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Can I buy a new build property during the pandemic?

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Although there are difficulties with home moves at present due to Covid-19, we are still seeing purchases of new build homes proceeding. This is due in part, because the property being purchased is vacant and unoccupied as it has just been built. Some house builders are also able to buy existing homes off buyers, avoiding moves having to take place and lengthy chains.

Buying a new build has its advantages, as anyone who has had to deal with the maintenance bills on a characterful but creaky older home will tell you.  Here are things you should be aware of if you are planning to take the new-build route:

Buying off plan

If you are buying off plan, be mindful that the developer’s plans will show you what your completed property will look like but there may be variations in plot location, finish and size. Buyers have been caught out on the day of their move by a garage they cannot actually squeeze their car into, or doorways not wide enough to get their bed, or sofa through! So be eagle-eyed when it comes to noting the specifications of your property. Similarly, sometimes there will be clauses governing what can and cannot be left on the driveway. This can be awkward if you are boating enthusiasts or owners of a caravan.

Also, try to envisage what facilities will be nearby, what mix of properties will be on the site and get a final completion date for the whole development.

Get to know the neighbours (from a responsible distance!)

Sometimes new builds have community groups that spring up around the development. You can get a real feel for the locale and for any potential issues by joining these Facebook or other social media groups – and of course they can help you make friends in the neighbourhood.

Choose an appropriate solicitor

It is wise to engage a solicitor who is experienced in dealing with new builds.  They will help you to meet your lender’s requirements and resolve any discrepancies, to keep your purchase on track. Your solicitor will check planning and building regulation arrangements and make sure, for example, there is proper provision for roads, drainage and street lighting.

Shared facilities

You may have to contribute a service charge towards shared facilities. The developer should disclose this and they should be mentioned in your legal documents.

Leasehold or freehold? 

New-build flats are often leasehold and, in some cases, new build houses are too. If your new home is leasehold, you will probably have to pay ground rent and a service charge. A leasehold status would also mean you need the landlord or Management Company’s consent before you can alter or sublet your home.

Drains, sewers and roads 

On a new build, the roads, drains and sewers serving the property will probably be constructed by the developer. An agreement is entered into so that after a designated period of time and subject to the construction meeting certain requirements, then the Highways Authority and Water Authority will take over responsibility for maintenance of roads or sewers - this process is called adoption. Your solicitor should ensure that the agreements are in place to make sure this happens, and that funds are allocated to cover the cost of the works in case the Developer goes out of business. If the right agreements aren’t in place, the buyer may have to pay towards maintenance until adoption takes place.

Garden boundaries

Discrepancies over boundaries can happen on new builds – with developers sometimes miscalculating boundaries, which can cause an issue between neighbours, or can make it hard to sell the property on. Look out too for any covenants in your deeds which state you will need to get developer’s consent in order to make changes or developments – such as building a conservatory – on your property. Sometimes developers can levy a fee for making such changes.

Check your warranty

Most builders offer a 10-year warranty covering major structural defects, although it is common for new builds to have some small snagging issues which crop up as the structure settles.

What type of ownership suits you?

Your solicitor needs to know how you want to own the property so this can be noted with the Land Registry. The property can either be held as joint tenants or tenants in common.  For example, married couples or co-habitees might opt to be joint tenants. This means that you both own the property in equal shares and your share will automatically passes to the other owner(s), irrespective of any Will provision.

Buying a new build is exciting and for many buyers. It ushers in a new chapter of home ownership that continues throughout their lifetime. Being aware of some of the key facets of the process will help you enjoy a successful transaction.

Thinking about buying a New Build on the Help To Buy scheme, click here to read more.

For more information contact our residential property team on or telephone 03333 208 644.

COVID-19 UPDATE : In support of the UK Government, we have implemented our complete home working strategy. From our Clients' perspective, we do not envisage any major interruptions to our service. Emails and incoming phone calls will reach us as normal.

Emma Gilroy heads up the Residential Property teams across all of our offices in South West Wales and South East Wales. Emma has acted on behalf of a large public sector organisation with their wide ranging property needs and also continues to act for property investors with significant commercial and residential property portfolios.