New build homes: Is buying a home that hasn’t been built yet a good idea?

Move iQ: How to maximise your property’s value

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The housing market boom has pushed many prospective buyers down new avenues in the search for their dream home. Period homes with decades of history are becoming more expensive than ever before, and for many, the prospect of buying a new build is becoming the go-to way to get onto the property ladder.

A lot of the time, they can come in cheaper than older homes as they lack original fittings, and to boot, they have lower bills due to modern energy efficiency laws.

What’s more, the prospect of a no-chain purchase makes new build homes easier to purchase for first-time homeowners.

Lack of currently available housing stock is also pushing wannabe buyers into the new build market, with some areas seeing demand for new builds rise by as much as 28 percent in the last quarter, according to recent data from new build sales platform Unlatch.

But the global supply chain crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic means materials to build new homes are very sparse and therefore expensive – so should you take the punt and buy a home off plan?

Pros of buying off plan

Jonathan Rolande, from House Buy Fast, told “Buying a property before it is built is a brave step but one taken by tens of thousands of buyers every year.

“The benefits are that you can secure a property at today’s price and the price can’t increase.

“You have a formal commitment too so it is very unlikely to fall through – meaning you can start planning the move, new schools etc with confidence.”

Many new build schemes also offer customisation – meaning you will have little work to do on the property once you’ve moved in.

Tim Foreman, New Homes Director at Romans, told “The most attractive benefit of buying a house before it has been built is that many developers allow you to personalise or upgrade the house, whether that’s picking kitchen colours, tiling or laminate floors.

“While some reputable developers also offer more bespoke features, so you can create the house of your dreams.”

First-time buyer Gabbi Bridge moved into her new-build two-bedroom flat in December 2020.

She picked a new build because of the customisation elements, such as being able to pick her kitchen units and bathroom suite.

The 23-year-old said: “It had all the facilities I wanted, and I had control over design elements of it, choosing fixtures and fittings that suit me.

“I also liked that I wouldn’t have to spend any money on fixing things or refurbishing it, and the fact there’s a warranty made me feel secure in what is obviously the biggest purchase a person can make.”

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Cons of buying off plan

Research by New Homes Review found more than 40 percent of new-build homes aren’t ready by the original deadline. Preliminary data is showing that more and more properties are being delayed due to the shortage of supplies – but this has largely been concentrated after restrictions largely ended in 2021.

Mr Foreman explained: “While there are currently worldwide shortages impacting numerous supply chains such as materials and labour, for the most part the housing industry has been able to continue with developments.

“Despite this, some developers have faced setbacks, but the majority of reputable developers have been able to start and finish housing projects by the targeted date – with most wanting to finish the project as soon as possible in order to realise their investment.”

Mr Rolande explained: “Delays are possible but not common. However, house builders have suffered with supply chain issues and a lack of tradespeople due to Covid and general recruiting issues.

“The sale contract is usually more in favour of the builder than the buyer so it is a risk. You’ll get two dates, a ‘completion’ date when you aim to move and a ‘long-stop’ date which is a worst-case scenario.”

While this all seems quite simple, a delay in the build can wreak havoc on your plans and finances. Mr Rolande continues: “A delay can cause serious issues for buyers, rearranging removals and having to find temporary accommodation if their current home is sold, and the mortgage offer may also expire, so will need to be renewed as most only last six months.

“Good developers will know their timescales well and avoid these issues but occasionally something unexpected can happen to throw plans off track – adverse weather and Covid are good examples.”

Gabbi is just one of many homeowners who found they weren’t in their home at the date specified originally. While she moved into her flat in December 2020, she’d actually had her offer accepted and had a mortgage offer in place in November 2019 – a full 13 months beforehand.

She told “I was meant to be in by March 2020 but because of Covid and shortages, it kept being delayed. Eventually I got in by December but still had contractors on site for another two months.

“The main issue is that even now I’m having problems. Because of delays, a lot of things weren’t finished properly so I need to keep getting builders back in to sort stuff out, and it’s hard to organise this so many issues are still unresolved.

“I’m already moving out of the lfat, even though I love how I’ve decorated and everything, because I’ve just had enough with these constant issues. The trouble with new builds is you can’t see the quality when you buy, and then you’re left to suffer from poor quality.”

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