Category Archives: Snagging and Quality

Help, advice and information on defects, snagging and quality issues with UK new homes.

How poor site managers win NHBC Quality Awards

Whilst it should always be preferable to buy a new home on a site when the site manager has won an NHBC Quality Award, many new homebuyers will be amazed to discover that actual quality of the new homes being built has very little to do with the actual winning of NHBC awards for quality!

The NHBC have said “The judging process does not guarantee that every home built on a site will be without issues and our 10 year Buildmark warranty and insurance cover is there to provide protection to the homeowner should problems arise following completion.”
Perhaps this is why NHBC Quality Award-winning site managers are not necessarily the best site managers


A quality award-winning site manager but his buyers didn’t get a quality new home!

By using the right “recipe”, even the most dim-witted site manager can (and does!) win an NHBC PITJ Quality Award by following the suggestions below!

Work for the right house builder
Every year, certain housebuilders have far more NHBC award-winning site managers than others. So by working for Barratt or Taylor Wimpey, a site manager is around 10 times more likely to win an award than he would be working for Persimmon/Charles Church for example. Differing cultures, priorities and enthusiasm for the awards may explain this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet support from managers
It is essential that the site manager receive positive backing from his contracts manager and regional construction director. Without their input and support, even the best site manager will have no chance, whatever the NHBC may say about PITJ on their website; “achieving the highest possible standards and best practice in house building”

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A personal plea to Construction Minister Nick Boles

Dear Mr Boles,
You recently said that you regard house builders as the “unacceptable face of capitalism” after seeing first hand the shoddy workmanship of two house builders in your own constituency, adding housebuilders   “need to design beautiful places that respect the local environment, and they need to build houses to a high quality which will stand the test of time. If they don’t, I cannot and will not defend them.”

I have been campaigning for 8 years via my website and my blog to make the public more aware of the poor quality and design of new homes and housebuilders’ poor and often non-existent after sales service.

Your government has done more for the house building industry than any other government and continues to be the “gift that keeps on giving”. Only this week, stamp duty was reformed. Whilst this is good news for the majority UK house buyers and very welcome, it is also particularly good news for housebuilders, now able to increase their prices even more now that stamp duty threshold ‘chokes’ have been removed. This follows the 20% discount on new homes for first-time buyers under 40, in addition to: NewBuy, FirstBuy and the biggest taxpayer subsidy of all: “Help to Buy” which has ‘helped’ house builders to record profit rises by increasing average selling prices by 20%. Furthermore, your government has relaxed planning rules, requirements to build affordable housing,  Section 106 obligations, Community Infrastructure Levy and the zero-carbon homes policy. There has never been a better time to be a major British home builder.  Ask, and ye shall receive!

If it was not for the dogged determination of Kirsty Burton and her neighbours, perhaps you would never have witnessed first hand the dire quality standards at a Persimmon estate in your constituency. You personally also discovered the complete contempt housebuilders have for anyone calling them to task over the quality of their homes and their indifference to dealing with defects in their customer’s homes. Quite frankly, if a government minister is unable to get a satisfactory response from Persimmon CEO Jeff Fairburn, what chance have the buyers of this company’s new homes?

But please do not make the mistake that this is a new phenomenon,  restricted to just one or two housebuilders on a handful of developments. It is a national epidemic!

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Do the NHBC give Quality Awards only to site managers building high quality new homes?

The NHBC 2014 ‘Pride in the Job’ Quality Awards have recently been announced and it is clear that most of the major house builders have not improved the quality of the homes they build.  See the house builder league tables here for awards in 2014 and previous years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast year Barratt made history with 102 of their site managers winning awards for quality. This year, despite building more homes on more sites, Barratt won 13 fewer awards – 89 in total, followed by Taylor Wimpey with 70 – just two more than last year!

The remainder of the largest house builders won just a handful of quality awards, much as they did last year – Linden 5, Bellway 29, Redrow 13, Crest 12, Bovis 4 and Berkeley 12. The biggest shock was again Persimmon, the largest house builder by market value, winning a pitiful 8, even less than the meagre 13 their site managers won in 2013!   Clearly this company has problems and appears to be indifferent to the quality of the homes it builds.

