Conveyancing - Finding a home - First time buyer

New build conveyancing process

3 min read

With new builds you usually have to commit to your purchase before the building work is complete, making the conveyancing process different compared to buying an older home. Read on to find out more.

  • Amy Colton, Conveyancing Manager and qualified solicitor
    Amy Colton

    Conveyancing Manager

    Published June 12th 2024

New builds in a modern housing estate UK

Why is the conveyancing when buying a new build different?

As a buyer of a new build you often have to commit to your purchase before the building work is completed, which is why the new build conveyancing process is often different to buying an older home. You may be buying a house which is in the middle of being built, or before has even construction started. This means you’re effectively buying a house off what you’ve seen in the show home or a computer-generated set of drawings.

Read here for more information on general conveyancing.

Why do you need a conveyancer for your new build purchase?

Buying a new build house can be particularly tricky because of the fact that the house isn’t necessarily built when you buy it, or at least start the buying process. This means that you’ll need a conveyancer to complete specific new build conveyancing tasks. So, not only will you need a conveyancer, it’s likely that you’ll need a specialist new build conveyancer, who is experienced in the new build conveyancing process and experienced dealing with new build solicitors and developers.

Extra complications that your conveyancer will help you navigate can include non-compliant discrepancies with location and site plans, specific new build inspections, such as the National House-Building Council (NHBC)'s Building Control Service, incomplete agreements and failure to confirm plans for the maintenance of communal areas.

New build conveyancing process step by step

1: You reserve the new build property

You’ll usually expected to put down a non-refundable reservation fee between £500 and £2,000 when you make an offer. As long as the sale goes ahead as agreed, this fee is then deducted from the final purchase price. If for any reason the sale falls through, you will still be expected to pay this fee.

2: Instruct a conveyancing solicitor

The conveyancing process starts as soon as your offer has been accepted. It’s important to choose a new build conveyancer who is experienced in working on new build purchases.

New builds in a modern housing estate UK

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You’ll also want to get your mortgage in place as soon as possible, as there is often a tight deadline to exchange contracts. Although deadlines can sometimes be extended, you may find that there’s a financial incentive for meeting agreed timescales. You’ll also ensure that you won’t lose either your reservation fee, and the house, by meeting these initial deadlines.

3: New build conveyancing checks are carried out

This is usually a quick and intensive process with only 28 days between reserving the property to exchanging contracts. Conveyancing checks for new builds tend to include:

  • Checking the correct planning permission has been granted, and the property has been built in accordance with it. This also includes the building of the estate itself, that roads, drains and utilities have all been properly established.

  • Checking if the property has any covenants registered against it. Covenants can restrict you from doing certain things and so it’s important you are aware of these. They can include things such as not allowing extensions or restricting you from making alterations to the way the property looks, for example.

  • Checking whether the property is leasehold or freehold. Thanks to the leasehold reform, new build houses will most likely be freehold, meaning you own the property and the land it sits on. However, if it is a leasehold, your conveyancer will run further checks to see details of the lease which will include how the common areas are to be managed and the costs of management fees.

4: Snagging survey

It may not be possible until after you have completed, however new builds have a specific home survey to highlight issues. This will need to be arranged by yourself and is called a snagging survey. Often developers don’t allow entry of the property until after it has been built, and so if you can’t get your snagging survey done at this stage, you should make sure it is written into your contract that any issues as a results of the survey will be fixed after completion. Find out more about snagging surveys and what they cover.

5: Pay the deposit

The deposit is paid when you exchange contracts and will be at least 10% of the total new build’s property price, however it could be as much as 30%.

Look out for developers registered with a warranty provider as this will protect your some, or all, of your deposit from penalties if you withdraw from the sale due to unreasonable delays.

6: Exchange of contracts

This is done once all checks have been carried out, usually within four weeks from reserving the property. Within the contract you may have to agree the buy the property at the current market value price and confirm you will pay the final balance on completion.

Because mortgage offers are only valid for a certain amount of time, usually six months, if there is a long time between signing contracts and completion sometimes issues can arise due to being locked into the contract. If the market falls and subsequently house prices fall too, your mortgage lender may reduce the amount they are willing to lend you for the property. If this happens and you are unable to go ahead with the purchase, because you have signed the contract agreeing to buy at the stated price, you will lose your deposit and you could even be sued by the developers for any lost costs.

7: Completion

This is the date when your conveyancer will transfer the funds provided to the seller’s solicitor and the house is yours! On completion, you’ll receive your keys, building logbooks and any owner’s manuals and warranties. If you weren’t able to get a snagging survey prior to this point, you should get one as soon as possible, so you can make the developers aware of any outstanding issues that need fixing.

New build conveyancing FAQs

Is new build conveyancing more difficult?

Yes, difficulties may be faced with non-compliance of planning regulations, NHBC inspections not being arranged, discrepancies in the site and location plans, local authority agreements and the completion of the roads and sewers over the whole development.

What is different about new build conveyancing?

Unlike purchasing an older property, a new build property may not have been built, or in the process of being built, when you purchase it.

It is usual to have only four weeks to exchange contracts after reserving the property.

Compared to buying an older home, a fixed completion date is often not given. Instead, written notice is given to the buyer when the property is structurally complete, for completion to be carried out within a set time, usually 10 working days.

What happens when you reserve a new build?

You will typically have four weeks to exchange contracts. If you don’t manage to do this, then the builder can pull out of your deal, meaning you lose both your reservation fee and the house.

As soon as you have an offer accepted on a new build home, you need to immediately instruct a conveyancer and get your mortgage in place.

How are you protected when buying a new build?

To provide additional peace of mind, you should be protected by a ten-year guarantee from the builder which is usually provided by the National House-Building Council (NHBC), Build-Zone, or another specialist warranty provider. You should ensure that you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and for how long before you agree to exchange contracts.

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