Tag Archives: help to buy

Persimmon Homes Announce Independent Review

Persimmon Homes announces an “independent review of workmanship, culture and customer care”

Following on from Persimmons announcement last month of its 1.5% homebuyer retention scheme, made in response to growing criticism about the quality of its homes, Britain’s worst housebuilder – rated only 3 stars by its own customers five years in a row, is now launching an independent review of its customer care, culture and workmanship as part of an attempt to move on from the executive pay scandal and complaints about its defective homes.The wide-ranging, independent review will be led by Stephanie Barwise QC of Atkin Chambers,  and will look into Persimmons customer care approach, systems and culture, quality assurance processes, and the speed and consistency of its response to issues. The company intends to publish the findings towards the end of 2019. It seems strange that Persimmon has chosen to employ a QC to conduct its independent review. However with her “expertise lies in civil engineering and construction disputes” and “considerable experience in alternative dispute resolution methods including adjudication and mediation.” perhaps not.Independent review of Persimmon homesSince the introduction of Help to Buy in 2013, Persimmons share price has more than doubled. Persimmon relies heavily on the scheme with almost half of its buyers having used Help to Buy last year.

In a company statement Persimmon said:

“Persimmon has been focused on rapid change and improvement of its customer care culture and operations, and on eliminating cases of poor workmanship. To assess the effectiveness of the new measures and processes and to determine whether they appropriately position the business for the future, Persimmon’s board … has commissioned an independent review.”

This Persimmon “independent review of its culture, workmanship and customer care” looks to me little more than a plastic, public relations stunt designed to obtain some credibility with third parties and a government that has already indicated it is mindful to suspend Persimmons access to Help to Buy. Even the death of a 4-year old child caused by a defect in a Persimmon home didn’t force change, but as soon as James Brokenshire threatens to take away access to the Help to Buy gravy train, Persimmon make two press release announcements in as many weeks!

Persimmons culture is one of unparalleled boardroom greed. Driven by a hunger for increasing profits year on year, whatever the cost, with total indifference to its reputation, build quality and its customers.

Year after year Persimmon has said in their annual reports:

In 2016, Jeff Fairburn said:

“The Group’s priority is to serve our customers well by providing good quality new homes and great service. During 2015 we invested substantial resources in new customer focused initiatives to improve our customers’ buying experience and our NHBC/HBF 3 star rating.”

In 2017, it was repeated:

“During 2016 we have continued to invest additional resources in new customer focused initiatives to improve our customers’ buying experience and our NHBC/HBF 3 star rating.

In 2018:

“Delivering good quality new homes with a high standard of customer service is a priority for the Group. Although we have increased our build numbers significantly in recent years, our quality control procedures and increased use of standard house types have helped to maintain our build quality.”

This year Persimmon said:

“Delivering a good quality product for our customers and providing high levels of customer service throughout the home buying process is a top priority for the business.” and more recently: “we hear the message that we need to continue to raise our game in customer care.”

Do Persimmon Homes really need an in-depth, independent review of the way it has been operating to find out where it could, if it chose to do so, improve? It is inconceivable that those on the board haven’t known for many years what they are doing, building very poor quality defective new homes and what they are most definitely not doing, putting their customer first. Why do Persimmon routinely refuse to allow buyers’ professional snagging inspectors access before legal completion?  “Company policy” they tell their customers”

Persimmon could ask their employees. Here is what a Contracts manager no less said about the company!

Ask the thousands of unhappy customers


And Persimmon need an independent review?
They could ask their buyers 13,476 members on the Facebook Group Persimmon Unhappy Customers’  There are many stories like this online, going back many years. Persimmon even made a counter claim against one of their buyers for the cost of repairs to his home! Persimmon appear to go out of their way to be confrontational and intransigent to any customers who take issue with the builder. The phrase “the Customer is always right” isn’t even on their radar if this story from the North East Evening Chronicle is anything to go by. Persimmon   failed to fix defects for nine months in this house.

Why don’t they also publish their 9-month NHBC customer survey results for the last 5 years?  Plenty in there to show those head burying, bean-counters on the board that are now, apparently, so keen to discover where it all is going wrong!

