Buying a New Build Home

Many people decide to ‘buy new’ from a housebuilder in the belief that it will be a much less troublesome experience than buying somebody else’s home. In reality however, these people go on to find the experience more stressful than they could possibly have anticipated. The reason for this is that the purchase of property is not subject to the Sale of Goods Act or the Supply of Goods and Services Act which cover the majority of purchases, with the result that there is a general absence of consumer rights and legal redress in what is a significant and high-risk purchase. Most consumer complaints relate to:

  • The time taken to finish building, despite promises of a much earlier completion date, having sold their old home and paid a significant deposit
  • Misdescription / misrepresentation of the property or the area. What consumers were led to believe in terms of the specification of their property or use of land surrounding their property have not been the case.
  • The contractual process after exchange of contracts – the 10 day notice period and the inability to claim breach of contract for poor workmanship
  • The inability to gain access to ‘snag’ the property before completion
  • The quality of finish on moving in and the time taken to come back and rectify the faults
  • Absence of customer care in the period after moving in, compared with the time leading up to completion.
  • No legal right to damages or compensation even if major problems with the property cause significant disruption and loss of amenity.
  • General dissatisfaction with the NHBC, the warranty provider for the majority of new homes.

Choice of housebuilder

In terms of the main UK housebuilders, no one organization can be said to be better or worse than any other with regard to quality of build. They are only as good as the contractors they use at the local level. However, there is a good deal of variation among them in terms of the after-sales care they offer, and it is a good idea to research this by talking to anyone who has moved in to that development. Small local housebuilders can often be said to provide better attention to detail, but it is important to establish what you can expect from them after handover with regard to addressing any defects or damage.

Buyer beware

The majority of new homes will have a warranty underwritten by the NHBC (The National House Building Council). Although this provides the more comprehensive coverage than other warranty providers, it does not guarantee a home without defects or the immediate resolution of any problems you encounter.

If your new home is ‘build complete’ but you haven’t yet exchanged, request a quality audit. This can be carried out by a professional snagging company such as New Build Inspections Ltd who will carry out a detailed inspection and provide you with a comprehensive snagging list of defects to be addressed. You can then insist this be incorporated into the contracts to be exchanged.

If your property is not build complete by the time you’ve exchanged contracts, arrange an inspection prior to legal completion. This will ensure the property is comprehensively snagged before you move in, and there won’t be any nasty little surprises awaiting you when you do!

Notice to complete

Once your property has been issued with its certificate of habitation by the warranty provider (usually the NHBC), the housebuilder will give you notice to complete, during which time your solicitor will draw down funds from the mortgage provider in order to transfer them on the day of completion. The exact number of days will be specified on your contract, although it is usually around 10 working days. The builder may ask you to complete sooner than the contracted number of days but you are quite within your rights to refuse.

During the notice period, your property should be fully completed and habitable. There may be one or two touch ups to do, but in general it should be finished to a reasonable standard of quality with no major faults, damage or unfinished areas. Unfortunately you cannot delay completion on the basis of snagging items, unless they are significant or numerous enough to render the property uninhabitable. Any attempt to delay completion will only precipitate threats of late interest charges from the builder.

After completion

After completion (or handover) of the property, what few consumer rights you have will be guided by the warranty provider (in most cases the NHBC), so refer to your handbook to see what you are covered for and what the procedure is for reporting a defect or making a complaint. In general, you should be contacting your builder in the first instance, but if it is taking unreasonable time or they refuse to respond, then should make a claim through your warranty provider and they will contact the builder on your behalf. As mentioned however, this will not necessarily lead to satisfactory and speedy resolution, and many people find their issues can drag on for months, sometimes years

Leave a Comment

37 comments… add one
  • Kevin 14 August, 5:57 pm

    This is good advice worth paying attention to, I took ownership of a newbuild property last year and have a very long list of problems, everyone expects to have some issues with there new house but you dont expect it to be difficult to get them fixed. In my experience the builder will deny there is an issue and will also lie about why faults arent being corrected. My website details all the problems we’ve had.

  • Paul 3 November, 8:45 pm

    We bought a new build house in the summer. It is on a multi award winning site, and has an award winning site manager (who has been the only saving grace really), yet we’ve had a series of problems from July until now (November). The problems are still ongoing and the stress on myself and my family is unbelievable. We’ve rejected cars for less than this, and it is very hard to find good advice and information too.

  • Tony 3 November, 10:39 pm

    The site manager can make a massive difference to the experience you have with your house builder. This site will be of interest – We have a section in the forums on this site for snagging too.

