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The Problem With The Quality of New Housing – And The Solutions

Harry Yates, CEO of professional snagging company HouseScan & inspection app BuildScan, addresses Cambridge City Council Building Quality Forum The quality of homes delivered in the new build sector has been an issue for some time and is often highlighted in the media as questionable. In 2017 Bovis, a top

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BDC 319 : Aug 2024

harry yates

Snagging issues increase by 96% – These are the new-build nightmare that will render your home worthless

Research by new-build snagging experts, BuildScan, has revealed how the issue of snagging within the new-build sector has exploded over the last 15 years as well as revealing which issues are likely to render your new home worthless. BuildScan’s data shows that the average new-build home comes with as many as 157 snagging issues. That’s up from an average of 80 in 2005, a 96% increase and an average annual jump of 6.4% every year. At the same time, new-build house prices have increased by 44% in value, with homebuyers now paying an average of £340,936 despite the drop in quality. In many cases, these snagging issues can be inconvenient but fairly easy to remedy with poorly fitted doors, poor plastering and low attention to detail amongst the most common. However, in the most severe cases, snagging defects can render your home worthless and BuildScan has revealed the top five new-build nightmares to watch out for. Structural defects are a worst-case snagging scenario and often occur due to shoddy foundation work. Cracking in walls, sloped floors and windows or doors that fail to shut as they should are the most common signs and structural snags can be amongst the most expensive, and difficult, to repair. Poor installation or issues with damp-proof coursing, poorly installed pipework or plumbing system defects can also be costly, causing water leaks, intrusion and damage. Not only can they cause serious flooding damage and lingering damp, but they can also leave new-build homeowners without one of life’s basic necessities. The roof is an integral part of our homes but all too often new-build homeowners can find incorrectly fitted roof trusses. Not only do they pose a real danger, but can also breach the standards set by the National House Builders Council – rendering a home worthless. The roof also protects our home from the elements and so even minor damage can lead to a major issue allowing water to seep into loft spaces, walls, ceilings and floors. Perhaps one of the most dangerous snagging areas is electrical and gas supply issues. Wiring issues, in particular, can be particularly common and can pose a very real risk of fire. A poorly installed gas boiler can also be highly dangerous and in a worst-case scenario, it could cause death via carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion. Finally, dreaded black mould can also render your home worthless. It can be particularly common in new-builds if the home isn’t given time to dry out properly and not only is black mould a nightmare to get rid of, but it too can pose a danger to health. Founder and Managing Director of BuildScan, Harry Yates, commented: “An average snagging list of 157 defects may sound unbelievable but that really is the extent of the issues found by many new-build homebuyers and it’s an issue that has unfortunately grown significantly over the last 15 years. These can range from very minor aesthetic issues to far more serious problems such as structural instability that can result in your home being worthless despite the high price paid. This was the driving motivation behind the launch of the BuildScan app. We wanted to provide a seamless platform to help manage the completion and handover process of a build project, allowing all stakeholders within the construction process to proactively plan and coordinate their workflow. With BuildScan they can complete snagging inspections and log any defects found, manage tasks and workflow to rectify these issues, track progress, include punch lists, surveys and more, all within the same space. They can also invite third parties to the process such as homebuyers, surveyors and contractors so that the communication gap between all parties is bridged and a solution can be found. By doing so, we believe we’ve found that solution to a problem that has plagued the new-build sector for years and this should give home buyers and developers alike the tools they need to solve any snagging issue.”

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The Problem With The Quality of New Housing – And The Solutions

