If you’ve decided to buy a brand new property directly from the developer, there are a few key things you need to know before you move in. Ask your developer these key questions to make sure you have all the information you need.
Why should I go with your recommended solicitor/mortgage lender?
In a recent poll, over 40% of new build home buyers admitted they used the solicitor suggested by their developer/sales agent. They profit from these referrals, so they might not necessarily help you save money or time.
You may decide to go with a recommended solicitor or mortgage lender, but choosing one given by your developer doesn’t always get you the best deal. Choose your services by doing thorough research, comparing and choosing a lender that’s right for you.
Is this leasehold or freehold?
Typically in England and Wales it’s the norm for flats to be leasehold and houses to be freehold. But there’s been a spate of issues with new build developments when it comes to freehold ownership. Do not automatically assume that your property is freehold.
Get confirmation of this so you can be sure, and pass on the answers to your solicitor. Being stuck in a leasehold property when you’re not expecting it can mean extra charges, limitations on work or changes to the property and trouble when you come to sell down the line.
Who will own the freehold?
Your freehold owner can decide how much your service charge is, so find out who this is and don’t just assume that it’s the developer. In some cases last year, freeholders decided that service charges would double annually, making the properties painfully expensive and difficult to sell.
Freeholders also have the option to limit you from making any changes to your property (including changing the flooring, putting in double glazing or a new front door) or charge you for their permission to do so.
Can you buy your freehold?
In some cases you might have the option to buy your freehold. With new build flats it’s often the case that if the developer sells your freehold, you have to be offered it first. If you don’t have this clause (or if you couldn’t afford to pay a lump sum on top of the money you’re already paying for a new home), anyone can buy your freehold and have a fair amount of control over how you live in your property.
The freehold owner can determine things like if you’re allowed to have a pet or not, as well as placing extra maintenance charges on you.
If you do have the option to buy your freehold, always get a price in writing. There have been cases where an affordable freehold deal becomes much more expensive later on, and leaseholders have no option – either pay it or it will be sold elsewhere.
Who to contact if something goes wrong
New build houses sometimes need a settling in period. For example you might be advised not to hang things on the walls for at least a year, and not following this advice might invalidate your warranty.
Make sure you know exactly who you would talk to (a name and contact details) if there are issues with your new build property, and what the channel is to register a snagging list upon moving in. Also find out what would happen to your warranty if you get a private workman in to fix something.
When new build developments are complete, you’re not likely to go through the developer, and the people you know may move on, so make sure you have a clear chain of access.
Are there any extra costs with your lease?
There can be many extra costs involved with your lease such as maintenance, costs, service charges and ground rents. If you’re not expecting these, they can come as quite a shock. Make sure you know exactly what these costs are, how you pay them, and when.
You might arrange with your landlord to pay into a ‘reserve’ or ‘sinking fund’ which is designed to build up a pot of money for future repairs or maintenance. This can be taken as part of the service charge and means there’ll be no large upfront payment if works are necessary. Keep in mind you cannot withdraw money from the sinking fund if you move before any work is done.
What changes can you make to your new build?
It’s worth checking what limitations are placed on the leaseholder by the freeholder before you buy the property. With some new build properties you may be surprised to find you cannot make changes to your home in the way you might if you owned the freehold. Replacing flooring, doing building work or even painting the walls may be restricted in your contract.
This depends on whether or not structural or non-structural alternations are prohibited in the contract. You may be able to make these changes but will need permission from your freeholder (and they may be able to charge you for this permission).
Subletting the property might be restricted, as well as having pets. Be sure to fully inspect your contract with the help of a solicitor and make it clear if any restrictions are not acceptable to you.
Citi Snagging offer an independent perspective, working for new house buyers, investors, property clubs, solicitors, contractors wanting final quality sign off for clients, self builders and anyone interested in the final quality of their new build property.
Our snagging inspectors are highly skilled professionals that come from construction and surveying backgrounds, they have exacting standards when it comes to inspecting your new build home. They also keep up to date with warranty provider legislation.
Contact us today for snagging inspections in London and the nearby areas.