    Good luck with the new website


  • cathy 23 March, 10:58 am

    I have recently purchased a new build flat. After the first week it became apparant that water was getting under the floorboards, the builders found that they had ‘forgot’ to add a waste pipe to the bath, as a result this has caused a great deal of damage throughout all but one room. They have accepted responsability and said they would ensure that it would be repaired properly. This was 4 weeks ago and I have been living out of one room the entire time (they haven’t re-homed me while the works been carried out). New floor boards and flooring have been laid and a new carpet is on order but I am finding a lot of ‘patch ups’ throughout. The work done is of a very poor quality and totally unacceptable. Does anyone have any advice on what can be done legally, both to ensure this gets re-done correctly and on how to claim for compensation? (I was supposed to have a tenant move in and they have now gone elsewhere as they’re room is not habitable at present, not to mention my electricity bill for using the de-humidifier and the inconvenience caused?

  • Catriona 24 March, 10:45 pm

    Cathy, this is an all-too common problem. And there is no consumer protection legislation to protect you. My advice would be to make a detailed list of all the problems, the timescales, the inconvenience you have suffered, time off work (loss of earnings) and the loss of income from the tenant going elsewhere. Make it business-like, unemotional and bullet-pointed. Inform the developer that unless you get some recompense within 14 days, you will be taking the matter to the small claims court. Also contact the NHBC and request a visit to assess the standard of workmanship.

  • Azucena 2 March, 12:37 am

    I have just put a reservation deposit on a new built flat. It is within my local vicinity and I am familiar with the site and the bulding itself used to be a University. I am a banker and have no problem with finances, however mortgagers have confused me with this information that is news to me that the new build flats will be far more expensive when it comes down to providing a deposit, no one will be lending me at anything less than 20 to 25%. The reason they provide are similar to issues discussed above, could anyone tell me if that is a genuine case and if new build mortgage criteria differs from that of older homes & flats due to risks & concerns involved?

  • George Mooney 4 October, 11:59 am

    I recently had to cancel my agreement with Taylor wimpey and asked for my £500 reservation fee to be refunded to me, but was told it is not company policy to refund after a cancellation. i have recently come across the consumer code for home builders which states that the fee must be refunded following cancellation. I wrote to taylor wimpey and so far they have got back to me on the telephone and are trying to circumvent the code but I’m sticking to my rights under the code and am still waiting for them to make a decision to act

  • Bunty 22 January, 4:04 pm

    The reason for this is that the purchase of property is not subject to the Sale of Goods Act or the Supply of Goods and Services Act which cover the majority of purchases, with the result that there is a general absence of consumer rights and legal redress in what is a significant and high-risk purchase.

  • Lettie 22 January, 4:09 pm

    The reason for this is that the purchase of property is not subject to the Sale of Goods Act or the Supply of Goods and Services Act which cover the majority of purchases, with the result that there is a general absence of consumer rights and legal redress in what is a significant and high-risk purchase.

    Why is this the case? Why aren’t MPs of unhappy consumers championing an introduction of new legislation? Is it due to the big developers being ‘all powerful’?

  • George mooney 25 January, 12:19 pm

    Just to say I got a full refund from my reservation fee from Taylor Wimpey in October 2011

  • Beebee 27 January, 5:07 pm

    Hi George, I’m in a similar position of trying to get my reservation deposit back and they cannot provide me with any clear information. Where can I find this code you referred to?

  • Ahson 28 February, 3:09 pm

    On the reservation page/sheet they give you, it’s written on back that they will deduct £100 pounds if reservation is cancelled towards administrative charges.

  • Peter Gee 19 April, 1:36 pm

    Hi everyone, can anyone adivise me on the following matter:

    I bought a shared ownership flat about seven years ago and have had various problems with quality of the internal finish. Recently I noticed that the several of plaster boards had started to stand proud on several of the ceilings. I have contacted the NHBC but they have stated that my guarantee does not cover such things as plaster boards. I then contacted my landlord (which is a Housing Association) about the matter and they have stated that plaster board movement is typical in new builds and is not a sign of poor workmanship! Surly this can’t be right? And do I have any recourse on the matter? All comments gratefully received.

  • valerie Turner 26 December, 5:59 pm

    Hi All
    I bought a new build and have had loads of problems, I found out last August that the company I purchased my house from changed the plans to suit my neighbours, but never discussed the reasons for this change with me,it concerns an access path which the builders told me it was mine and my responsibility to maintain it,this path runs along side of my neighbours house given me the only access to my rear garden,the second plan is not legally binding,and it was registered in my name but on the drawings it is on my neighbours plans,surely the builders can’t change plans once you have paid for the property,PLEASE CAN ANYONE HELP ME.

