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18 questions every first-time buyer should ask before buying a new home

Buying a new home can be quite different to the process of purchasing a second-hand property. 

We’re one of Plymouth’s only estate agents with a specialist Land & New Homes department.

Our experienced team has been helping people get on the property ladder for 30 years.

To help you, we’ve compiled a list of essential questions to ask when purchasing your new home.

How does Help to Buy work and is it a good idea for me?

You are no doubt aware of the term ‘Help To Buy’ (HTB), but do you know what it is?

HTB was introduced by the Government on April 1st, 2013. The scheme is available to anyone over the age of 18 who wishes to buy a new-build property. This is providing they do not own another home in the UK or abroad and do not intend to rent it out.

It involves the Government lending you up to 20% (rising to 40% in London) of the cost of your newly-built home. You then pay a deposit of 5% or more and arrange a mortgage of 25% or more to make up the rest.

When you own the property, no interest is charged on the 20% loan in the first five years.

There have been many changes to the scheme, most recently in April 2021. There are now two types of HTB: The Mortgage Guarantee and the Equity Loan.

Click here to see this simple illustration on how the loans could potentially help you.

Does the property come with a warranty and what does it cover?

A building warranty is essentially an insurance policy for newly-built homes.

This is taken out by the builder or developer and is in place to protect you as the buyer.

There are many providers and different terms, so you should ask for the details that affect the property you are looking to purchase. Mortgage lenders and brokers will also want to know before submitting a mortgage application.

Are there any service charges or ground rents, and how long is the length of the lease?

Many new-build housing developments will have a service charge, which often includes the maintenance of unadopted roads or communal grounds upkeep.

Before bringing an apartment development to the market, a developer will often organise the terms of a lease, service charges and ground rent.

No two developments are the same, so make sure you ask the estate agents or on-site sales consultant before committing to paying a reservation fee.

Who are the developers and have they built anything in the past?

Many local and regional developers pride themselves on delivering great homes to buyers.

It’s always worth asking what developments the owners have been involved in previously.  

Is parking included in the title of the sale?

Clarifying a development’s parking situation is super important to avoid any issues when you take ownership of the property.

Will the developers contribute to solicitors’ costs as an incentive?

Often, a developer/estate agent will arrange for one purchasing solicitor.

This can speed up the transaction for buyers and often makes the purchasing process more informative, as one set of conveyancers will be acting for a group of buyers.

There can be developer-paid incentives for this, so it’s always worth asking.  

Who are the energy suppliers of the property?

Knowing this information will help on moving day. It will also help you to get organised with internet providers etc. 

Would the developer part exchange my home?

Sometimes, part-exchanging a property can be the easiest and quickest way to purchase a new home.

This process involves a house-builder buying the property in which you live, to enable you to buy a new home.

Developers can also offer to pay estate agents fees, on occasion, to further assist with the transition. 

What is the EPC rating?

New homes will either have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) or SAP (Standard Energy Procedure).

A SAP rating is the calculation that is required in order to produce a Predicted Energy Assessment and an On Construction Energy Performance Certificate.

What are the customer service after-sales processes and snagging processes?

Customer service is hugely important in all property transactions, but particularly when buying a new home.

Developers will offer various post completion service options. Snagging is a standard term used within the property industry. It is used for a ‘small’ defect or problem that remains in your property after building work has been completed.

Housebuilders have different processes in place to rectify these, so it’s worth checking what yours would include.

What appliances are included in the sales price?

This question is mainly to avoid any unexpected extra expense after you move into your new home.

Is there any option to make any upgrades?

Some house builders will offer upgrades at different times of the building process.

There is no hard and fast rule on this, so it’s worth checking with the individual developments.

When are the properties likely to be completed?

Many new-build schemes are sold ‘off plan’, which can make moving home tricky with timings.

Asking for an anticipated build completion time allows you to arrange your plans for the short/medium term.

That said, always bear in mind that anticipated build completion and practical completion can change. 

Is the property standard construction built?

This question is mainly for mortgage companies and home insurers who will want to know the building construction type.

Brief details are included in a CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders) form produced by developers or their representatives.

Is there a reservation fee?

Many new builds are subject to a reservation fee. Depending on the warranty provider, the reservation agreements are likely to have different terms.

Will access roads in the development be adopted by the local authority?

This is worth checking as it could mean additional payments would be required to be made when you move into your new home.

Have the council tax bands been allocated yet?

It’s always prudent to check what your expenses are likely to be.

Is the property connected to mains drainage?

Not all homes are connected to mains drainage. Checking this can avoid any surprise costs when you have moved into your new home.

I’m thinking of buying a new home in Plymouth – what are my options?

If you would like more information or advice about Help to Buy, please call Matt Minett from our Land & New Homes team on 01752 278499, or drop us a message here.

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