Category Archives: Snagging and Quality

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

Buying a new home? How to choose a snagging inspector

There are many firms and individuals that offer so-called professional snagging inspections. Some even refer to historic TV appearances. So how do you decide?

SnaglistNew home buyers need to ensure that the inspector who will be snagging their new home is qualified and experienced and not sub contracted out to a local ex-site manager or finishing manager who cannot currently find a job – the very people who have now made professional independent snagging a necessity!

Cost – Most people’s first consideration. However, apart from making sure any VAT is included in the price cost should not be the primary factor. Most snagging companies charge similar fees anyway. You should not be asking yourself can I afford this, rather than, can I afford not to!

Is the inspector competent?

  • Check the qualifications and experience of the inspector who will be doing the inspection.
  • Can the company provide any testimonials or historic snagging reports as examples?
  • Does the company’s website feature a list of their inspectors along with details of experience and qualifications?
  • Do the inspectors have a thorough knowledge of the latest building regulations and NHBC standards?
  • Are employed inspectors properly interviewed and assessed?

Check the level of service

  • Does the company have trained and knowledgeable staff in an established office? People who are able to provide help and advice over the telephone, not just for the initial inspection, but throughout the two year warranty period.
  • How quickly are they able to carry out the inspection and produce a professional report for the builder to action?
  • Do they offer nationwide inspections or are they just in a particular county or area?
  • Are they able to carry out inspections, even if the house builder or site manager initially refuses access?
  • Does the fee include re visiting the home to check defects have been dealt with or is this only available at extra cost?
    Does the service provided include dealing with any problems or disputes with the builder for the full 2-year warranty or does it just provide a one-off inspection report?
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What are the house builder CEOs doing about the poor quality of their new homes

Read any of the largest house builders year-end reports and it is all about profit, earnings per share, return on capital employed, sales, turnover, number of homes built, the average selling price and land bank values – all financial matters. Forecasts for the coming year are about the potential to increase these numbers. So it should be, after all they are commercial businesses and these numbers matter to investors, shareholders and the banks lending them money.

But what about announcements regarding improving quality and customer satisfaction? Surely these matter to shareholders too, as any successful business must have happy satisfied customers. But it is very rare that any of the CEOs make any reference about the actual quality of their product in their year-end statements. Even when they do, it is normally a reference to the potentially manipulated HBF Customer Satisfaction Star Rating. The star rating is only based on around 30% of the homes that the larger house builders build each year so is hardly representative. CEOs may also mention awards won in the year such as the NHBC Pride in the Job Awards. However, some of the larger builders, whilst winning a handful of awards, have a poor record in the competition considering the number of active sites they have in any given year.

Top left to right: Jeff Fairburn –  Persimmon * Pete Redfern – Taylor Wimpey * Mark Clare – Barratt/David Wilson * Steve Morgan – Redrow * Greg Fitzgerald -Linden.  Bottom left to right:  Ted Ayers – Bellway * Tony Pidgley Berkeley * David Ritchie – Bovis * Stephen Stone – Crest * John Bloor – Bloor

House Builder CEOs

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Why new home buyers should have their homes independently inspected

Are snagging inspectors worth it?  This is a question often asked by new home buyers, especially as it comes at a time when they have other non-optional costs such as stamp duty, legal fees and mortgage fees to budget for.

New homes are required to be built to the relevant building regulations and warranty standards. Whether any new home meets these standards will depend on the level of inspection and supervision throughout the build process. However, compliance should not be taken for granted. 

Snagging inspectorMany people buying a new home do not even think about hiring a professional snagging inspector. They expect, quite rightly, that their new home will be built with care and that all those statements and promises regarding quality from the house builder will be reflected in the finish of their new home. 

According to the HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey, 91% of new homebuyers reported problems with their new home after they moved in. A quarter (27%) of new homebuyers experienced more problems than they had expected. 

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Completion inspections not carried out on at least 24 new homes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Oxford Mail recently reported that David Wilson Homes built 678 new homes on their Shelton Park development in Carterton between 2002 and 2005, but as yet, an “unknown number” of new homes had not been inspected after they were completed. These homes were built before the Barratt £2.7bn acquisition of David Wilson Homes in April 2007.

A spokeswoman for David Wilson Homes said the company was working with the district council to ascertain how many properties do not have a completion certificate, but added that it was anticipated this would be a “relatively low number”. 

