A guide to buying a property off plan

If you are buying a property that has yet to be built, perhaps as your next home or an investment purchase, you may be wondering what to look for before making a final decision. Hancock Quins has an experienced team that deals with new build or off-plan property purchases and we have put together this checklist of things to consider:

  1. Check how well the site is managed.  Speak to people who have already moved in, if possible, to get a feel for the quality of workmanship and customer care.
  2. Check whether or not the property is covered under the NHBC scheme or something similar.
  3. Check whether or not there is an affordable housing provision on the site.  If there is find out whether or not these homes will be managed by a housing association.
  4. Make an appointment to visit the site.  Don’t only visit it once; go several times to get a feel for the property and its location.  Consider the layout of the property and its aspect.
  5. Ask about service charges and, if there are service charges, what these cover.  Many new developments now have privately funded facilities such as roads, open spaces and leisure complexes which are paid for by residents through a service charge.  Ask for details of the management company, if there is one.
  6. Pay attention to measurements in the brochure and try to visualise the internal layout and space.  Pay particular attention to stairs and especially garages or car park spaces as these are often designed for average size cars.
  7. Check the site and house plans very carefully.  Marketing materials will use an artist’s impression and should not be regarded as accurate.  Make sure that what is being built is actually what is on the plans.  Although the house type for your plot may be the same as the show unit, it may look very different from the outside e.g. different external finishes, rendering, boarding, window style, roof shape.
  8. Find out what is included in the price and what is not.  Things you see in the show unit may not be part of the standard specification.
  9. Check the landscaping plans for your part of the site to see what is intended in the way of surface finishes, fencing and boundaries, planting schemes.
  10. If there are large trees on the site, these are likely to be protected, both during the construction stage and afterwards.  If you view in the winter, remember that in the summer it will be laden with leaves and may provide welcome or unwelcome shade.
  11. Consider having the property inspected by a professional to identify a ‘snagging’ listing so that the developer will have time to address the defects and snags before you move in.  Developers may prefer that these are described as minor cosmetic matters requiring attention.
  12. Bear in mind that construction work is not a precise science.  The standard you are entitled to expect is a reasonable standard achievable by a reasonably competent tradesman, not perfection.
  13. If you have an NHBC warranty re-inspect your home every six months during the first two years and notify your developer in writing of any faults you discover.  The developer is obliged to fix them during the first two years and for the remaining eight years the NHBC will be responsible for major defects only.
  14. Treat any estimated build completion dates as just that – an estimate.  The construction programme can be delayed by many factors, not all of them obvious to the buyer or even the sales staff.  You should not rely on the unit being constructed and ready for occupation by a particular date, and have fall back arrangements in case the build programme is substantially delayed.
  15. If the timing is critical to you this must be made clear to us and to the developer before contracts are exchanged.  Usually the developer will not commit to any stated timetable unless the developer is certain it can fulfil its obligations to you as a result.
  16. If you need a mortgage, bear in mind that most mortgage offers have a limited shelf life.  It is your responsibility to ensure you will have the money to complete when required to do so.
  17. If you are selling a property, it is you buying a new property in the course of construction, not your buyers or the chain below.  Whilst sometimes it can be agreed that they will complete when notice is given that your plot is ready, it is just as likely that you will need to have alternative accommodation arranges so that you can complete your sale when your buyers require it.

For more advice about buying a home, or any other residential conveyancing matter, contact Jay Asghar on 01923 650884 or email jay@hancockquins.co.uk.