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A home buyer’s guide to new build house and flat snagging

A home buyer’s guide to new build house and flat snagging

Buying any property can be stressful at times and, whilst new build homes can offer many benefits, ‘snagging’ is often a point of frustration for those acquiring a new house or flat…

What is a snag?

A snag is any small issue that is present in a new build property after building work has supposedly been completed. The nature of these snags will vary, but most aren’t serious, and can be easily remedied. However, sometimes more serious issues arise.

What is snagging?

Snagging is the term used to describe the process of checking for the faults that require fixing. A snagging list is a structured and thorough list of these identified faults, which you can then present to the builder / developer.

How common are problems in new homes?

Your home will be inspected prior to completion but, unfortunately, a builder rarely identifies and remedies everything - sometimes due to human error, and sometimes due to complacency. Therefore, snags are much more common than most would expect.

The Home Builders’ Federation’s annual customer satisfaction survey reports that 98% of new home owners report at least one problem to their builder, although most are relatively minor.

Why are snags so common?

A number of factors contribute to snags occurring, including:

  • Poor workmanship or equipment
  • Cheap materials
  • Shortages of skilled trades
  • Poor management of the site
  • Time pressures to complete building and fit-out
  • Lack of accountability among a variety of contractors and sub-contractors
  • Insufficient quality checks
  • Physical disturbance of the structure from nearby construction work
  • Natural movements in the property, post completion

What are the common types of snags?

Whilst of course it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list, the following is a flavour of some of the common issues:

  • Cracks on walls or ceilings
  • Rushed plastering or painting
  • Doors not opening or closing properly
  • Woodwork issues on window sills, skirting boards or architraves
  • Poorly fitted carpets or flooring
  • Defective or damaged double glazing
  • Faulty water pressure
  • Leaking taps
  • Badly fitted kitchen or bathroom tiling
  • Incorrectly installed loft insulation

Issues often reoccur throughout a property – for example, substandard plastering or painting in one room could well be an issue in others, upon closer inspection.

How can I protect myself against snags?

As mentioned above, snags are a common element of all new build homes, and no developer is immune to them. However, always ensure that your builder is signed up to a warranty scheme.

The NHBC’s Buildmark scheme is the most common, providing approximately 80% of UK warranties, but there are other equally reputable ones. Your mortgage provider should insist on seeing evidence that the property has a warranty.

Warranties cover a ten year period, with the first two years covering minor issues (snags) as well as structural faults, and the remaining eight years solely covering structural issues.

It is important to read the warranty and understand what it does and doesn’t cover you for. Additionally, the Consumer Code for Home Builders is well worth researching, as all builders who are signed up with the main UK home warranty bodies must adhere to this code.

How can I find out more about the builder and the quality of their work?

Researching the developer at the start of your property search can give you further insight into which ones are performing better than others in recent times.

The Home Builders’ Federation’s annual customer satisfaction survey is a very useful reference point, giving a star rating for all of the main UK builders.

When is it best to make a snagging list?

Compiling the list and getting the items resolved as soon as possible will undoubtedly make life less stressful.

If you’re not buying ‘off-plan’, ideally make a list before you exchange. The reasons for this are:

  1. The developer will be more willing to agree that these are faults in order to placate you and then proceed to exchange and completion.
  2. You have the scope for getting your solicitor to add clauses into your contract, confirming problems will be remedied.
  3. It’s easier for the contractor (and you) if work is carried out before you move in. Negotiating furniture and other items will only make the snagging process harder.

If you’re buying off-plan (and exchanged some time ago) try to create the list at some point between exchange and completion.

If you’ve already exchanged, completed and moved in to the property, then compile a list at the earliest opportunity. Strictly speaking you can report issues within the first two years of ownership, although it’s always advisable to do this sooner rather than later.

In some instances you may resolve one list only to find further issues a few months down the line, after the property has ‘settled’.

Who compiles this snagging list?