    • Steven McGarrigle 18 September, 11:49 am

      We have just had a similar occurrence although the changes are minor compared to yours. After Exchange of contracts – but not completion, Crest Nicholson have informed us of changes to the internal layout of part of our new flat which they clearly got wrong on the original plans. How did you get along with your problem? There seems to be lots of people with issues here but unfortunately no-one with advice or solutions.

  • Phil McNulty 9 January, 9:50 am

    After selecting a new build house based solely on the good size of all 3 bedrooms, I have paid the £500 reservation fee, selected options and am just awaiting confirmation of a mortgage offer.

    2 weeks ago, I finally (after much prompting) received a copy of the scale drawings for the house, and this weekend was given the opportunity to walk round an “in progress” model of the same specs. I was instantly concerned that the 3rd bedroom appeared smaller than I expected. A quick check of the scale drawings has shown that the bedroom is 14 sq ft smaller than advertised on the brochure. Is there anything I can do about this blatant false advertising?

  • May 25 January, 5:42 pm

    I just paid a reservation fee for a new build flat a week ago which will be ready in July. I did this through a real estate agent who is selling flats on behalf of the developer. I have now decided not to go ahead with the purchase and have not yet signed the reservation agreement with the developer.
    Question is can I request a full refund of my reservation fee or do I have to comply with what’s required on the reservation agreement even though I have not signed it yet and I suppose there is a 7-day cooling off period anyway on either side to pull out?

  • Valerie Turner 14 May, 5:37 pm

    Hi All, Been in my new home 3 years and the problems never end, The boiler has been leaking for the last 2 years even after several attempts to put right I now have 12 B.G. forms explaining what the engineers have done but it’s still leaking now waiting for another new part to come just hope the next winter will be warmer though I still have doors/windows letting in the drafts. Please stay away from new homes not worth the hassle, Keepmoat,F.Haslam and other sub- contracted companies who are involved.

  • Claire furness 18 February, 8:30 pm

    We have purchased a house and have now exchanged. After exchange we have found that the master bedroom which is fairly small as it is has lost 5cm is size and now we are struggling to find furniture to fit. We have now also been told that the work surface in the kitchen is now bein made smaller by 30cm due to a soil pipe being moved? Have we no rights as a buyer?

  • Ferzand Malik 3 March, 5:50 pm

    I bought a Taylor third world builder Wimpey house 16 months ago, on my 30 to completion visit most of the house seemed to be in order. When I moved in, they managed to damage the gas pipe in the cavity wall and decided to run it along the side of the house and into the garage, after numerous arguments they partailly put into the groud and now it pops up in front the garage in full view.My conservatory is well out of line and damaged, 8 attempts to fix it and now completely out of line and the only people who think it is with in tollerances are Window Build and Taylor Wimpey, If we have the biggest Cowboy builders like Talyor Wimpey with Window Build running along side them then we need to change the consumer law to get the big builders to pay for there poor quality.
    Then you have there directors who dare you to go to NHBC as they are not capable to resolve your issues.
    Poor from the very top.

  • Ayshea 5 June, 10:18 am

    We got notice to complete even though the house had not been signed off yet. They first gave us a week’s notice but generously extended it to 2, but we hadn’t even exchanged contracts at that point! What a developer should or would normally do does not apply to every case. We had a complete nightmare with trying to buy from Keepmoat, see for details.

  • Valerie Turner 7 June, 9:12 pm

    Very good advice for anyone looking to buy a new build, I think the Government/our local MPs should be helping those of us who have had many problems with our new homes, it’s absolutely disgraceful the way we have been treated by these builders they are robbing us and nobody seems to care, I’ve had 4 years of hell & I’m 65 yrs.

