Buying a new home is always an exciting, but stressful experience, especially if you've never been through the process previously. Buying a new build property can be even more complicated because of the additional steps that are required to complete a purchase, and with most new build properties being sold "Off Plan" (not yet built) the process has a few extra steps then buying a house that is already built.
Hopefully sharing the steps I went through when buying a new build property Off Plan from Bellway Homes in Manchester might help someone else, although if you're buying from a different builder the steps might be different.
The process starts with finding a development you like, their website is a good start, however what we ended up doing was choosing areas we were interested in, Googling a bit for new build homes in the area and popping in to the showhomes of the various builders.
Once you've found the estate you want, next up is to choose a house type and plot. Plots are generally released in phases, with a set number of each house type released on a first come, first served basis. If you have a particular plot you are interested in and it's not already released, subscribe to the mailing list in the showhome and ask if the salesperson can give you a heads up when it's due to be released so you can be there early to reserve. Some plots have two or three people vying for them so, as the old adage goes, the early bird catches the worm.
Step 1 - Reserving Your Plot
The first step in buying a new build property is reserving the plot, this involves paying an upfront deposit (taken off the price at completion), in Bellway's case it's usually between £500 and £1,000. This will reserve the plot and take it off the market.
Things I would suggest checking before reserving a particular plot:
- Is the plot Freehold? (If it's a house, and it's not, I would walk away personally).
- Are there any estate or management fees for the shared areas? (These are un-regulated if you have a Freehold and can rise at any point, it may also affect your eligibility for a mortgage so if there are any, do your research and make sure when you get to the point of a conveyancer, they research this in detail and provide advice).
- Will the roads, shared areas, etc, be adopted by the council?
- What's included as standard (things like outdoor taps, etc). Bellway normally provide a document with these on.
- Always ask if they're willing to throw in some extras for you, at worst they say no. But you might come out with free flooring, or garden turf. There's various guides online that say you can bargain much harder then that and get a large discount, however I personally would say you only stand a chance with that if it's an unpopular plot.
During reservation, you will be pressured to use Bellway's mortgage advisor, this isn't mandatory. If you have a mortgage advisor lined up, you are probably better using them. The one they suggest does the mortgage advisor appointment in your home and to me personally felt a very pressured sales environment where additional insurances are pushed over an extended appointment. But again, your milage may vary on this.
I would also suggest not using any of their suggested solicitors as that can cause a conflict of interest when the conveyancing is occurring.
After the reservation is complete, and the money is taken the salesperson should arrange an appointment with you to go through the documentation and plot plans, this might not be on the same day if it's a busy launch day, but should be fairly soon after reserving.
Step 2 - Post-Reservation Appointment
During this appointment, the salesperson will go through all of the detailed plans of the house and a checklist to make sure all of the appropriate information has been communicated. This includes boundary lines, what's included, details of bin collection, etc.
I'd suggest going through the checklist in a detailed way, asking as many questions as you can. Also if you have the opportunity, get a copy of the house layouts, electrical plans, etc. It can be really useful later on knowing where everything is routed should you want to do any DIY.
At this point you will probably have your conveyancer appointed and starting their searches. There's a tight 6 week window to get all the legal side sorted and get to exchange. However if there's delays or problems, Bellway generally will provide extensions (in our experience) as long as everything looks like it's progressing.
Step 3 - Extras and Kitchen Choices
So when you walked around the showhome you'll have seen what your new house can be like at it's best, but did you notice all those little plastic plaques showing what in the room is extras? Most things in the house will cost extra with Bellway.
I would suggest setting yourself a budget of how much you are willing to pay, and not going over that. Also keep in mind some things are reasonably priced, however some things are incredibly expensive. Do your research if you can. There's also certain things that can't be done post move without possibly invalidating your warranty, this is things that would alter the external brickwork or electrics, so it's worth reading up and getting those fitted by the builder if you can.
The key bit that caught us out initially is that the extras must be paid for (under a separate contract) prior to the roof trusses being put on, this means that you may only have a matter of weeks from when you reserve to pay for all the extras in full.
Step 4 - Pre-Plaster Appointment
When the house is water-tight, and prior to the plasterboard being put in, you will be given the opportunity to be shown around your house. This will provide you the opportunity to see where all the pipework, electrics, etc are routed and ask any questions you might have to the Site Manager (the person in charge of getting your house built).
Step 5 - Home Demonstration Appointment
Ten working days before your house is ready for completion, and once the builders have sign off from the warranty provider, they will instruct your conveyancer to start preparing for completion, and arrange a home reservation appointment with yourself.
This appointment has two purposes, the first is to familiarise yourself with the workings of all the systems in the house such as the heating, ventilation, kitchen appliances, and so on. The second is to report any initial snags that might have been missed by a quality check prior to the appointment.
The appointment will start by meeting at the sales office, where the Site Manager will meet you and take you on a tour of your house. During this tour ask as many questions as you can and make sure they show you how everything works as they may be in a hurry to get you in and out as quickly as possible as they might have quite a few more scheduled in for the same day. However, don't allow that as knowing how everything works and what to expect over the first year in terms of settlement (things drying out and moving) is really important. Also make sure to make a note of any issues/snags you see as you go round.
At the end of the tour you should be taken back to the sales office where you will be given a checklist and snag list to sign off. Read through the checklist and if you have any questions, or anything has been missed, ask before signing. Also make sure the snag list is filled out and refuse to sign it until it is filled in.
Step 6 - Keys and Day Zero Sign Off
It's completion day, today you get your keys, it's exciting. You've got plans for your house and you can't wait to move in. Once the money hits Bellway's solicitors account, you should get a call from your salesperson who will arrange for you to come over and get your keys.
During the key hand over, you'll be given all the documentation for your house, all the keys for the house you could ever want and a small gift from Bellway. The salesperson will then go through a quick checklist with you and ask you to sign off that the property is clean and that there is no damage to the appliances, sanitaryware, tiles, etc. They should give you a period of time to go check these items, make on the document any damage and then sign.
Usually later that day the Site Manager will pop round and check everything is alright and you can report any additional snags to them.
Step 7 - Three Day Knock
Three days into having the keys, the Site Manager will pop round again (usually arranged at the first knock which days they'll come), they'll check if there's any additional snags and check how work on the already reported snags are progressing.
Step 8 - Seven Day Knock
This is the final time the Site Manager will come round and your final chance to report any snags. You will also be asked to sign off that all snags are completed. If there are outstanding snags, do not sign this document.
Once all snags are signed off as completed, you will be handed over to the Customer Care department.
One Final Thing
I personally would suggest getting an independent snagger/surveyor out to check out the build of the property prior to the three day knock. They will be able to tell you if your property is structurally sound and will usually support you with any questions you may have during the two year warranty period.
Be aware though, they will find a lot of issues, and quite a few will only be minor, but they will also catch the major ones as well, so well worth it in my opinion. We used a company called New Build Inspections who have been really helpful throughout the snagging process as a good, independent source of advice.
I hope this guide helps you in buying a new build with Bellway Homes.