The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is introducing a national quality mark for new housing that it claims should give home buyers and renters a clear indication of the quality and performance of a new home.
The BRE says it is a “world leading building science centre that generates new knowledge through research. This is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment.” The BRE claim its ownership structure enables the BRE to be “held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of specific commercial interests.” Allegedly protecting the “impartiality and objectivity of the BRE Group in providing research and guidance.” The BRE Trust is a registered company limited by guarantee and also registered as a charity in England.
A number of stakeholders are currently working with BRE on the development of their Home Quality Mark from its beta testing stage. Of the housebuilders, only Galliford – with its perennial ‘four-star’ HBF-rated Linden subsidiary, ‘minnow’ Cala, and Kier are currently involved at present.
CALA Homes, plan to trial the Mark. Cala Chief Executive Alan Brown said: “Independent benchmarking of new homes is hugely important. For CALA, it provides third party recognition of our commitment to consistently build high quality, sustainable homes. For homeowners, it offers a simple and reliable measure of the energy performance of the property they are buying. We look forward to working with BRE on the new Home Quality Mark.”
The BRE say “the new national quality mark will transform the way consumers choose the homes they buy and rent and will provide house builders with a valuable independent quality mark they can use to highlight the innovative features of their homes and differentiate themselves in the marketplace at a time of rapid growth.”
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.
Get 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”
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.
House builders are, according to yesterday’s Daily Mail are being “forced” to hire bricklayers from Portugal on £1,000 a week because of a shortage of workers that are able to do the job. According to recruiters, a shortage of skilled people in the UK is forcing firms to look abroad for construction workers, who can demand double the “usual” day rate.
But the influx of overseas tradesmen could actually be good for the industry. Most European workers are more polite, co operative and produce higher standards of work than British tradesmen. Many site managers would actually prefer a Lithuanian or Pole to many British workers!
James Hick, from the recruitment company Manpower, told the Daily Mail that building firms were looking for bricklayers in Portugal. He said: “There is a severe shortage of skilled tradespeople in Britain bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, mechanical engineers, HGV drivers.”
“Where they were paying £500 a week at the beginning of the year, the demand for those skills means they are now paying £1,000 a week. That pressure on skills is huge, particularly in the construction industry in the South East and London. During the downturn, he said, many firms stopped training schemes and were left without skilled workers when contracts started coming in. That is not something that can be resolved quickly, but companies need people who can work now, so they have had to put up pay and look elsewhere.”
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 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.
Last 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. Last 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. One 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!
Ministers have caved in to pressure from the large house builders and their trade body The Home Builders Federation (HBF) to lower standards, meaning councils will have no longer have power to require and impose stricter standards. This will result in many more small, insecure and unsustainable new homes being built in Britain.
Instead of learning from construction best practice, the government has caved in, yet again, to pressure from “big housebuilding.”
The government’s main aim of the technical housing standards review was to strip out standards, rules and regulations that complicate the house building process. The RIBA had lobbied to force house builders to build bigger new homes via their ‘Case for Space’ campaign. Other initiatives included reducing carbon footprints, improving security, on-site renewable energy sources, and rainwater harvesting to reduce water consumption. Despite this, the brief has been used as an opportunity of further reducing the cost of building new homes and stop local authorities from demanding certain conditions as part of the planning process.
This was a lost opportunity to examine how the nation can build great homes for the next generation and beyond, requiring new homes to have proper security features, sustainability, access standards, and a reasonable and decent amount of space to live in. Instead we will now have the same cramped, over-developed housing estates with standardised small new homes being built up and down the country, lowering house builder’s operational costs and increasing, their profit margins even further.