Beware of buying a new home rushed for the house builder’s year-end figures

In the days of British Leyland, it was often said that a car with several faults was a “Friday Car” – meaning it had been built on a Friday, with workers not being quite as attentive to quality and what they were doing as perhaps they should have been. Fortunately, the car industry has come a long way since those days with both the quality and reliability of new cars much improved. 

However the same cannot be said of the house building industry. New homes are still being built with as many, if not more faults and defects than they were 20 years ago. The situation is even worse in an “end-of-year figures” new home. These are homes that are sold and the construction process rushed to enable legal completions to take place so as many homes as possible can included in the house builder’s financial year-end report to the City and shareholders. Homes built in the run up to the end-of-year date are always of inferior quality, even worse than the national house builders usually build, with a lower overall standard of finish, incomplete works and forced drying out causing excessive cracking to finishes. 

Rush job!  Will it be completed in time for you to move in 4 weeks?

Rush job! Will it be completed in time for you to move in 4 weeks?

Each regional office will report how many homes they have built and sold, within the company’s financial year. The overall total is then recorded in the firm’s final annual financial accounts. Each region is given a target number of completions to achieve each year and everything (and anything) is done to ensure the required figure is reached. In the past it has been known that buyers were handed large cheques by directors as a “sweetener” to persuade them to legally complete on their new home – even though it was nowhere near finished or even ready for occupation. It was not unheard of for buyers to move in with their electricity and heating powered by a temporary generator or their water supply provided from a hose connected to a standpipe in the footpath! Another ruse sometimes used when a part-exchange is involved, was to let the buyer remain in their old home whilst their new was being finished.  Quite frankly this practice was nothing short of fraud. 

All of this and more took place in the days before CML completion certificates were required. These are issued by an independent Building Control Inspector, often the NHBC, following a satisfactory final inspection of the finished property. They are required before the lender will release mortgage funds, usually 14 days before legal completion.  The idea being that the home is actually 100% finished before the mortgage is released. That’s the theory! However, despite this requirement, house builders have still managed to work around it. You can only draw you own conclusions as to why a Building Control Inspector would issue a CML final certificate on a home that is not complete but it does happen, or how some new homes have even legally completed without having a final inspection or certificate. 

It is becoming increasingly common in the run up to year–end figures, for professional snagging inspectors, appointed by concerned new home buyers, being denied access to carry out their inspection until after legal completion. The only explanation can be because the homes are nowhere near ready for a snagging inspection, yet somehow they pass the CML inspection. One unlucky buyer who legally completed, found that part of his roof was missing, his bathroom was half finished in terms of fittings and tiling and some of the kitchen units were missing. Unfortunately he had used the house builder’s suggested solicitor – never a good idea whatever a house builder tells you! After all, you need your solicitor to be 100% focused on what is best for you the buyer, not his builder mates! Under the Consumer Code for Home Builders, house builders are not permitted to require buyers to use their specific firm of solicitors. But it doesn’t stop then doing it!

The house builders’ directors, from the CEO down to the regional MD, construction and sales directors, can all lose substantial bonuses if the target figures are not achieved. The bonuses are often based on an ‘all or nothing’ basis, meaning if just one home is lost they receive no bonus at all. The bonuses can be quite substantial, amounting to 30% – 50% of the director’s basic salary, so it is hardly surprising greed takes priority over quality at this time of year!   It has also been known that some regional directors have even lost their jobs if they failed to reach the required target figure. 

So when are the various house builder’s year-end dates?   You certainly won’t find them in the sales brochure!   Thankfully you can find most of the larger builder’s the year-end and half-year dates here.

It should be noted that the majority are 31 December and those that are not, often have this as the half-year date for their interim statement – again often resulting is homes rushed so they can be included before the deadline. 

So here are some more reasons why it is better to avoid reserving a new home in September or October that is not due to be finished until late November or December, apart from the fact it will have been rushed, with no time for checking or snagging and will generally be of sub-standard quality:

  • The home will have been built and finished in the worst of the British weather. It will have got wetter and will take longer to fully dry out, resulting in even more shrinkage cracking. Be aware that minor cracking is not covered under the NHBC warranty!
  • You may be ‘on your own’ of you have any problems with your new home as all house builders will close down around from as early as 20th December 2013 and may not be back until 6th January 2014. They should give you emergency numbers for plumbing leaks, heating and electrical faults but don’t expect anyone to answer the phone!
  • It is darker at this time of year and apart from being rushed, your new home will have been decorated in artificial light. In the spring sunlight, you will be able to see all the blemishes and poor quality finishing.
  • Adverse weather delays and fewer daylight hours, may result in the external areas are not being fully finished.
  • Everything is more expensive the nearer you get to Christmas – removals, carpets, solicitors etc. The TV aerial, satellite TV, telephone and broadband could all slip until the New Year unless you are very organised.
  • Don’t expect to get any Christmas cards. You will have a new address and the postal address itself will be new too, so deliveries and post are more likely to go astray in the busy Christmas period, or be delivered to the closed sales office.
  • The roads and footpaths will get covered with mud once building work resumes after the Christmas shutdown. Do you really want mud on your new carpets?
  • If you move in the winter, it is more likely it will be raining on the day you move in.
  • Your road could be pitch black after dark as the streetlights may not be installed or working yet.
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