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Thinking of Buying a New Build? Here are Some Things to Consider

View profile for Emma Gilroy
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Smart new builds seem to be popping up in the region like spring bulbs, which says good things about the local economy and is good news too for young house seekers keen to get a foot on the housing ladder.

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. But there 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 developers 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
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.

However, it is important that you take the time to read your buyer’s contract carefully. Be mindful of:

Shared facility charges
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 if of the owners dies, their share automatically passes to the other owners, 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.

For property advice, please contact our specialist Residential Conveyancing Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671

Or request a quote for your conveyancing here.