So do you really need a root and branch “independent review” of your business practices at Persimmon. It’s obvious what is wrong when you do things like this?

“They chop down trees, build shoddy homes and go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays they sell dodgy leaseholds and have buttered scones for tea!”

Cutting down around 260 trees and more than 80 metres of hedgerow from the eastern boundary of their Millennium Farm development is hardly going to improve Persimmons public image. North East Lincolnshire Council believe Persimmon have “breached planning regulations”, and has launched an investigation to discover whether they have been working outside their agreed terms.

Persimmon built homes with missing cavity fire barriers. In Cornwall  In Devon with their development in Cranbrook was the first development site identified. In fact this could be a widespread systemic omission/defect. Perhaps Persimmon owe it to their customers to be conducting an independent review into why and how hundreds, maybe thousands, of their new homes can be built with a potentially fatal defect.

When it is discovered by buyers they first deny it then say it is limited to one site. Eventually forced to check many developments as the issue becomes known to BBC Watchdog.   The difference between Persimmons financial performance and customer satisfaction is so stark, this, surely, is an area where the government should take an interest. James BrokenshireYet the most we have heard are comments from James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, that he will be “considering carefully” how developers that are part of an updated Help to Buy scheme from 2021 should “meet the standards and quality that customers expect and deserve”. We’ve heard it all before James – nothing has changed! Be careful, as voters will remember you as ‘James Brokenpromises’

Persimmons latest headline grabbing homebuyer retention scheme is strangled by restriction and limited only to the defects buyers spot the day they get their keys. How daft do Persimmon think we all are?

These smokescreen PR gestures will not change Persimmon. In fact, I firmly believe that once the company has fooled government and secured approval to continue with the next extension of Help to Buy, the homebuyer retention scheme will be quietly ended and the independent review report will be ignored, gathering dust on a boardroom shelf. If Persimmon did really want to change, it needs to do much more and even then, it will take a generation to repair its terrible reputation as Britain’s worst housebuilder.

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Annual Report 2015/16 – Consumer Code for Home Builders

The first  Annual Report by the Consumer Code for Home Builders since April 2014, was finally published this month.

In May 2014, I asked the question, Is the Consumer Code for Home Builders (CCHB) fit for purpose? In March this year I wrote that the Consumer Code for Home Builders is failing new homebuyers. This voluntary code was launched in April 2010 and has been inadequate and failing new homebuyers ever since.

In July, a report published by the APPG Inquiry Into Quality of New Homes found that:

  • “The Code [Consumer Code for Home Builders] does not appear to give homebuyers the safeguards we think they should expect.
  • It does not appear to us objectively to offer consumers a wholly satisfactory form of redress.
  • The Consumer Code for Homebuilders is limited in its scope.”
APPG Inquiry Report Publication 13 July 2016

APPG Inquiry recognises a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman should be set up.

The APPG Inquiry “Key recommendation” is the setting up of a government-appointed New Homes Ombudsman.  It said that the Ombudsman:  would need to be completely independent and replace the dispute resolution service offered as part of the Consumer Code for Home Builders.”

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Plans To Axe Red Tape – Another Gift From Government To Housebuilders

A Conservative Government – the gift that keeps on giving!
Champagne corks must be popping in the boardrooms of housebuilders across the country as this Conservative Government announces yet more plans to help the industry with a “Cutting Red Tape” review.Sitework BlogNotwithstanding the unprecedented boost that the housebuilders have already received from this Government – plc housebuilders were the biggest winners from the recent Autumn Statement after George “we are the builders”  Osborne announced a raft of new changes that further support the sector in the relentless headline grabbing political pressure to ramp up UK homebuilding.

George Osborne Hi vis 1In his Autumn Statement, Osborne announced a number of measures which include plans for a £7bn house building programme, a boost to the Help to Buy scheme, with Londoners a 40% loan rather than the previously-announced 20% loan and more freedom for Local Authorities to sell off land. The main benefit being from the shared ownership scheme and the extension of Help to Buy. The big seven: Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Berkeley, Bellway, Redrow and Bovis will benefit the most from the moves.

