Buying a new build property off-plan is as popular as it’s ever been but it’s not without its pitfalls. Here, we explore the pros and cons of buying in advance and offer some tips to help you successfully secure your ideal home.
There are several potential benefits of buying before work has begun on a property.
As your prospective property hasn’t yet been finished, you have the ideal opportunity to personalise it with your preferred fixtures and fittings. From kitchen worktops and carpets to bathroom tiles, wall colours and even plug sockets, there’s usually an array of choice.
Interior designers have often chosen the various options and so whatever you select you know that you’re on relatively safe ground in terms of style and, what’s more, representatives from the developers will often be on hand to help and advise you.
It may sound cliched but making choices about your new house or flat will help to make it your home and, besides which, it’s often quite a fun and exciting process.
Particularly in medium and large sized developments you’ll have a choice of position, giving you the opportunity to consider exactly where you’d like to live. In doing so, you’re able to envisage aspects such as how plentiful parking will be in that particular area and how quiet it will be. If you’re buying a flat you could also be able to choose which floor you’d like to live on.
It’s highly likely that you’ll be investing a significant sum in acquiring your new home and so having a choice of plots is certainly advantageous.
The property market in most parts of the country is still relatively active and therefore buying can feel like a competitive process. If you’re particularly keen on living in the development, securing a home before it’s built will avoid disappointment later down the line, as properties in some areas can be snapped up quickly once they are completed.
Developers are often under pressure to secure sales as quickly as possible – after all, it stands to reason that they don’t want to complete a home only for it to remain unsold for any length of time. Depending on the particular circumstances you could be able to negotiate a great deal, either in the form of a straight discount, help with legal fees, free upgrades on fixtures and fittings and more.
If property prices rise in between you signing your contract and completing then you will have made a gain. However, of course the opposite is also true and this is covered below.
Many buyers particularly enjoy the excitement of being able to visit the site over a number of weeks and months and seeing the house or flat near completion, and you could too.
When it comes to buying off-plan there are certainly many plus points, but of course it’s vital to consider both the pros and cons.
One of the biggest potential downsides is that, quite simply, you won’t be seeing what you’re actually buying. Layouts and computer-generated visuals don’t compensate for actually being able to walk in and around the property.
Additionally, in terms of your broader surroundings, it’s very difficult to envisage exactly how your property will be positioned in relation to others, or what the neighbourhood will actually be like. Normally, if you view a house or flat you see exactly what you’ll be getting, but off-plan you can often only imagine.
Everything could be fine but, equally, you could experience unforeseen issues such as parking congestion, obstruction of views, noise, antisocial neighbours and more.
Whilst, as mentioned above, there is often the opportunity to secure a great deal early, equally there is the risk that you’ll pay too much. A new build has a premium attached to it because of the fact that it’s brand new and once you set foot inside the door on the first day of ownership, this premium can be lost.
It’s also sometimes difficult to decipher the true value of the home, especially if there are no similar comparisons either on the development or in the local area. Accordingly, it can be difficult to judge whether you’re getting a good price or not.
Aside from the specific value of the home itself, the wider property market is always prone to fluctuations and committing early can run the risk of you paying over the odds if the local or national market takes a sudden dip.
Whether your new home will appreciate or depreciate in value after you move in has so many variables attached to it, but striving for the very best possible deal when buying is the best protection you can have against being in negative equity from the onset.
A final note of caution – if the builder goes bust then of course you will lose any deposit / reservation fee, and this is an additional risk.
Life can sometimes change very quickly and none of us are able to foresee unexpected changes in our professional or personal circumstances. Committing to a property months ahead of completion is a significant undertaking and if you change your mind nearer the completion date or are left with no other option other than to withdraw, there can be financial and legal implications.
If you do pull out for any reason you’ll almost certainly lose your deposit and / or reservation fee and, in some cases, the developer could even take legal action against you.
Building schedules can overrun, sometimes considerably. In some cases, the development could even grind to a halt.
Not only can delays be frustrating but, if you’re selling a property in order to move in to your new build, it can have serious implications for the chain. Additionally, significant delays could have an impact on your mortgage offer.
Ensure you take the time to thoroughly research the local market and ponder how desirable the location of your new home will be. For example, find out what local amenities will be available – things such as transport links, schools, shops and doctors’ surgeries will all have a bearing on the quality of life you’ll enjoy once your home is built and you move in.
Irrespective of whether you’re buying off plan or not, you owe it to yourself to get the very best deal you can and therefore always try to negotiate on your new build home.
Try to view an identical or very similar home that’s closer to completion, as this will give you the closest idea of what you’ll actually be getting. As you’ll read below, the show home isn’t always a fair comparison to make.
If you can’t view something similar on the same site, ask the developer if they have similar homes on other sites within the region, as builders will often use the same home layouts on multiple developments. You might need to put some mileage in to view one of these but this is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make and so it’s well worth the journey.
Finally, if it’s a large development which has been built in phases over a number of years, there may even be a similar ‘nearly new’ home for sale that you can view, as people will sometimes move on after living in a new build for a relatively short period of time. The same principle can of course apply to other developments within the region, which might be older and therefore have more ‘second hand’ homes for sale.
Even if you are able to view an identical or very similar home to the one that you’re considering, it’s often still worth your while visiting a previous development, especially one that was finished several years ago. You might not be able to see inside a property but you’ll get an idea of how well the homes are ageing, how congested parking is etc.
New build developments in the making can seem very exciting and are often portrayed as almost utopian, but visiting an area that’s several years old will give you a much better feel for the community you’re likely to be living in, in the future.
Show homes can be useful for seeing some of the fixtures and fittings that will also be in your new house or flat, but if the size of the show home is very different to your prospective property then it can be misleading.
Even if the internal size is similar, show homes often (deliberately) have more generous plots and prime positions. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that show homes will usually have a very high level of specification and not all of the fixtures and fittings featured will be available to you unless you negotiate or pay a premium for these.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that show homes are very much a sales and marketing tool for the developers, as are the accompanying brochures.
Ahead of completion, try to arrange for a snagging survey to be completed. You can learn more about this process and why it’s advisable here.
Buying a property off-plan is a very common occurrence, especially in the current market, where the UK Government has pledged more new housing. It can be a very exciting and rewarding experience but it’s extremely important to evaluate all of the pros and cons that are relevant to the particular home you’re considering buying.
Thorough research, negotiation and giving yourself sufficient time to make the right decision will give you the very best chance of securing a new house or flat that you can proudly call home.