Bodge the builder – can they fix it?
Well probably yes, but they will move heaven and earth to avoid doing so. It is at this time of year that I like to produce a light-hearted article, poking fun at the general house building industry. However the increasing poor quality of new homes and the lack of any discernible after sales service mean that most new home buyers have experiences that are as far from funny as you can get.
Nevertheless, this year I am proud to announce the inaugural winners of the “BODGERS” awards. These are the awards for the very worse in everything housebuilding that I have come across over the last twelve months.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for “Excellence in the Built Environment” was formed in July 2010. The group is chaired by Oliver Colvile MP, with Nick Raynsford and the Earl of Lytton acting as vice-chairmen. The latest APPG Inquiry is looking at the Quality of New Build Housing in England and “examining the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.” (For details of the full committee see end of this article)
All housebuilders pay compensation eventually if it is justified!
When they say, “We don’t pay compensation” they’re lying – they all do!
Is compensation justified? Well the answer is a resounding yes for many new homebuyers that have experienced the inevitable issues with their new home. This often requiring buyers to take time off work, or use paid leave to be at home to give builder’s sub contractors access to fix fully preventable defects with their new home. The general law also compensates new build homebuyers for distress and inconvenience related to defects in their homes.
When new homebuyers bring up the subject of compensation, I can guarantee the initial response from the housebuilder, be it the sales staff, site manager or the housebuilder’s customer care department will be: “it is not our company policy to pay compensation under any circumstances”.
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.
Posted in New Homes, Snagging and Quality
Tagged customer care, end of year figures, help to buy, house builders, new homes, new homes ombudsman, NHBC, quality, snagging, standards
Buying a brand new home built to exacting standards, the latest energy-efficient designs with a ten-year warranty, where could naive, trusting new homebuyers possible go wrong? Read on to discover the twenty most common mistakes made by Britain’s new home buyers and make sure you don’t become yet another victim of the UK housebuilding industry.
1) Buying a new home because they can not because they should Various government schemes such as Help to Buy schemes make it easier and often the only financially possible way to get on the housing ladder. Being able to buy is not alone a good enough reason to buy a new home.
2) Using the housebuilder’s recommended, suggested or nominated firm of solicitors
The number one mistake made by new homebuyers. Despite it being illegal for housebuilders to insist that buyers use a certain solicitor, it still occurs. One major plc housebuilder even pre-filled in reservation forms with their preferred solicitor! By using the housebuilder’s solicitor buyers are not only relinquishing control of the process to the housebuilder, they are actually putting themselves at a legal disadvantage by not having their interests represented. Issues include; buyers legally completing on unfinished houses, a buyer of a flat later discovered specifications had been changed and the length of lease reduced and being told that completion certificates and warranty documents had been received when they had not even been issued, due to unresolved compliance and warranty problems with the home.
3) Not having their new home independently professionally snagged and inspected
The second biggest mistake new homebuyers make is not having their new home professionally snagged and inspected before they legally complete. It is a sad fact that around 96% of all new homes buyers will have defects and problems with their new homes after they have moved in. Many, if not all of these could have been prevented if the property had been properly inspected at each construction stage by both the housebuilder’s site management and warranty provider. It is therefore essential that new homebuyers use an independent professional to thoroughly snag and inspect their new home before they legally complete. This not only ensures it is, at the very least, fully completed before they pay for it, it also highlights all visible defects, snags and breaches of regulations and warranty standards. Unfortunately both the housebuilders and warranty providers cannot be relied upon to properly carry out the inspections and oversee remedial works to correct defects.
4. Not doing any research regarding housebuilders or new homes before buying
Websites such as our sister site www.brand-newhomes.co.uk and various forums have a wealth of information available for the new homebuyer. This enables them to make a fully informed choice, aware of what can and does go wrong and what steps they can take to reduce disappointment and feelings of regret and resentment after moving in.
5. Paying too much – not getting a discount
All house builders have a price list but only a fool actually pays the full price. Site sales staff nearly always have “negotiables” they can offer buyers with discounts amounting to 5-10% off the full advertised price on certain plots at certain times of the year. In addition, many new homebuyers buy at or near the top of the market paying too much only to later watch as the resale value of their home plummets just as interest rates rise and the housing market crashes.
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!
Posted in Help To Buy, New Homes, Persimmon, Snagging and Quality
Tagged barratt, bellway, customer care, help to buy, house builders, new homes ombudsman, persimmon, quality, snagging, standards, taylor wimpey
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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”:-
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.”
I 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?
Even 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!
New home buyers will come across the same phrases and statements used by house builders’ to market their homes and when dealing with distraught new home buyers. But what are the house builders really telling you?
“Attention to detail”
If we can save a few pennies by not doing something and we can get away with it, we will.
“An exciting development”
We hope to make a lot of money on this site
“All of our staff are trained”
We have told them what they can and cannot tell you
“Our friendly site team”
The site manager is always in the sales office chatting and drinking coffee.
Larger than the usual rabbit-hutch new homes we build“Our sales team are fully trained to offer you expert guidance and practical assistance throughout the buying process”
Our sales staff will try to sell you optional extras and force our choice of solicitor and mortgage broker on you.