It is becoming an increasing concern that the NHBC hand out awards to certain builder’s site managers regardless of their personal management ability or the quality of homes built on their site.  TWPITJ1Last year, the NHBC gave Taylor Wimpey’s Richard Crawford a Quality Award for his site at The Chariots in Andover.  Since then, many unlucky homebuyers have discovered  their homes were not only poor quality, but in some cases also potentially dangerous, with various electrical faults despite passing an “inspection” and incorrectly wired boilers.  Taylor Wimpey 9 months small sizeOne buyer (full story here) has taken over 35 days off work to allow various trades access to his home to fix and repair the defective workmanship. So far (8 months on) CEO Peter Redfern has failed to get personally involved and has not even replied to the owner’s many detailed letters.   Yet this site manager won an NHBC Award for “Quality” for this site!

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Why new home buyers need a New Homes Ombudsman.

TW Snag Light SwitchThe quality of new homes is getting worse as housebuilders show contempt for their customers by refusing to tackle the issues in their poor quality, defect-ridden new homes.

This government has bent over backwards to help the house building industry, with taxpayer-funded subsidies such as the controversial Help to Buy equity scheme (£791million loaned for 19,394 new homes to 31 March 2014) and the ongoing relaxation of planning rules. So why are Britain’s housebuilders not doing anything to improve the dire quality of the new homes they are building?

The quality of new homes is getting worse as this recent article in the Daily Mail demonstrates; caused by a combination of a lack of skilled tradesmen, insufficient construction time, poor site management and the builder’s CEOs  only caring about profit and numbers (and their bonuses!) – quality doesn’t come first (if it ever did), in fact it doesn’t even come fourth!  To add insult to injury, housebuilders are even routinely refusing to take any action to fix defects that unlucky buyers discover in their new homes once the initial excitement wears off, coming up with “it’s within tolerance” and other excuses in an attempt to justify not fixing defects in their new homes.

Taylor Wimpey 9 months small size

Extensive remedial works still being done in a Taylor Wimpey new home nine months after moving in.

The sad fact is that the quality of new homes and many housebuilder’s reputations are now so bad, an increasing number of new home buyers are employing professional snagging inspectors to independently check for defects in their new homes before they move in. But yet again, housebuilders often refuse point blank to allow access to the new home for buyer’s inspectors until after legal completion, as a matter of “company policy”. This means that any issues identified cannot be fixed prior to occupation and even if the builder does attend to them later, (a big if!) it causes maximum inconvenience for the consumer taking time off work, moving furniture, mess etc.

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HBF 2014 Customer Satisfaction survey results published.

The Home Builders Federation has recently released the results of the National New Home Customer Satisfaction Survey 2014. The first page of the “results” has been used by the HBF as an opportunity for a public relations promotion of new homes.   Crikey, they must be good!   Who would have known?

“High level of Homeowner satisfaction”   “Customer satisfaction levels for new homes have consistently been extremely high”

Barratt NHBF Star ratingQuite a claim considering that the results are from just 32,137 new home owners out of a total of the 109,370 new homes completed during 2013 – that’s just 29.4%!  Only 55% of the surveys sent out were returned – or used to compile the results!

We have the old chestnuts that new homes are “fresh, bright and clean” – another surprise given that new homes are normally dark due to fewer and smaller windows and small cramped rooms.  As for clean, many new homes are handed over in a terrible state after an ineffective builder’s clean.       “Blank canvas”  “better for the environment” – it’s all there,   it’s all good,  what’s not to like?

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House Builder Star Ratings: Can you trust them?

Don’t believe the spin that house builders tell you regarding their customer survey feedback.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s nearly that time of year again, when the Home Builders Federation (HBF) publish the 2014 results of their annual New Homes Customer  Satisfaction  Survey for the year to 30 September 2013.  Released just in time to get those new 2014 – ‘5-Star’ flags flying on builders’ developments in time for Easter Bank holiday sales weekend.  No doubt, as was the case last year, nearly all the house builders that “take part” will be rated five stars again this year, so a big pat on the back to the house building industry…….- you’ve all done very well!………Or have they?

Young Mr Grace

“you’ve all done very well!”

The HBF say: “Star Ratings are based on results of the National New Homes Customer Satisfaction Survey, an independent industry survey. The survey operated by NHBC, is entirely independent of any builder or builder group and is independently validated by Reading University.”

Really?    The HBF survey is sent out by the NHBC. Far from being independent, these two organisations are inter-linked, with six representatives from the HBF sitting on the NHBC Council and Stewart Baseley,  the HBF’s Executive Chairman, also being an NHBC Board member along with Greg Fitzgerald  CEO of Linden Homes. 

