New Build Homes - What's different about the conveyancing process? A guide from SAM Conveyancing
Do you need new build solicitors?
We specialise in new build purchases and our fees are fixed backed with a no sale no fee and we can hit any new build exchange deadline.

We work with all the major developers including Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Berkeley Group.
 
 

New Build Solicitors for New Build Homes

03/09/2022
(Last Updated: 07/02/2024)
11,916
8 min read
The conveyancing for new builds is different because:

  • You need to pay a reservation deposit (often non-refundable)
  • You don't get to walk round the property before you exchange (unless it has already been built)
  • Exchange of contracts needs to take place within 28 days after you reserve the property - some developers allow up to 56 days.

A new build is either signed off and ready to move, or there is only an estimated completion date that can all too often slip. With completion dates of 4 months or more make sure to keep an eye on the date of your mortgage offer as it'll expire after 6 months and you may need to reapply before completion takes place. Read more - The risks of a new build completion on notice.

Some new build properties are available through a Discount Market Sale.

Do you need a solicitor for a new build?

You cannot buy a new build home without a solicitor/conveyancer to handle the legal work for you. You should get new build solicitors who can exchange within the 28 day deadline.

The work for a new build is more complex for a solicitor as it has yet to be registered at the Land Registry and because of this you'll always pay more money to a solicitor for handling a new build. Issues that can crop up include: non-compliance with planning regulations, failure to arrange NHBC inspections, incomplete agreements for roads and sewers and failure to plan for the future maintenance of common parts of a development for example.


28 days to exchange - even before the property is built!

This is what is called 'buying off plan' and essentially you are buying based on what the developer is suggesting the property is going to look like when they finish. You'll need to pay a reservation deposit to secure your offer and then after this you'll have 28 days to complete the legal work.

On exchange you'll pay 10% of the purchase price of the property to the seller (or 5% if you're buying via the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme) and from that point on you'll be legally bound to purchase the property (read Can I Pull Out After Exchange of Contracts).

A normal freehold transaction takes between 8 to 12 weeks to get to exchange, however a leasehold flat normally takes 12 to 14 weeks so a new build exchange within 28 days takes a lot of additional work for the solicitor.

Fitting in all of the work so you can exchange in time and not forfeit your reservation deposit is going to be tough, so you need to make sure you have instructed a solicitor who can handle this. They'll need to have new build home experience and have the file capacity to dedicate to getting you to exchange quickly (read our top tips for fast conveyancing).

Should you use the developers solicitor?

You don't have to use the developer's preferred new build solicitors and it may not be in your interest to do so, especially as there is undue pressure that can be applied by the developer/agent on your solicitor if you do. There are occasions where proceeding with the new build purchase isn't in your best interest so having an independent solicitor is important to protect you from any influence.



What are the difference in costs for a new build conveyancing solicitor?

New build conveyancing fees

The amount of work that goes into registering a new build property for the first time is far greater than that of a property that is already registered. When a property is already registered the title has already been agreed and isn't up for debate. For a new build property, the developer's solicitors have drafted the title (and lease if a leasehold flat) and this is being reviewed for the first time and the volume of documents to review is considerable.

The draft contracts and title documents get sent to your solicitor for review and within the 28 days set, the solicitor will need to assess the title and lease to highlight potential issues with the agreements and confirm that there are no breaches of easements, restrictive covenants or restrictions on the freehold title.

When getting a quote for new build conveyancing fees make sure you get a Fixed Fee and know exactly what you'll be paying from the outset. Many solicitors add on extra fees for handling new build work because of the additional time it takes to complete.

Higher registration fees at Land Registry

When a newly built property is registered for the first time, the Land Registry require your solicitor to send the registration documents through by post - this work is carried out Post Completion (after you've moved in).

This means that the online portal can't be used and the postal charge is applied which is twice the price. If you work with new build solicitors they'll make sure to quote you the correct registration fee.

The Land Registry charges vary depending on the properties value so you can see the current table of Land Registry charges here - What are the Land Registry Charges?

Do I need a survey on a new build home?

Unlike a property you buy second hand, you'd expect a new build property to be defect free, however this is where a lot of buyers make a mistake. 

You will get a new build warranty (normally provided by NHBC or Zurich) to cover the costs of putting right any damage caused by the developers failure to build to the NHBC/Zurich Standards. 

This however does not cover some of the more niggly build issues such as:

  • Kitchen units not aligning
  • Cracked tiles
  • Leaking boilers
  • Broken fittings such as showers leaking
  • Sloppy painting

All of these can be hugely frustrating when buying a new property and will require you to cause more damage potentially (especially when having a shower in a cubicle that isn't sealed) before you find out there is a problem. 

This is why you should get a surveyor to complete a snagging list for your property before you finally complete - this gives you time to get the developer to fix any snags before you move into your new home (read more about what happens during a snagging survey).

Read our top tips on the pros & cons of buying a new build, next.


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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.


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