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…
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.
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.
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.
A number of factors contribute to snags occurring, including:
Whilst of course it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list, the following is a flavour of some of the common issues:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.