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Tolerances used by builders to defend poor quality new homes

A Consistent Approach To Failure?
Have you ever heard the phrase “within tolerance”? If you are a new home buyer the chances are it will have been said by a housebuilder’s representative using an industry-agreed degree of tolerance to dismiss your complaint of poor quality and justify an aspect the finish of your new home as acceptable and “within tolerance”.

The NHBC’s publication “A Consistent Approach to Finishes” was originally written for its inspection and a claim staff and was distributed to house builders in Spring 2000. It was also made available to homeowners who were in dispute with their house builder.

A Consistent Approach to Finishes” set out to formally publish guidelines that could be used to settle disputes with disgruntled new home buyers, especially useful and often quoted and used by housebuilders when any remedial action would be messy, very expensive, inconvenient and time consuming to carry out!

These tolerances are now contained in Part 1 General Information of NHBC Standards – Chapter 1.2.

Brickwork wall at PersimmonThe NHBC state that:
“many sources of information relating to tolerances and finishes have been reviewed in the preparation of this Chapter. The tolerances and finishes given here are considered to be appropriate for the house-building industry and take precedence over other recommendations. This Chapter is not intended to deal with every situation that may arise and discretion should be exercised in its application in specific circumstances. The nature and extent of work necessary to remedy minor variations from the tolerance and finishes given should be proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances.”

Here are a few of the tolerances stated in the NHBC’s “A Consistent Approach To Finishes”:-

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Shocking example of standards at Taylor Wimpey

Can new home buyers really believe what the house builders claim on their websites and in their marketing material?  A quote from Taylor Wimpey’s own website claims:

“The standard of home building in the UK has never been higher than it is today”       “We’re dedicated to building quality new homes. It’s the core of our business, which means that we know a thing or two about it.”

Victor MeldrewI don’t believe it!   

Even Victor Meldrew would have trouble with this defect! 

If this really is the case, how could a defect like this happen?
TW Snag Light SwitchEven worse, why was it not seen by anyone and corrected prior to legal completion?

“Every team has a dedicated Site Manager, who is responsible for making sure that your home is built to the highest possible standard.”

So how and why did this happen?
This defect was created at the first-fix stage. The door frame should have been packed off the wall nib using a timber stud to ensure the light switch would fit between the architraves later on. The light switch may even have been fitted in the wrong position altogether, at the very least the electrician should have noticed there could be an issue during his second-fix. The “dedicated site manager” didn’t check this stage of the build presumably!

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How the house builders could improve the quality of new homes

The standard and quality of new homes is not improving. Despite surveys and reviews, time and time again, house builders have demonstrated that they only care about profit and numbers. This was recently confirmed to a Taylor Wimpey new home owner last month, when the company’s regional director, visiting because the new home had over 400 faults including potentially dangerous electrical  work, said: “we’re here to deliver profit for our shareholders”   adding:  “we don’t build perfect houses”


Remedial works cost builders money!

Indeed, many disappointed new homebuyers believe they should at least be forced to try to improve the quality of the homes they build!  The reality is, it wouldn’t be too difficult to do.  If there was a will, there is a way!  It certainly would be unlikely to reduce the house builders’ profitability because it always costs less to do the work right first time, than it does to go back over and over again.  All a successful business needs is great a product and satisfied customers. The house builders have neither, making their profit predominantly as a result of planning gain, land speculation and on the back of government initiatives such as New Buy and the Help to Buy subsidy!

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NHBC say new home buyer’s feedback is increasing

NHBC LogoThe National House Building Council’s (NHBC) Annual Review 2012/13 announced survey results showing of 29,330 new home buyer’s, 91% are ‘very’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with the quality of their new home and the same number would recommend their house builder to a friend. The NHBC claim “with another year-on-year increase, these levels of customer satisfaction still match or exceed those in almost any other industry or sector and are testament to the industry’s commitment to deliver quality new homes that meet the expectations of their homebuyers.” 

HBF 2013 5 starHowever, the “increase” is just 1% more than the HBF 2013 survey results from a sample size of just 20,313. The HBF survey represents barely a fifth of the total number (109,730) of privately sold new homes built in the survey year, which is hardly representative. 

The NHBC claim to send out over 100,000 questionnaires annually with a response rate was between 50 and 75%. They have now also launched a new online platform enabling participating house builders to easily review their feedback in much more detail than before and they can also compare their customer satisfaction scores with those of their competitors. The platform also gives builders opportunity to add a number of bespoke questions to the surveys, allowing them to change the questionnaire to meet their own specific requirements. 

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