When you buy a brand new car, normally someone’s second most expensive possession, it comes with a guarantee so if anything, from the brakes to the stereo, goes wrong the dealer has to fix it. These usually last 3 to 5 years, which is great because that is usually how long somebody will own the car.
When you buy a brand new home, usually your most expensive purchase, things are similar except that the guarantee is not quite so comprehensive. The standard guarantee is provided by NHBC and this will cover you for any defects in the property in the first two years (3 years for the common parts of flats). For the next 8 years they only cover you the main structural items, such as the foundations or the roof. It also excludes any claim under £1500 (for common parts of flats this is value goes up to £15,000). After that you are on your own.
It is also important to remember that contracts to buy property are excluded from Consumer Protection Legislation, so if something does go wrong and it is not covered by the guarantee then your only recourse is costly court action.
The average frequency of problems found in a new home is 5 per room, so for a typical 3 bed house you could easily have 30 to 50 small issues….. and no help from anyone. These can range from poor paint and plaster finishes, to a poorly secured staircase, or even mismatched units fitted in the kitchen. They can start to make the property feel a long way away from that dream home in the glossy brochure.
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to have a survey, normally in the form of a Snagging Inspection. These are usually done by a surveyor, or there are specialist companies who can help. Either way you should receive a report that identifies any problems, tells you how serious they are, and what needs to be done to put them right. You should expect the report to include plenty of photos so you can see clearly what is being explained.
It is also very helpful if a snagging list is included, more formally called a Schedule of Works. This is a summary of all the work the surveyor believes to be required, but with enough detail for all parties to be clear on what needs to be done.
Of course, you could visit the property yourself and pick up some of the issues a surveyor would find, but when you are there can you honestly say you will be looking at the many little details and not thinking about where your sofa is going to go? Your surveyor will be independent, dispassionate and have the technical knowledge required to spot the problems and tell you how they can be resolved.
So now you know you need a survey, the next question is when should it take place? As with any survey you should make sure it is complete before you exchange contracts so that you can start to sort out the issues before you move in. No one wants building work going on while you are trying to unpack! More importantly it gives you the opportunity to have a “retention clause” added in to the contract. This allows you to hold back a proportion of the purchase price until the works have been completed, it is surprising how quickly a developer can move when there is money involved!
Depending on the property you should usually expect to spend between £175 and £500 for a survey on a new build home and this is certainly good value for the peace of mind it can bring.