Everything you need to know about buying a new build property
New build properties are an attractive proposition for all kinds of buyers. In this article, we’ve outlined what a new build is, why it might be worth considering one, the process involved in buying a new build home, how to negotiate a purchase, and the most commonly asked questions by those entering the market.
What are new build houses?
New build properties are those which have never been lived in at all, and can be either houses or flats. Importantly, even if a property displays contemporary features, it isn’t considered a new build if it has housed previous owners.
Are new build properties leaseholds or freeholds?
As with any property purchase, new builds are one of either a leasehold or freehold. Before agreeing to the terms of a sale, understanding the difference between leasehold and freehold and which category your new build falls into is crucial. In simple terms, though, a new build flat is often a leasehold, while a house is generally a freehold.
Why buy a new build?
There are many considerations that go into buying a new build home, whether it be an inner city flat or house in the countryside. However, the main draws of moving into a new build include:
- A new build property is effectively a blank canvas, with fresh walls and rooms, so there’s room to implement your own personality.
- New build houses are modern in design and structure, so often offer the latest in technology and features.
- Because new build properties are required to adhere to the latest building regulations, they’re generally much more energy efficient than older homes.
- New build properties can often be bought ‘off plan’, which allows you to have some input in the design, as well as included fixtures and fittings.
- New build properties are chain free, which takes away a lot of the stress of buying. If you’re hoping to move home hassle-free, this gives you the opportunity to sell your house quickly through a property purchasing company and move into your new build right away.
What is the process of buying a new build home?
1. Find your new build
Once you’ve established what your budget is, the first step involved in buying a new build home is to find a development you like the look of. This involves doing research into the area and the developer’s recent record.
The property might still be under construction, but this is completely normal and needn’t be a red flag. Instead, you’ll likely be guided around a show home that is either a close match to or an exact replica of your potential new house or flat.
2. Making an offer on new build properties
You might now be wondering how to reserve a new build property. This is similar to purchasing any new home, with you needing to make an offer, (we’ve touched on how to negotiate a new build price below!). If your offer is accepted, congratulation! You’ll just need to pay a reservation fee, which holds the property while it’s still under development. This fee is taken off the eventual purchase price, but is usually non-refundable if you later withdraw interest.
3. Agreeing the details
Once you’ve found your perfect property and agreed on a purchasing price, it’s time to go through the legalities, making sure to use a solicitor who has experience in handling new builds. Once you’re assured and certain the property has access to roads, services, and sewers, you can begin applying for new build mortgages.
4. Moving in
When your move is agreed upon, you’ll be presented with two terms: short-stop date and long-stop date. The short-stop date is when your developer anticipates building work to be completed, while the long-stop date is further down the line and dictates when work must be completed by (this is to protect your mortgage agreement). Make sure you’re happy with each given date, before finalising the deal.
How to negotiate a new build house price
When you drive past a new build development, you’ll likely see signs stating the asking price for each property. However, this is just an asking price, and the developer will often be open to negotiation; they’d usually rather not hold onto the homes for longer than necessary.
Before taking to the negotiation table, though, do your research around the general selling price of properties in the area, to give you an idea of what you might be willing to pay. Importantly, if you’re not happy with the asking price, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from negotiations.
The most obvious negotiation tactic is to haggle and ask for a reduced price, which may or may not work for you. Alternatively, try to be a little cuter with your developer and consider making less blatant requests. For instance, you might ask for them to cover your stamp duty or include fixtures and fittings of your choice within the quoted fee.
Questions to ask when buying a new build house
When do you exchange contracts on a new build?
Exchanging contracts is the legally binding part of a property sale, but, because buying a new build often means waiting for the development to finish, the timeframe can vary. Additionally, you should only exchange contracts once you’ve finalised your mortgage agreement and made arrangements to make the requested deposit (often 10% of the purchase price, but this can rise to 25%).
Once the formalities are taken care of, you’ll generally be able to exchange contracts around 28 days before the completion date.
When do you start paying council tax on a new build?
So, how is council tax calculated on new builds? Because new build properties are often unfurnished, with no fixtures, fittings, or utilities, you might take a few weeks to move in.
Fortunately, if your new build is unoccupied and initially uninhabitable, you’ll receive a 100% council tax discount for the first month after the development is completed. After this period, you’ll be subject to the standard council tax rates for your area.
Is help-to-buy only for new builds?
The 95% mortgage scheme is a useful system for first-time buyers. However, there are criteria to follow, one of which being that a property must be a new build and within an affordability range.
What if there’s a delay with my new build?
Despite laying out short-stop and long-stop dates, there are instances where developers still struggle to hit completion deadlines. If this is the case, your solicitor should have signed a warranty agreement that protects your deposit. It may even allow you to withdraw completely and claim a full refund.