“House builders won’t deliver quality unless we hold back cash” say 9 in 10 new build homeowners

Almost 9 in 10 (88%) new build homeowners and three-quarters (76%) of UK adults want ‘snagging retention’, a system to withhold funds to house builders until they rectify faults.  

The figures are from a national survey conducted by the HomeOwners Alliance and BLP Insurance looking at new build homeowner satisfaction throughout the purchase and ownership experience. The poll was carried out by YouGov.

While new build home buyers were generally satisfied with some aspects of the sales process, just 54% felt the warranty was clearly explained and only 57% felt their warranty provider resolved disputes with the builder in the first two years of ownership or put right any structural problems, thereafter.

The poll found wide support for mandatory snagging retention with respondents saying it would:

  • “Incentivise builders to build right first-time, improving quality standards”
  • “Hold builders to account when problems arise, with builders incentivised to fix problems”

The HomeOwners Alliance has launched a campaign calling for Government to clamp down on developers of new build homes who leave buyers with an unacceptable litany of ‘snags’ and defects.

The campaign comes after a report by the New Homes Review that found 91% of new homes had snags and defects and a report by the Home Builders Federation that showed the number of people who say they would not buy from the same builder again doubling in the last year.

It also follows a swathe of complaints about developers who have failed to fix faults with new properties from ineffective insulation to ill-fitted doors and dodgy electrics to poor plumbing.

The HomeOwners Alliance survey published 05 April 2019, found:

  • Almost 9 in 10 (88%) new build homeowners and three-quarters (76%) of UK adults support ‘snagging retention’
  • Just over half of new build homeowners (54%) say they had their warranty properly explained and less than 6 in 10 (57%) agree their warranty provider fulfilled their responsibility to put right any structural problems after the first 2 years and resolved disputes quickly with the builder in the first 2 years
  • 2 in 10 (20%) new build homeowners felt under pressure during the sales process or that they were given time to consider their decision, in order to put down a deposit on a new build home
  • Among new build homeowners, 8 in 10 (81%) are satisfied with the mortgage process and more than 7 in 10 are satisfied with the sales particulars (73%) and handover (74%), but just 6 in 10 (60%) are satisfied with the snagging process

Kim Vernau, Chief Executive, BLP Insurance, says:

“Housebuilders should take careful note of the 88% of new build homeowners who believe that there should be a snagging retention process otherwise they will alienate their core customers.

“Given the widespread publicity of new homes being handed over with significant snagging errors, house builders need to urgently address their quality assurance processes. If the average consumer can draw up a list of errors and problems with their new home, why do qualified professionals fail to spot them? The purchase price of a new home is one of the biggest financial outlays that someone will ever make and they need the reassurance that the final finish is of the highest standard.

“Consumers who are buying a new home should check if their developer is a member of the Consumer Code for New Homes as this will provide much needed reassurance that developers and their sales agents adhere to a high standard of professionalism in relation to the construction and sales process.”

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive, Homeowners Alliance, says

“More and more buyers of new build homes are being left with an unacceptable litany of ‘snags’ and defects. These can range from poorly secured fixtures and fittings to shoddy tiling to major roof leaks and faulty drainage.

“Our HomeOwners Alliance ‘snagging retention’ campaign will incentivise developers to deliver decent, correctly-finished homes before buyers move in as well as to come back swiftly and deal with any emerging snags or defects. Sadly, money talks – if we want better quality homes, we must let homeowners hold back cash.

“In the Government’s drive to build more homes quality has been compromised in the quest for quantity. Government must encourage developers to offer all buyers of new homes the right to retain a very minimum of 2.5% of their purchase price for six months to give time for snags and defects to be righted. If this is not done, then they must be compensated financially.”

The survey results and campaign launch follow the news that Persimmon Homes will be the first to introduce a ‘snagging retention’ of 1.5%. The HomeOwners Alliance has asked for more details.

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, comments

“Persimmon have taken a step in the right direction but let’s hope it is not a PR exercise. They have only agreed to put right snags identified the day people move in – not emerging snags. Expecting new build homebuyers to inspect and produce a snagging list the day they move into their home is setting them up to fail. We would be happy to work with them and all other new build home developers to create a fairer snagging retention.”

Case studies 

Paul and his pregnant wife who bought a brand new 4-bedroom semi-detached home in Somerset just before Christmas (2018). Paul told the HomeOwners Alliance of the following issues, some of which have also affected neighbours:

  • Within weeks their boiler had packed in, during a cold spell in January and after a faulty valve was fixed, it stopped firing and was not repaired until nine days later.
  • Soon cracking appeared on their kitchen ceiling and – so it could be fixed – his family of five were moved to a city centre apartment on a busy road, without a suitable lock on the front door and where noise from the street kept them awake at night.
  • When the family eventually moved back to their home they were woken at night by a hammering noise from the pipes, and this went on for several nights before the pipes were fixed.
  • His heavily pregnant ended up being signed off work for six weeks because of the stress.

Another new build home buyer – also called Paul who lives in Loughborough – told the HomeOwner’s Alliance that he has been fighting severe defects in the drainage system for a block of eight houses detached family homes for two years. His account noted the following issues:

  • The drains get blocked regularly because of subsided pipes and poor drainage insulation that does not match the site plans and violates building regulations. This means drains have to be cleaned weekly and for two months he had to clean waste from his home and his neighbours’ homes with a jet washer himself.
  • A list of 150 faults and snags, of which 80 are still not resolved after a year, including a chimney that looks structurally unsafe, radiators hanging off, a garage door that looks ready to drop off and a “public sewer” in his back garden.

Paul describes his home as a “house of horrors” and says his situation is akin to “mental torture”. He told the HomeOwners Alliance that his health has suffered and his wife and four children – including a son who is disabled – have struggled after being forced to move out several times when the drains completely blocked.

Survey respondents spoke of the need for a snagging retention, saying it would:

  • “Address concerns that new builds suffer from poor quality as some builders are not responsive to sorting problems when they arise”
  • “Ensure faults are dealt with in a timely manner”
  • “Give home buyers and owners greater protection/ greater leverage to sort problems”

Typical respondent comments in support of snagging retention included:

  • “It gives the builder an incentive to build to a good quality in the first place and avoid the expense and inconvenience of returning to do snagging work.”
  • “Because not all builders are keen to return to sort out snagging problems and this would be a way of forcing them to.”
  • “Once sold, builders tend not to be interested in snags that arise so this is a good way to make sure they uphold their side of the contract.”
  • “There always seem to be problems with new builds as they tend to be built in a hurry with little care.”
  • “Often builders are slow at dealing with snagging lists, which is frustrating for purchasers. Retention would give some control back to purchasers if builders were slow to deal with rectifying problems.” 

Key research findings among new build home owners:

  • 73% of new build home buyers were satisfied with the sales particulars and 74% were satisfied with the handover, with 81% satisfied with the mortgage process
  • 20% felt under pressure to put down a deposit by a sales rep or estate agent
  • Only 54% agree their warranty was clearly explained in terms of what was the homeowner’s responsibility and what faults were covered by the builder/ warranty.
  • Only 57% agree that their warranty provider fulfilled its requirements put right any structural problems after the first 2 years and resolved disputes quickly with the builder in the first 2 years
  • 60% of new build homeowners were satisfied with the process of identifying and getting remedial works done, 19% were not and 16% were on the fence
  • Almost 9 in 10 (88%) new build homeowners and more than 7 in 10 (76%) UK adults overall support the idea of a snagging retention on new build homes