The Pros and Cons of Buying a New-Build Home

When it comes to buying a new home, house-hunters tend to fall into one of two camps; those who dream of buying a fresh, new-build home and those who couldn’t imagine anything worse.

If you’re planning to buy your first home or move up the property ladder and haven’t worked out which you prefer, it can be difficult to get an unbiased opinion from friends of family that have strong feelings. Before giving in to what other people think is best, consider some of the most common arguments for and against buying a brand-new home.

PRO: Pristine condition

The first thing people tend to think of when picturing a new-build property is its immaculate condition; perfect paintwork, spotless appliances and crisp carpets. Everything has been newly installed, meaning no worries about hidden damage, ageing materials or faulty systems.

What could possibly be bad about that?

Well, for starters, very few – if any – new homes are actually perfect when you move in. In fact, it’s normal practice to draw up a ‘snagging list’ once you move in, documenting all of the little niggles and imperfections that need to be put right. These snags – which generally aren’t covered by your NHBC warranty – might be as small as paint touch-ups or as large as missing appliances, cracked tiles or leaking pipes.

Rather than taking it for granted that your new-build home is flawless, it’s worth getting a professional surveyor in to inspect its condition. You can arrange for them to carry out a snagging survey on your behalf, or even to conduct a RICS Condition Report so you can sleep soundly at night.

CON: The premium price tag

The luxury of being the first person to own a home comes with a premium that will disappear as soon as you walk in the door, much like buying a new car. Over the last couple of years, research has shown that you could be paying as much as 20% more for a home on a new-build development, compared to a similar, ‘pre-loved’ home.

To give yourself even the slightest chance of recouping this additional cost, you’ll need to stay put long enough for house values to catch up, or spend even more money on improvements like landscaping, loft conversions or adding an extension.

So, buying a new-build is a rip-off?

Not necessarily. Unlike purchasing an existing home, buying a property straight from the developer often comes with additional perks. There might be less ‘wiggle room’ in the purchase price, but you can negotiate ‘incentives’ like upgrading your fixtures and fittings for free, having white goods or carpets included in the purchase price or even getting your Stamp Duty paid by the housebuilder.

PRO: A blank canvas

When you buy a home from its previous owners, it’s practically a given that you’ll have to spend some time redecorating, whether that means ripping out a dated bathroom or spending a weekend repainting. With a new-build, buyers usually get to decide the interior décor before the house is even built. From the colour of the walls and carpets to the finish of the light switches and plug sockets, every last detail can be hand-picked.

What’s the catch?

All of your finishes will have to come from the developer’s catalogue, considerably limiting your possibilities. Paying to ‘upgrade’ to the premium options might give you more choice, or you may be able to negotiate for another contractor to come onto site and install the carpets, bathroom suite or kitchen units that you prefer. However, even if your builder allows this, don’t expect them to make this easy for you.

If you dream of a neutral, ‘cookie-cutter’ home then the restrictions of the developer catalogue won’t bother you. On the other hand, homeowners wanting to put their own, bold stamp on a property are likely to be frustrated at having to pay for magnolia walls and beige carpets, only to replace them as soon as they move in.

CON: Modern standards = compact designs

It’s widely acknowledged that builders squeeze as many homes as they can into a development to maximise their profits, shaving inches and feet off of plots wherever possible. This has an impact on room sizes, built-in storage and garden space, so if you’re looking for a spacious family home, a new-build is unlikely to deliver the best value.

On the other hand…

If you would prefer a low-maintenance garden and are focused on getting a starter home or “right-sizing”, then the modest dimensions of a modern new-build might actually suit you better. Plus, buying a contemporary property guarantees that it complies with building regulations, so you won’t have to worry about the safety and efficiency of your electrics, insulation, heating and drainage.

PRO: No onward chain

Everyone has first or second-hand experience of a house sale falling through thanks to a buyer or seller somewhere else in the chain. At best, it’s frustrating; at worst, financially and emotionally devastating. When you’re buying a new-build you don’t have to wait for anyone to move out and only have to focus on getting your current property sold.

No vendor equals no stress, right?

Not exactly, as you’re still buying from a developer who will be focused on achieving their sales targets. Plus your home isn’t actually built yet and even once it is, you could be living on an active building site for weeks, months or even years. Construction delays, feeling pressured to exchange early and questionable after-sales care are all common causes for headaches when you’re buying a new-build, so don’t think it’s going to be smooth sailing.

Before you commit, try talking to buyers that have already moved in to get a feel for their experience, and aim to agree a ‘long stop’ completion date with the builder, which means that you will be due compensation if the house isn’t finished.

Ultimately, the choice between a new-build property or a second-hand house largely hinges on what you expect from a home. Some people relish the idea of having a project while others would rather pay the premium to move straight into somewhere that still smells of fresh paint. The most important thing is that you invest in a property that fits your wants and needs – not what anyone else thinks!

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