  • Julie Jones 30 June, 11:44 am

    Hi, We are buying a new build and we have exchanged and our completion will be in a few weeks. The whole thing has been a nightmare. I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advice regarding the kitchen. We were allowed in to measure for curtains etc and we noticed that the oven isnt in the same place as in the showhome. In the show home its in a tower unit and we paid for extra to have a double oven, thinking that it would be 2 ovens. When we went into our house, the oven is under the gas ring hob and its an oven with grill. Developer is saying its a double oven, we said we wanted what was in show home and we would pay extra, they have refused to do anything about it, they have told us we need to sort it out once we move in. Nobody told us that it was going to be different and its not stated in the kitchen specification. We paid extra for dishwashe, washing machine, fridge/freezer and these are in the same place as in the showhome. Do we have any legal rights to this situation.
    Just wondered if you would be able to give us any advice. Thank you

  • Maeia 6 October, 10:31 pm


    We have recently bought an expensive newbuild ( completed end July) flat. our flat is on the first floor, and there is a parking driveway below our balcony. On the mockup model the driveway was pretty narrow and short and it was covered with a roof and plants on top of it, so it didn’t seem that it presented a problem – we were supposed to have a view of the landscaped gardens and the driveway roof covered by plants was not supposed to be much visible. We paid a reservation fee in November 2013, but in December when the construction work started on the parking driveway we got concerned that the driveway appeared in proportion much bigger than on the model in the marketing suite. We requested detailed drawings from the developer stating that this parking entrance was a major concern for us and we would not proceed if the bigger parking entrance would have a detrimental impact on the view/noise level from the flat. The supplied drawings showed a bigger driveway, but it was still supposed to be covered with a roof and landscaped/covered with flowers, so we were satisfied that this would not cause major issues and proceeded with the purchase. The construction works on the driveway were finished in early October, and to our shock, only half of the parking driveway is covered with a roof (no landscaping yet), so it looks as though there is motorway underneath our flat. This is disastrous not only for us if we want to occupy the flat, but also devalues the price of the flat massively. Marketing agents admitted that the developer has changed the plan without notifying them. Not only it is morally wrong, but goes against consumer code for homebuilders. If anyone can give advise, would really appreciate. What is our best course of action? We have written to the builder asking to rectify as to the plan, but do not have much hope. We waited for the flat since November, and property prices in the area we bought went up by 20%, so even if developer agrees to take the flat back and return the money, it would not solve the problem as prices for other properties are already much higher. We started thinking about selling it, but we will make a loss as with the current view the price has fallen, and also we will loose stamp duty and would have stamp duty on another property -this was our first flat, we are currently renting. We are afraid to move in as well as once the flat becomes occupied it would loose a newbuild premium, so if we are to sell and look for another property we will recover even less. Please help with advice

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  • John Gosling 18 June, 11:03 am

    Some good advice here. We’ve had to spend 5 years getting our house complete to a reasonable level of finish. We’ve had leaks, ceilings ripped out, floor tiles pulled up. It’s been a nightmare. I’m documenting the story, plus trying to offer some advice, at:

  • Keith stowe 19 July, 3:46 pm

    Bought our new build property from Persimmon Homes in December 2014.
    What a mistake that was, we have had nothing but trouble from them & no communication what so ever.
    I’ve had vermin in the loft due to incomplete roof, all drainage blocked up all over the Christmas period.
    My daughter has been injured by contractors leaving wire in the turf they laid, this is but a fraction of our problems & after 7 months the poor workmanship is showing through.
    My advice is not to buy with this company, I have now resulting to erecting a sign in my front window advising potential buyers to be wary.

  • Terry dyer 9 September, 10:29 pm

    Recently I bought a new build(27th August 2015) and the single brick garage wall lets in water. They keep telling me (Bovis ) that this ifs ok .
    I don’t think so, but they are trying to get out.

    Hasn’t add my move great and wish I never bought a house from

    Hope you can help or advi….

  • Denise Harrison 18 December, 7:01 pm

    We completed our purchase on a new build property today as we were threatened that if we didn’t complete today we would lose incentives given at reservation stage. However after the developer had received all of our funds, we have no mortgage, we find the property unfinished and not fit to move into. We also discovered the site is now closed for 2 weeks!! I feel completely bullied and cheated by the developer. We are pensioners and need to know what redress we have against the developer.

  • Mark Ramshaw 22 January, 1:34 am


    I bought a new build and it was the worst mistake of my life.
    Never trust the builders charm as he will not be very charming when you move in.
    Do your home work on the builder!
    Never move in until you are absolutely happy with the finish as they never want to come back.They will lie and lie and accuse you of damage.
    I have 38 defects and I have been accused of accepting his poor workman ship or I caused them.
    It can take over your life and ruin your family and they will not give a damn.
    NHBC Useless! It’s taken 9 months and still nothing done.
    Do you home work on the builders and their work and credibility!!!!!!

  • Emmanuel Ottih 22 February, 6:58 pm

    Barratt Home development Peterborough has been so unfair and unjust to me. The Regional sales manager and site Manager have been discriminatory against me. I need to speak with Independent body to look into this case. I have not felt or been treated this way in life after i have risked my life fighting for country.