Harry Yates, CEO of professional snagging company HouseScan & inspection app BuildScan, addresses Cambridge City Council Building Quality Forum The quality of homes delivered in the new build sector has been an issue for some time and is often highlighted in the media as questionable. In 2017 Bovis, a top ten housebuilder, apologised for releasing properties that they’d said were finished, too early. They also set aside £7m to repair badly built new units that they’d sold to unsuspecting buyers. Local authorities grant planning permission for sites across the country and manage building control and so they have a vested interest in ensuring quality, especially as these very councils are funded by the public whom they seek to represent and serve. On Friday 23rd July, Cambridge City Council held a Building Quality Forum to debate the issue of new home quality, led by Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport. Cllr Thornburrow invited Harry Yates, CEO of HouseScan and BuildScan, to provide information and context to the assembled members, officers and stakeholders present during the four-hour session. Harry spoke to the panel about his experience in the construction industry and the experiences of the countless new-build buyers he works with through both HouseScan and BuildScan. His main message was that the dissatisfaction among new-build buyers is increasing at an alarming rate, alongside and directly in relation to the rising trend for poor quality. In more extreme cases; this has even led to the detriment of buyers’ mental health. On average, each new home delivered in Britain has approximately 157 snagging faults, which if left unchecked and unraised can leave homeowners bearing the complete cost of rectification. Harry also spoke about his experiences with developers often seeking short-cuts to quality sign-off by moving to less fastidious warranty providers. He went on to explain a number of reasons why poor quality in new homes is increasing. These included: ●        How government pressure on house builders is stretching them and reducing quality ●        Skilled tradespeople are fewer and further between due to a) the previous recession when many left the sector and b) due to Brexit deterring tradespeople from overseas – a vital component ●        Recruitment issues mean that more upskilling is needed and housebuilders are not investing enough resources in training and supervision ●        A focus on transactions and related KPIs, not quality Harry also explained that the rise of social media has meant that consumers have become more informed about the standards their home should be built to, and the issues that are widespread. Though it can occasionally lead to homeowners having skewed expectations, overall the heightened connectivity has been positive, leading to developers being held accountable for their shortcomings and in turn helping to improve the quality of new homes. Whilst providing the context of the problem and the reason behind those problems is important to understand, Harry was also an active voice in providing ideas that will form solutions to this growing trend of new homes not being finished to an acceptable standard in many cases. “Quality standards must form part of a house builder’s KPIs, not just goals around completion times.” says Harry. “Supervision of trades and sub-contractors needs to be taken much more seriously as they work. Technology now allows senior stakeholders in build projects to assess quality ‘as it goes’ and this must become more mainstream now.” “And training, especially around proper apprenticeships and the ensuring of high standards being a matter of mindset, is something that Britain used to be renowned for but in some areas of industry is often dismissed as not providing a return on investment – it’s ‘just another cost’.  Whereas, as we can see from the issues highlighted here, a lack of training leads to a lack of quality further down the line.” The most important progress is being made with the launching of the forthcoming New Homes Code and likely a New Homes Ombudsman as a robust regulator of the sector. Harry continued: “We have worked alongside the code’s formation as a stakeholder and in my opinion it is the biggest step being taken in highlighting and promoting better quality delivery that we’ve seen in years.” “In particular, allowing home buyers the legal right to inspect their property prior to completion using a professional inspector such as HouseScan or themselves via an app such as BuildScan, enables them to complete and move in with more confidence but also puts the housebuilder on notice that poor quality and premature certification of new properties will not be tolerated.” Harry hopes that forums such as the Cambridge City Council led event will raise the profile of build quality and snagging and consequently will lead to happier home buyers and housebuilders attaining much better reputations. The full forum event can be seen here.

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Scotland and London lead the way for new build property sales

The latest research from HouseScan has revealed that just 6.9% of all homes sold in Britain over the last year came via the new build sector, however, new build sales have driven the market to a greater extent across a number of locations. Since March of last year, 54,176 new build homes have been sold across Britain, accounting for 6.9% of all transactions during this period. Scotland has seen the greatest level of new builds sold as a proportion of total transactions, with 9.3% of all homes sold in the last 12 months coming via the sector. London has also seen some of the largest levels of transactions come via new build homes (8.8%), with the East Midlands (7.2%), West Midlands (7%), North East (6.9%) and South East (6.5%) also sitting above the national average. At local authority level, Scotland and London continue to rank with some of the highest levels of new build sales. Tower Hamlets has seen the most new build homes sold as a percentage of all transactions across Britain over the last year. The 991 new homes sold since March 2020 equate to 39.9% of all properties sold in the borough, closely followed by Newham where 33.4% of all transactions have been new builds. Scotland’s East Lothian (25.2%) and Midlothian (21.4%) also rank within the top five, along with Harborough in Leicestershire (20.9%). Greenwich (20.8%), Rugby (19.1%), South Derbyshire (18.5%), Hackney (17.6%) and Bracknell Forest (16.8%) also rank as some of the hottest spots for new build sales in the last year. Founder and Managing Director of HouseScan, Harry Yates, commented: “It seems as though Scotland is fast becoming Britain’s new build hotspot, with more transactions coming via the sector than anywhere else in the nation – including London. This demand has caused new build house price growth north of the border to climb considerably and although a buoyant new build market is unlikely to ease the pain of an early Euros exit, it’s certainly helping to lay some strong foundations for future generations of homebuyers.” Table shows new build transactions over the last 12 months as what percentage of total transactions they account for Location New build sales volume NB sales vol as % of all Scotland 8,432 9.3% London 6,337 8.8% East Midlands 4,383 7.2% East of England 5,621 7.0% West Midlands Region 4,457 7.0% North East 2,188 6.9% South East 7,913 6.5% North West 5,323 6.0% Yorkshire and The Humber 3,910 5.8% South West 4,545 5.7% Wales 1,067 3.2% England 44,677 6.7% Great Britain 54,176 6.9% New build sales volumes sourced from the Gov.uk UK House Price Index – New build vs Existing (March 2020 to Feb 2021 – latest available data)       Table shows the areas to have seen the largest number of new build transactions as a percentage of all transactions in the last 12 months Location New build sales volume NB sales vol as % of all Tower Hamlets 991 39.9% Newham 584 33.4% East Lothian 526 25.2% Midlothian 365 21.4% Harborough 331 20.9% Greenwich 512 20.8% Rugby 309 19.1% South Derbyshire 297 18.5% Hackney 291 17.6% Bracknell Forest 293 16.8% Wokingham 392 16.8% West Lothian 479 15.9% City of Peterborough 354 15.3% Central Bedfordshire 665 15.2% Stratford-on-Avon 286 14.8% New build sales volumes sourced from the Gov.uk UK House Price Index – New build vs Existing (March 2020 to Feb 2021 – latest available data)      

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