To comply with the Building Regulations, all house builders are required to get final inspection completion certificate for every new home constructed and before anyone moves in. The building inspector should be asked to inspect each home on completion, to ensure it has been built to the required building regulations. An inspection ‘CML’ certificate is normally required before mortgage funds are released. Owners without a completion certificate would not be able to sell their homes if they ever chose to.

Building inspectors from West Oxfordshire District Council have now been brought in to inspect the houses and faults have been found in 24 houses so far concerning chimneys, windows and ventilation.

Simon Kirk, David Wilson Homes (Southern) technical director, said: “We are aware of outstanding issues at Carterton. We are working closely with West Oxford District Council to ensure that these issues are resolved.”

West Oxfordshire District Council spokeswoman Carys Davies said:  “Where we have identified issues, David Wilson Homes are implementing the remedial measures, agreed by the district council and the property owner, as quickly as possible so that a completion certificate can be awarded. We have identified 24 properties where works are required and discussions on remedial works are ongoing. This includes work to chimneys, windows and ventilation issues.”

Quite how final inspections could be “missed” on at least 24 new homes and mortgage funds released without a completion certificate for each property has yet to be explained by the organisation engaged to carry out the inspections or by David Wilson Homes Southern. Even more inexplicable is how the various solicitors appointed by the 24 new home buyers also failed to ensure that completion certificates had been issued before legally completing on each property.

This would appear to be an unprecedented catalogue of professional failure at many levels.

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House builders continue to refuse access to snagging inspectors.

Snagging inspectorIt is a sad fact that the practice of house builders denying access to professional snagging inspectors appointed by homebuyers before legal completion is an all too common occurrence. This is an issue for many new home snagging inspectors, I know of one who often travels large distances to inspect a client’s new home only to be refused access when he arrives on site, at least in the first instance.

Quite why house builders and more likely, their site managers would do this is auntitled mystery. The professional snagging inspector is actually doing part of site manager’s job for them. What harm can be done by receiving a detailed logical list of items that require attention before the buyer moves into their new home.

It is far easier for the site management to rectify any snagging issues beforehand, without having to worry about access, keys, appointments, trades not turning up, damage to home owner’s carpets and furniture – all are a potential issue after the buyer has moved in. Indeed an unhappy customer is far more likely to go looking for snags and “find” even more problems with their home. They may even write and complain to the MD and/or CEO or post online!

So why are house builders being deliberately obstructive regarding snagging inspectors from the outset?

Have they got something to hide? Is the home nowhere near completed, even though the buyer has an “inspection visit” booked witht he house builder?

House builders and site managers should realise that the professional snagging inspection will be done anyway and any snags listed will still need to be rectified. The snagging inspector is far more likely to be more thorough and “go to town” on an inspection after being messed about and initially refused access.

A home buyers “inspection visit” is normally nothing more than a home “demonstration” by the site manager – when the buyer is shown things like how the heating works. Buyers are often rushed through room by room and not given enough time to properly inspect the finish and quality – something the inspector would be able to do!

Can house builders refuse access?

The Consumer Code for Home Builders states:

“5.2 Co-operation with professional advisers.”

“Requirement: The Home Builder must co-operate with appropriately qualified professional advisers appointed by the Home Buyer to resolve disputes.”

“Guidance: There should be proper, prompt and professional co-operation between you and the Home Buyer’s appropriately qualified professional advisers. Such advisers will include trading standards departments, Citizens Advice, consumer centres and professional advisers formally appointed under a relevant professional institute’s rules.”

It could be argued that Professional Snagging Inspectors could actually prevent disputes with house builders. Whilst the property is legally owned by the builder, they can control who they allow to have access. House builders can also play the health and safety card too, however, if it is safe for a home buyer to visit, it is safe for professional inspectors.

If your house builder is refusing your snagging inspector access to carry out his inspection, instruct your solicitor not to transfer the final payment and legally complete the purchase until you are fully satisfied with the quality and completeness of your new home. It is advisable to ask him to write to the house builder to confirm that legal completion will not take place until an independent snagging inspection has been carried out and all items in the report have been rectified.

My guess is that they will want their money and allow the inspector access.  House builders are required to carry out and remedy defects reported to them under the warranty for the first two years.

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