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Help To Buy Helps Trigger Large Bonus Windfalls

Help to Buy helps trigger large bonus windfalls for housebuilder CEOs and senior directors.
Help To Buy jpgOn 17 March 2014 shares in the housebuilders surged up to 6% as George Osborne announced he was extending the Help to Buy Equity Share on new homes, until 2020. The announcement came less than a year after Help to Buy first became available. It had originally been due to end next year! However the second part of Help to Buy, the UK-wide mortgage guarantee scheme, is still due to finish at the end of December 2016.

At the time the chancellor announced that an extra £6bn would be put into the English scheme, allowing a further 120,000 new homes to be built. However there is little evidence that the housebuilders are responding by building more homes despite Help to Buy “helping” them to around 35% of their sales last year.

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Summary Of Proposals To Ensure Better Quality New Homes.

Well it was about time something was done regarding the dire quality of new homes built  in the UK and the total indifference shown by the housebuilders to even begin address the thousands of defective new homes handed over to their misty-eyed customers every year. Something they have all been aware of for many years. This APPG Inquiry is a start.

Whether this latest inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment actually forces through the changes so badly required remains to be seen. At the outset, it is only an inquiry and we have had many previously including The Barker Review of Housing Supply in 2004 and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ‘Home Building Consumer Survey’ of 2007. Yet as any UK new homebuyer will tell you, the quality of new homes has not improved. In the 2015 results of the HBF New Homes Customer Satisfaction Survey, some 93% of respondents had problems with their new home. Indeed the industry has done such a good job of normalising defective new homes that all of those surveyed actually expected to have some problems after they moved in.

The inquiry will look at the quality of UK new home building and the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.

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Blame the rich and housebuilders for rising house prices

The highest paid 1% receives around 8% of the national income. The wealthiest 1% owns 23% of the national wealth. It is in property where greatest inequalities lie, not income.

Most people are in favour of higher wages and benefits for the poor, higher taxes on the rich 1% and the provision of food, clothing, shelter and health care for all. Who are against this?  The rich.   Even though the vast majority of our population is in favour of progressive and fairer policies, the rich are better placed to influence politics. Why else do wealthy individuals give so generously to political parties? The rich have always prioritised their own self-interests above the needs of the many.

The UK residential market is a prime example. The rich have squeezed out any resemblance of affordability for the many, through ever-higher house prices and declining real term wages. Demand from private buy-to let landlords, who have the benefit of generous tax breaks that homebuyers do not, have helped force house prices ever higher at the expense of working first-time buyers.

Policies such as ‘Right to Buy’ have reduced the amount of affordable, state-owned homes for rent by people on low wages or benefits. The result, those that need to rent are being forced into the private rental sector, with higher demand from those receiving housing benefit resulting in the rich landlords increasing rents ever higher, when rents can be covered by taxpayers to the tune of up to £15,000 a year, irrespective of what is considered a ‘reasonable’ or ‘affordable’ rent.

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Help to Buy ISA for first-time buyers in 2015 Budget

Budget2015Designed as a cynical piece of electioneering, the Chancellor announces the Help to Buy ISA in his Budget speech. Like most knee-jerk policies, this was intended to attract the maximum amount of media coverage whilst the benefits to first-time buyers will be minimal. As Merryn Somerset-Webb sees it in MoneyWeek: “Handing over free money to compensate for rising house prices” in an “attempt to buy the votes of the young rather than actually help them”  – I could not have put it better.

