What Survey Do I Need for a New Build?

By James Brook FRICS on and updated on

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to buy a new-build home. What could be more straightforward? You’ll exchange, pick up keys and move into a house in which everything is pristine and works perfectly.

Well, that’s the idea anyway. Unfortunately, just because a property is new doesn’t mean there isn’t the potential for issues to arise.

The most recent annual survey of satisfaction with new homes carried out by the House Builders Federation and NHBC – the new homes warranty scheme – found that 30% of respondents had more problems than expected when they moved into their new build and 41% had to report more than 10 issues to their builder. Some reports suggest the average number of defects found in a new build could be as high as 150.

Yet despite this, many buyers feel like a survey on a new build is an unnecessary expense, instead relying on their lender’s valuation report or the developer’s own snagging survey, something which could end up being an expensive decision. The good news is, there are options out there that are independent, cost-effective and offer peace of mind when buying a new build.

Common problems with new build properties

When it comes to new builds there are a number of issues that frequently crop up as causing problems for buyers. Top of the list is unfinished fittings. This could be something minor such as a missing door hinge or scratched surfaces, or it could be more serious such as poorly fitted kitchen or bathroom fixtures. Either way, you’ve paid for a job to be done and so it should be properly completed.

Issues with utilities also frequently crop up and, as they require specific, qualified tradespeople to fix, they often take a long time to rectify, to the point where many homeowners end up paying to have the problem resolved themselves.

Poor finishes are another bugbear for new homeowners. While the show home will have been finished to an extremely high standard, many people will end up disappointed when they see their actual home. Think uneven stairs and floors, poor quality paint jobs, cracked plaster and even poorly installed windows and doors. While some of these may seem like minor issues, they are things that should be completed properly by the developer without you having to highlight them and chase them up.

Do I need a survey when I have a new build home warranty?

Despite it being common knowledge that new builds will likely come with snags, many people still choose not to carry out any kind of impartial inspection. One reason for this is something seen as a huge advantage of buying a new home – that they come with a 10-year new build home warranty. For many buyers this offers great peace of mind that their home will be covered should they have any structural or other major issues during those 10 years.

Unfortunately, the small print on these warranties is less straightforward and different aspects of your home are covered at different times. So, when you exchange contracts your warranty will cover your deposit against the firm going insolvent. Once the property is built, the warranty is split into two periods – the defects insurance period, which covers the first two years, and the structural insurance period, which covers years three to 10.

If there are issues with the work the builder has done in your house during the first two years, such as windows leaking because of poor fitting, the builder is obliged to come and fix them.

Once the structural insurance period kicks in, however, the builder is only responsible for major problems with the structure of the house, such as those affecting the foundations, roof and load-bearing parts of the floors.

Non-structural issues, such as problems with your fixtures and fittings are no longer covered.

It should also be noted that even during the first two years, not all builders are forthcoming when it comes to meeting their obligations, so always read the detail of your warranty and be clear on what your rights are as you may end up having to cover the cost of repairs if you can’t get your builder to do so.

The best options for new builds

So, while you do have some cover from your new home warranty, it still makes sense to spend a few hundred pounds on a report to make sure you’re fully aware of the state of your new home and able to identify and rectify problems before you move in. Having said that, forking out for a full level 3 building survey is probably excessive, so what are your options?

Novello offers two options here, specifically tailored to the needs of new builds.

  1. HomeLevel Report: This concise, expert report, equivalent to the RICS HomeBuyer Report, covers a minimum of 20 internal and external elements in the property, from the roofs, walls and windows to roof spaces, dampness and ceilings.
    The report is designed to be easy to understand with a traffic light system that highlights serious or urgent repairs in red, less serious defects in amber and general maintenance concerns or areas where there are no serious concerns in green. This will help you to prioritise issues with your builder and ensure serious concerns are addressed before you move in.
  1. Snagging Lists: While your developer may well create their own snagging list – a list of all the outstanding issues with a property – this may not be as thorough as you’d like it to be and it certainly won’t be impartial. Novello, however, offers its own Snagging List service carried out by a specialist snagging inspector. For just a few hundred pounds, we’ll inspect every corner of your house and put together a comprehensive list of everything that isn’t immaculate. We’ll even provide you with impartial estimates for the costs of repairs and a photographic report that contains all the evidence you need to ensure your developer finishes the job properly.
    It’s important to note that this is not a full structural survey, but an impartial Snagging List you can be sure your dream home is finished to the highest standards before you move in, potentially saving you significant amounts of time and money.

The Novello approach

At Novello, we believe moving into your new home should be a time of excitement, not one plagued by battles with builders. That’s why we make it easy to ensure you have all the information you need quickly, impartially and cost-effectively. We utilise the latest technology to give you the most accurate information possible. This includes thermal imaging cameras to check the quality, quantity and location of insulation. We also use mobile technology to get your survey information to you quickly – we guarantee to have our HomeLevel Report with you  you in just a few days.

Our forward-thinking team of expert RICS-qualified surveyors will, of course, always be on hand should you need to discuss your survey or snagging list or if you require further advice, and we pride ourselves on being friendly, responsive and knowledgeable.

Contact us today to find out how we can take the stress out of your new build purchase.

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