I am often asked by prospective buyers whether they should commission a survey – the answer is always a resounding yes, whatever type of property you are buying, even when buying a brand-new property.
The selling agents will invariably try to discourage buyers of new properties from carrying out a survey. They will tell you that the property is covered by an NHBC guarantee (other companies offer building warranties, but NHBC are the market leaders, providing approximately 80% of all new-build warranties in 2016). Why would you need a survey when the property is guaranteed?
Well, what happens if the guarantee doesn’t cover absolutely every aspect of your new property? Are you prepared to gamble your hard-earned savings, not to mention your mortgage, on the developer’s assurance that the property is in perfect condition? A surprising number of buyers say yes to that, relying purely on the warranty. This is incomprehensible given that the property might not even have been completed by the time you commit yourself to buying it.
The NHBC guarantee will cover against numerous potential issues with the property, but there are exceptions to the cover – for example, in the first two years any defects arising as a result of NHBC standards not having been adhered to will be dealt with by the builder. Of course the builder may be reticent to claim responsibility for such issues. After the second year, you will be covered against the cost of putting right defects arising as a result of the breach of NHBC requirements by the builder. Again, it may be difficult to prove that the defect has arisen because of such a breach.
While a survey will not necessarily guard against defects arising, the surveyor should be able to identify where NHBC guidelines have not been followed by the builder. If the property is finished, it is advisable at the very least to commission a snagging survey which will identify aspects of the property which have not been completed to the appropriate standard. Ideally you would commission this survey prior to an exchange of contracts.
Most standard new-build contracts will not allow you to delay completion over minor issues – those minor issues might impact your enjoyment of the property though, so you must ensure that the contract requires the developer to rectify any snags before completion or asap thereafter. The contract should also require the developer to deal with any other matters (whether or not they would be covered by NHBC) which arise within your first two years of ownership. While some developers may refuse to extend their generosity that far, you don’t get if you don’t ask. You may not become aware of some defects for several months – perhaps until the first torrential downpour of the year reveals a leak.
You might however be buying “off plan”, in which case you must ensure that the purchase contract allows you to carry out a survey when the property is complete and requires the developer to rectify any issues identified.
In summary, the question isn’t so much “should I spend on a survey?” but “can you afford not to?”
If you are purchasing a new build property, then it is recommended that you contact Andy Roscoe at Meaby&Co for advice: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7703 5034.
Meaby&Co is authorised and regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA Number 447880) and registered in England and Wales with registered number OC322672 at 2 Camberwell Church St, London, SE5 8QY.