The new Help to Buy ISA accounts (‘Bisa’) are expected to be available from Autumn 2015 until 2019, but once an account is opened there is no limit on how you long you can save for. Under the rules, buyers will be able to pay in an initial £1,000 and then save up to £200 per month. As with existing ISAs, any returns will be free of tax but in addition, for every £200 saved, taxpayers will contribute a further £50, up to a maximum bonus of £3,000 on £12,000 saved. The government 25% contribution bonus only becomes payable when the funds are used to buy a property.

help_to_buy_isa_-_full_size

The ‘Bisa’ accounts will be limited to one per person rather than one per home, meaning first-time buyers saving for a deposit for a home will both receive a bonus. So a couple saving towards a first home together could benefit from a potential bonus of up to £6,000 as both savers would be eligible for a £3,000 bonus. The bonus will apply to both the amount a person saves into their Help to Buy ISA and the interest that has built up during the period the account is open. The bonus will be limited to first-time buyers’ home purchases up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 outside London. Help to Buy ISAs will only be available to those aged 16 and over.

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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 www.brand-newhomes.co.uk and my blog www.new-home.blog.co.uk 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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Taylor Wimpey CEO Peter Redfern suggests there is scope to increase prices of new homes even in a falling market!

The Daily Telegraph recently published a story featuring Taylor Wimpey CEO Peter Redfern claiming that new regulations following the Mortgage Market Review, which have restricted borrowing for second-hand homes, have not adversely impacted the business and Help to Buy is still being used by their first time buyers. The company also announced that it is fully sold for 2014 and has confirmed a profit upgrade.

Pete Redfern

Peter Redfern

Mr Redfern, in a somewhat blatant attempt to talk up the prospect of further  new home price increases, is claiming that housebuilders have more room to adjust prices upward since they were starting from a lower base, having fallen behind valuations for existing homes after the great recession. So are we to interpret that, housebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey have not increased their prices in line with the general local market since 2008?

He said:

“Housebuilders have to keep liquidity in the business and have more room for price adjustment sellers of existing homes by contrast may take their property off the market if they are not getting the right offer. Big houses in the country market are also proving harder to sell, where housebuilders are not that prevalent. This is having a negative impact on the outlook for the market for existing homes.”

Schemes, in particular Help to Buy, continue to give the new home industry a taxpayer-subsidised helping hand.   “………..attractive products that help credit availability and affordability – whereas stricter mortgage rules have started to affect sales in the second-hand market. After the downturn mortgage lenders penalised new build specifically apartments as they felt young buyers posed a greater risk with good incomes but low deposits, but these differences are starting to unwind.”

If new homes were penalised, it was because there is always  a 10-20% price premium. Lenders required higher deposits to give more of a buffer to account for the premium and added risk of steeper falls in valauations should the market turn.

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First-time buyers under the age of 40 are to be offered 20% discounts on 100,000 new homes.

Ho Ho Ho! –  Christmas comes early for house builders as David Cameron is set to announce another extension of the Help to Buy scheme at his party’s conference in Birmingham this week. 

Help To Buy 3 jpgUnder the latest proposals, David Cameron anticipates that up to 100,000 houses would be built on so-called ‘brownfield’ land and offered for sale only to young people buying their first home in England. The new homes would be offered at discounted prices of 20% less than their market value.  Exactly who will be valuing the new homes and “comparable” homes has yet to be clarified, but it should be expected that the house builders would set the “market prices” and then “discount” them by 20%. So, in theory at least, a new house worth £200,000 could be bought by a first-time buyer under 40 for £160,000 with a potential saving of £40,000. 

To make the discount possible, the Conservatives are proposing to exempt house builders from certain taxes and requirements such as the Section 106 provision of affordable and social housing, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the Zero Carbon Homes Standard on these sites. In addition, brownfield sites – land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes – and surplus public sector land  will be released to house builders at knock-down prices to fund the discounting – savings which house builders will be “obliged” to pass on to buyers. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHouse builders will be required to demonstrate, before planning approval is given, that the homes they are proposing to build will be at least a 20% cheaper than comparable houses in order to qualify for the discounted land and tax exemptions. That could mean that at the outset, the homes would have a price set before planning and could perhaps discourage house builders from land banking these sites. Brownfield land can be notoriously costly to develop. Previous industrial and commercial sites are often contaminated and the demolition and  clean up of toxins can be as time-consuming as it is expensive. Factor in that it will also be necessary to bring in clean topsoil and that costly foundation designs may also be required, it is not surprising that the house builder’s preference is always going to be Greenfield land. 

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