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New builds that aren't finished to the quality sold should have snags covered by the developer. A new build survey will tell the developer what needs to be fixed.

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What is a New Build Survey?

(Last Updated: 14/04/2023)
6 min read
Off-plan homes describes homes which have yet to be built but have been planned and for which planning approval has been given. You effectively pay for your home in advance of its construction.

Off-plan homes are one class of new build homes but new build homes also include properties which have actually been built but have not been bought and lived-in before.

A standard home buyers survey is inappropriate for an off-plan development but it is highly recommended that you get a snagging survey for peace of mind - these points are discussed below.

Buying a new build differs regarding the legal process from buying a modern or older property

Click to find out about the new build conveyancing process

What's the difference between an new build home and a modern home?

While modern homes will have been built no more than 2 decades from the present day, and will have been lived in before, off-plan homes have yet to be built at the point when their first buyers start their conveyancing process.

Off-plan homes are designed to rank higher generally than older properties in terms of modern building standards and conditions, including energy efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions and damp proofing. 

You should not have to think about making necessary repairs straight after you move in but this is not always the case - much depends on the workmanship of the developer.

One advantage you often get with off-plan homes is that you're able to choose fixtures, fittings and materials such as white goods which you'll have in your home, so your dwelling will be that much more bespoke.

You also don't have a chain above or below with an off-plan home, and you can reasonably assume that, because you are buying a brand new home, common property defects such as subsidence, damp and rot will not be present, which is why you would not get a home buyers survey such as a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey.

The structural defect warranty which you should always get with an off-plan property should cover you against common property survey defects for 10 years.

But, the warranty won't always address how well the property has been finished, right down to how well tiles in the bathroom have been sealed etc., which is the reason for booking a snagging survey.

The National House Building Council (NHBC) most often provides the structural defect warranty, but warranties are also provided by Premier and BLP Insurance.

What do off-plan homes look like?

Off-plan homes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from flats to detached houses, from the commonplace to the highly individual. Once again, it depends on the developer.

New build survey for buying off plan homes - from SAM Conveyancing. A red-brick new build residential estate on a sunny day.

Some say that new builds in general lack the character of the houses of yester-year, such as those built in the Victorian or Edwardian era. 

Individual flats in many new build flat developments are often considered rather small. However, there may be considerable gains in terms of efficiency as stated and in terms of the overall infrastructure.

Do I need a survey on a new build

You would expect not to find standard property defects such as subsidence in your new build survey when the off-plan home has been built. 

However, you may find issues regarding how well your property has been finished and other problems uniquely related to its yet-to-be-built status.

You are less likely to be able to bargain over price

Off-plan developments are generally sold with a fixed price tag and there isn't any appreciable room for negotiation over price - this is because the developers will have worked out how much they need to make to cover their costs etc. 

The only situation in which you might have some room to bargain is if the developer has been unable to sell as many properties as it planned and thus will be eager to keep you on side. 

You then might be able to bargain over the developer paying your stamp duty or some of it or offering you parking space or carpets etc.

Your plot may be comparatively small

Because of the prevailing high land values and also because developers will want to maximise the money they make for the area involved, you should not expect to get a large garden with an off-plan development - if this is a key requirement for you, you might be better off with an older property.

Plots are often built on brownfield sites

Building on brownfield sites is not of itself a hazard, but there is an increased possibility that the land the property is built on may have issues with drainage, sewage, flooding and contamination and these issues may not immediately show themselves. A new build survey will flag these if they are a concern.

Bad depreciation rates compared to older properties

Often, properties bought off-plan depreciate at a much higher rate than older properties, not least because their initial values have been over-inflated by the developer. 

You may not get the returns you thought you might get when you come to resell your home.

Off-plan developments are notorious for snags

Whether it's broken roof tiles, tiles that haven't been grouted properly or kitchen cupboards that don't close as they should, you'll often find that your off-plan home has not been properly finished - it is for this reason that you should get a snagging survey.

Frequently Asked Questions
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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