Published 14 October 2019

Whilst most commentators agree that we need to be building many more new homes than we currently are to meet the nation’s housing need, the number being delivered is at least on the up. 

In the year to June 2019, a total of 173,660 new homes were completed in England alone, and that is eight per cent up on the previous year (figures are from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local government).

Here in Norfolk the pace of building has also increased, and what that means for house buyers is a greater choice than for many years.  The attractions of modern, energy-efficient homes which require little maintenance and which come with a ten year guarantee are obvious.

But how do those who have chosen to go down the new home route then choose which development, and then which individual plot, to buy?

To help those buyers, we have created a ten point checklist to use when faced with the house builder’s site plan, to give you the best chance of making the right decision.


1. Try to look into the future

It is easy to be seduced by the brand, spanking-new, well-presented home as you see it now; but try to think about how it will look in the future.  That plot right on the edge of the development with lovely views over open fields might grab the eye now, but what if further development takes place on those very fields? 

 Carefully inspect the site plan, and check the Local Neighbourhood Plan to see what further development might be in the pipeline.  You may be better off choosing a plot in the middle of the site where you know what the situation is.  You might find a plot which is surrounded by bungalows, so you know you won’t be overlooked.

2. Check out your neighbours

Virtually all new developments are now a mixture of open-market and affordable housing.  That affordable housing might be for rent, or it may be shared equity, which is essentially people buying their own home on a step-by-step basis. 

You may want to ask the developer which housing association will be managing the affordable housing, and then check out their reputation and things like their anti-social behaviour policy.  Not all affordable housing providers are the same.

3. How long is the build?

If you are buying early on into a site which is scheduled to be under construction for a long period, you may be able to take advantage of ‘early-bird’ incentives.  But be aware that if down the line you try to sell your home while brand-new houses are still being marketed on the site, you will end up in competition with the developer, who may still be offering incentives, as well as support such as Help To Buy.

The best uplift in value comes once a site is complete, the roads are topped and the public space is handed over.  If you think the new home you are buying is not for the long term, try to ensure you are not purchasing on a site which will still be active five years on.

4. Look at the plot itself

Not all plots are the same, and the difference it can make to your enjoyment of the homes is massive.  Think about aspect (which way the garden faces); if you are at work all day and will mostly use your garden in the evening, a southeast-facing garden may be in shade by then, for example.

Parking is also a big issue.  Not all new homes come with off-street parking, which might be fine if there will be sufficient parking on the street.  Try and think about what parking provision you might need when, for example, your children reach the age when they start driving and your household may have two or more cars.

5. Consider the access

We have all read horror stories about new developments with inadequate access, leading to long queues at peak time, just when everybody wants to get to work.  If you first view your potential new home during the day, it might be worth coming back and looking at how the traffic flows at those peak times before you take the plunge.

6. Shape up

Building plots come in all shapes and sizes, and often the irregular shaped ones will be cheaper than the nice rectangular ones.  If you have children and want them to be able to play football, a regular plot will be more important; but if you can use the money you save by buying an irregular-shaped plot to create interesting seating areas suitable for your lifestyle, that might work as well.

7. What choices are on offer?

Many house builders will offer you a wide choice of fixtures and finishes, such as kitchens, bathrooms, tiles, and so on.  If this choice is only being offered on one plot, rather than more generally, it may indicate that that particular plot is ‘sticking’.  You may want to ask yourself why.

8. Part Exchange

If you are finding it difficult to sell your current home, some developers will offer part exchange schemes, where they will buy it from you – or even, in some cases, they will buy a property further down your chain to get things moving.  It is always worth asking if this is available.

9. The builder’s reputation

Everyone will have read horror stories about poor quality and developers who don’t seem to care about their product, but it is unfair to tar all house builders with this brush.  It is important to do your homework with regards to the house builder’s reputation for quality and customer service; these days you will find plenty of feedback online.  Fortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult for sub-standard developers to hide.

10. Check the freehold

The practice of selling new houses on leaseholds is thankfully becoming outlawed, but you should still check the freehold carefully, as some house builders are inserting really restrictive covenants into freeholds which may cause you problems should you want to alter or extend your home, for example.  Get your solicitor to check the freehold carefully, and if you don’t understand anything, make you ask before you sign.

Lewis Bird - Branch Manager - Norwich 

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