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The process of buying a new build

Buying a new build home is slightly different from traditional home purchasing. The good news is that there are often special schemes and benefits to help you buy a new build home, which makes it great for first-time buyers.

Step By Step Guide

What to know before you buy

Not sure where to start? We’ll talk you through the whole process of buying a new build in the UK — from reserving a home to dealing with delays — taking it step by step. Here’s what you need to know. 

Before you start making any offers, there are some important things to consider. 

Getting your finances in order

As with any home, the first thing to do is make sure you can afford it. Look at your current financial state — from your savings to your debt to your credit score — and make sure that buying a home is a good choice for you right now. You’ll also be responsible for maintaining your home, which can be a big ongoing financial commitment if you’re used to renting. 

For most people, it’s worth it — but it’s a big undertaking, so make sure to be considerate and realistic. When you’ve taken stock, you’ll be ready to start looking. 

Don’t forget the other costs of buying, including lawyer’s fees, moving costs, and potential stamp duty. They add up fast.

Speak to a mortgage advisor

If you’ve found a property, it’s time to speak to a mortgage advisor and get an agreement in principle — the amount they’re willing to lend you. 

With new builds, make sure to ask about whether the mortgage offer will expire. If you think your home may only be completed after the expiry date, you’ll want to talk to your lender about what options are available. 

It’s also important to remember that some lenders will have stricter rules around new builds and may not be willing to lend as much. But there are schemes in place to help you with the purchase — more on that in a minute. 

If you have any questions, we have mortgage advisors ready to offer stress-free advice. And it’s 100% free. Learn more here.

You can still negotiate on the price of your home, even if it’s a new build."

Finding the right home

New builds will often be listed on traditional sites, but they’ll also have their own marketing material for the development, so keep an eye out in areas you’re interested in.

When looking at purchasing a new build, you may have the ability to buy “off plan” — which means buying a home that isn’t yet built. There are some things you’ll need keep in mind. 

  • You can customise the home to meet your needs

  • You have to double-check what’s included, like kitchen fittings and carpeting

  • You should check with your mortgage lender, as some lenders don’t like off-plan properties

When buying off-plan, you might hear about short stop dates and long stop dates. The short stop date is when the developer expects to be finished building — while a long stop date is when they have to be done by.

Just to be safe, it’s normally best to assume you won’t be moving until closer to the long stop date. 

Reserving your property

Ready to strike? If you feel confident that you’ve found the right home and you’ve secured a mortgage, it’s time to reserve a new build property. 

You’ll have to pay a reservation fee, normally £500 to £1,000. If you back out of the sale at a later date, you’ll lose this  — but if you go through with the purchase, it will be deducted from the total price. The reservation period is normally around 28 days, which should give you enough time to exchange contracts and solidify the process. 

You can still negotiate on the price of your home, even if it’s a new build. Don’t be afraid to offer below the sticker price if you think that’s fair — you can always counter at a higher price if the developer says no. 

The buying process

Appoint a conveyancing solicitor

It might sound intimidating, but a conveyancing solicitor is just a lawyer to help you with the legal side of buying a home. In fact, they do a lot of the legwork for you and make the process run smoothly.

Getting your mortgage 

Time to work out your financing. If you’re worried about securing a mortgage for a new build, as we mentioned above, there are a few schemes that can help you — especially if you’re a first time buyer. 

The Help to Buy equity loan and London Help to Buy scheme are both aimed exclusively at new builds and can help those who can’t save a big enough deposit to get onto the property ladder. You’ll have to put down a 5% deposit — but the government will lend you between 15% and 40% of the purchase price, depending on where you live. 

A lot of new builds also offer shared ownership schemes, which can be a great first step if you can't afford to buy a home outright. It lets you buy a portion of the home and pay rent on the remaining share.

Paying your deposit

While a traditional deposit is normally 10%, with a newer property you could need more. Normally, the developer will request anywhere between a 10% and 30% deposit, with an agreement to pay the remainder upon completion. They’ll also normally want proof from your lender that your mortgage is guaranteed. 

Exchanging contracts

Exchanging contracts is when it all becomes official — you pay your deposit, which you can lose if you back out after this point. Normally you only have 28 days between reserving your home and exchange, so this process can come around fairly quickly. 

A good solicitor will pull out their fine-toothed comb and make sure everything is OK on the legal front and that the developer has followed all of the necessary regulations. 

Normally there are new build warranties, like NHBC or Premier Guarantee, to protect your deposit after the exchange if anything goes wrong with the building development. Your lawyer will be able to talk you through it.

It’s your new home, you paid for it — so it should be picture perfect."

Check your property before you move in

Time to give it one last check. You can do this yourself, but a lot of people opt to have a “snagging survey” done, to see if there are any last changes you need the developer to make. Often this will be something small, like fixing plaster or skirting boards. A snagging survey usually costs between £300 and £600, but it can prove very much worth it if you find repairs that need to be done.

Things to look out for

1. Warranties

Most new build homes come with a 10-year NHBC warranty, which should cover any major structural defects. The only drawback is that trying to resolve any issues through this warranty can be a lengthy process. So on top of that, many developers will give you a direct warranty for a shorter period — often two years. Make sure to keep an eye out for what warranty they offer and what is (and isn’t) included. 

2. Premium pricing

A lot of the time, developers will have a very savvy sales team with targets to meet — so they can be very pushy about pricing. Make sure that you’re actually getting a good deal and paying a fair price. 

Also, be wary of extras thrown in — sometimes new builds will offer to cover stamp duty or legal fees, as well as throwing other perks your way. These can be a nice bonus, but you have to be savvy.

Though they may sound great, but if those costs are built into an overly high price then you’re not really getting that great of a deal. 

3. Leasehold vs freehold

One key element of buying a new property is whether it’s leasehold or freehold. Traditionally, new build flats will be leasehold and houses will be freehold — but you should always check.

If it’s leasehold, you will have to pay ground rent to the freeholder and you may have limitations on changes you can make to the building. Your solicitor will be able to make sure there aren’t any unfair restrictions before you exchange contracts.

4. Moving in delays

The short and long stop dates will both have been agreed upon earlier in the process, but it’s good to keep an eye out for what recourse you have if the developer doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Your estate agent and the developers should be able to keep you up to date throughout the process, but it always helps to know your rights. 

If you do find that there's a delay, be sure to say something — especially if it goes beyond the long stop date.

5. Workmanship and finish

Finally, it’s all about those little details. Is the workmanship up to scratch? Are all of the finishing touches what you agreed upon? This is where your snagging survey can really help make sure you’re getting what you paid for. 

Don’t be afraid to be nit-picky about the little things, whether it’s a tap or a light fixture that doesn’t look quite right. It’s your new home, you paid for it — so it should be picture perfect. 

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New build property FAQs

  • A new home with no wear and tear (plus a warranty)

  • Buyer incentives, especially for first time buyers

  • No chains can mean a smoother buying process

  • A bespoke home you can help design

  • Better green credentials — good for the environment and your wallet