You can elect to create your own snagging list. If you’ve already moved in to the property then it’s likely that you’ll be acutely aware of many of the issues and therefore are best placed to at least start this list. Having prompts for what to look for is always helpful, and you can download the National House Building Council’s (NHBC) free checklist here.

However, it’s highly advisable to consider commissioning an independent inspection company to compile a list for you. You can provide them with your list for starters, and they’ll invariably find other issues to add to it.

What are the main advantages of using an independent inspection company?

  1. Inspectors are usually experienced chartered surveyors or construction industry professionals, and spend all day, every working day doing this. They know what to look for, and will also be aware of the traits of certain builders and developments, and so are likely to find a great deal more than the ordinary homeowner would. They often find fifty or more items in an average sized house.
  2. Upon completion of the survey they’re often able to communicate with your developer directly. Again, they’re used to doing this and so will probably be more effective, especially as they have expertise that the builder will find harder to argue against.
  3. Although there is usually an extra charge for this, the company can also recheck work once the developer has supposedly completed it, to give you extra peace of mind that the fixes have been undertaken correctly. 
  4. Re-inspections after a number of months can also be conducted, as indeed some snags only become evident after a longer period of time.

What does an independent snagging inspection involve?

An inspector will usually spend several hours checking aspects that are visible within and around the house or flat. There are some elements that won’t usually be checked – for example, burglar alarms – but the inspection is usually fairly thorough.

It’s important to note that it will not be a structural survey, although inspectors will sometimes recommend one if they spot significant cause for concern.

Who pays for an independent inspection?

The homebuyer is responsible for this cost, but more often than not the expense will be offset by the benefits.

It is worth asking the inspection company whether they have a referral scheme. If you’re relatively new on to the development and subsequently recommend their services to others, you could recoup some of your costs.

How much is an independent inspection?

It’s worth getting quotes from three separate companies. Prices will vary depending on the size of the property, but you’ll typically pay a few hundred pounds.

Which is the best company to create my snagging list?

  • Independence is the key word here and so, for obvious reasons, ensure they have no association with the builder.
  • Ideally you’ll want a company who will not only undertake the inspection but will also offer you advice afterwards and / or will liaise with the builder on your behalf.
  • Find out whether you’ll be able to meet the inspector. That way, not only will you be able to point out any things you’ve spotted, but you’ll probably also learn a thing or two from their experiences of similar properties.
  • Finally, bear in mind that there isn’t a trade association for ‘snaggers’ and specific qualifications aren’t required. Therefore, it’s advisable to do your research and read online reviews of the companies you’re considering.

Can I simply make the repairs myself, or get a third party to do this for me?

Once it’s your property you’re entitled to do as you wish, but this is absolutely not recommended. It’s the builder’s responsibility from the onset and should remain so throughout the resolution of snagging issues. What’s more, if you or anyone else carries out any of the repair work you run the risk of invalidating your warranty.

Is the developer obliged to fix everything on the list?

The developer is responsible for fixing any issues that have been caused by their failure to meet the building standards outlined in the warranty.

That said, some issues are debatable and subjective, and it is not uncommon for builders to be reluctant to remedy some things. However, if you have a sensible and thorough list, you stand the best possible chance of getting the key problems addressed.

What if I’m still not happy?

It’s worth asking yourself how important any remaining issues really are to you. Try to take a balanced view and, if all of the major issues have been remedied, plus a majority of any minor snags, then try to avoid becoming fixated on any trivial, remaining items.

That said, if you still have a significant, unresolved problem, other routes can be considered, including consulting the warranty provider or, worse scenario, a solicitor. However, in most cases, a combination of maintaining an amicable relationship with the developer and polite persistence will pay off.


New build homes remain as popular as ever and, although snags are ‘par for the course’ in most new houses or flats, they are usually remedied quickly and easily if the correct action is taken within the most appropriate timescales.

The Home Builders’ Federation’s most recent research concludes that over 90% of new owners surveyed would buy a new home again and so, whilst snagging presents a minor frustration for many, and a major frustration for a few, for the overwhelming majority new build ownership is still a very positive experience.

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