survey on a recently completed new-build house.

The purchase fell through once the various faults were highlighted, with the surveyor reporting the quality and finish of the roof were unacceptable.

However, the major issue, was that the professional chartered surveyor who is likely to have undertaken thousands of similar surveys, believed the overall finish was simply not reflective of the price being asked by the developer – it’s not just about a cracked tile or two.

And remember, this does not have to be a development of hundreds laid out in new roads, the need to have a new-build property surveyed applies just as readily to a small plot of executive homes built in a back garden.

We always recommend a structural/building survey to all our clients, regardless of whether the property is a delightful 2-bedroom Victorian terrace or a 5-bedroom executive new-build on a gated estate.

Apart from a few simple ‘snagging’ issues that can be discussed with the developer prior to signing the contract, like scuffs on cabinets, poorly fitted handles or light fittings and rubble buried under the new lawn, a good survey can spot problems that may not become obvious for years.

Problems that only appear years later

Surveys will typically discover the serious issues that could lead to problems with damp, ventilation and insulation, as well as have safety implications for the home-owners, but all could ultimately affect the property’s future value.

Damp proof courses that have been badly fitted, or roof timbers left out in the rain, which then twist and split once they begin to dry out and poorly applied render may all not be immediately obvious to the untrained eye, but will undoubtedly spell trouble in the years ahead.

To avoid problems, do not just rely on the NHBC warranty, which can prove difficult to make a claim with and offers very limited cover after two years, despite their marketing messages.

The only fool-proof way of avoiding problems that might impact the value of your home in the future is to appoint a chartered surveyor to undertake a full structural/building survey.

You might worry about the additional cost of a comprehensive survey, but if a fault is found with the roof, external fabric; loft or internal finishes; electric or plumbing; heating services along with the external grounds or garage, it will prove money well spent if it prevents you making a bad buy.

And if the survey finds nothing wrong at all, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a report you can show when you come to sell the house.

If you are considering purchasing a new-build property, we recommend a conversation with David Alexander, a Solicitor in the Residential Conveyancing team here at Ansons. You can reach David by email or by phone on 01543 267195.