  • Sally Bell 24 February, 12:58 pm

    I bought a new build ground floor flat, in the specification it was described as a luxury flat with the latest sound proofing and off street parking with electric gates.
    I can hear my neighbour upstairs on the telephone, there are no electric gates and it is anything but luxury. We were told it came with a policy like the NHBC but it is actually an insurance with a £100 excess for each individual thing you claim for.
    The snagging list has never been finished, the front door has a inch and half gap under what is supposed to be a fire door. All the laminate flooring has lifted in places due to it not being fitted properly. The snag list is endless. I have sent the builders over the past two years at least one hundred emails. I have emailed the management company at least 50 emails as my back gate was never fitted with door furniture so it now doesn’t close. I have dogs which not being able to close the gate makes for a difficult life. I cannot claim on the insurance as I am on disability, it also does not cover the flooring or the back gate. What was supposed to be a move that made my life easier has caused me so much stress which isn’t good for my health. The list is endless ! I can’t move because I can no longer get a mortgage plus no one in their right mind would buy it anyway.

  • Colin Smith 12 April, 10:36 am

    I thought there was a rule that said 10% of the sale price had to be held back by the building society to ensure the builder did the work.

  • Nicola Kingaby 19 May, 12:16 pm

    Please investigate and warn potential buyers in the West about the health and safety of living in Charles Church/Persimmon houses.

    The reason I am posting is due to the number of electrical safety issues and breaches of the laws in place to ensure people are safe that have been found at my Charles Church home in Portishead. Despite these my house was signed of as fit to live in by NHBC Building Control.

    I have a new build timber framed house.
    Safety issues are numerous. A British Gas engineer found our boiler was wired in incorrectly; he said he had seen several houses on the estate with the same faulty wiring. Our electrician opened a light switch and found it was sparking inside due to bare wires (in a timber house!). We found out last week, from our electrician that the light fittings in our bathroom and in our en suite are not IP rated so in breach of Building Regulations. My boiler, as well as being wired incorrectly, was not notified to Gas Safe Register in breach of Building Regs.

    Potentially hundreds of homes could be affected if this ‘rogue’ electrician worked across our very large estate.

    I know of others on the estate with identical issues yet despite my urging them for safety’s sake to at least contact people Charles Church refuse to do anything to check people are safe.

    A kettle found to be wired faultily would result in a product recall. With a new build you take your life in your hands. Electrocution? Fire in a timber framed house? A gas explosion?

    I have photos of the faulty wiring and illegal fittings, letters to and from. Charles Church in which they refuse to act despite my raising the safety issues. I have Facebook posts from others on the estate similarly affected, the report from British Gas engineer about my boiler and anecdotal evidence from neighbours of boilers with flues incorrectly installed and exploding.

    Charles Church do nothing.

  • Lisa 7 September, 8:34 pm

    I bought a new build flat 2 years ago and have had constant issues with drains with it finally being diagnosed that the drains are bellied up and need relaying. Im having to vacate the property for minimum 6 months so they can know my spare room, ensuite and hall thru, dig up the foundations and relay the drains. The issues started a day after i moved in with sewage coming out of my bath plug then shower plug. Thework is covered under the nhbc equivalent which is great but does anyone have any ideas what my rights are for compensation??
    I certainly dont expect to have to move out of my new build and have it half demolished within 2 years of it completing.

  • Mick 26 October, 10:02 am

    Good information but lacking in many important areas.
    1. NHBC warranty does not cover ALL of the property purchased- only the house itself. It does not cover driveways, landscaping etc
    2. The estate you are on will be the responsibility of the developer who may well also be your builder but could be some other company. In fact it’s most likely another company you have never heard of and never told about.
    There is no legal responsibility or time limits to finish roadways, paths, lightning, landscaping etc.
    No matter what the sales team tell you there is no compulsion to get roads adopted and until they are finished to the acceptable standard they cannot be adopted.
    You see, It’s not just the house it’s the surroundings, we have lived with incomplete roads, paths, landscaping for several years after the houses are finished simply because there is no legal requirement in the development contract to complete them.
    Buyer beware and aware.

  • chris 3 March, 7:09 am

    any advice on how to get TW to Finnish the landscaping of the public licence areas. ive lived in a TW house for 4 years and it’s still not compleate. recently they have submitted a “Post material amendment” to the council that is basically a plan that matches what they have built