After decades of practice, developers are still looking for consistency in delivering quality new housing. Bob Stembridge, Structural Warranty Consultant at Build-Zone, asks what can be done to the benefit of buyers and developers alike…
The recent All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Inquiry into the Quality of New Housing in England has highlighted the shortcomings in the new homes being delivered across England (and quite possibly in the whole of the UK but their remit did not go that far). What is significant is that in 2004, the Barker Review highlighted the issues with selling homes which were either incomplete or did not have an effective aftercare service. The industry has since improved but not by as much as would have been hoped. As the report states, build quality reacts according to the level of activity in the market – less activity and the greater the quality of output but the opposite also applied, which was exactly the reason for the Barker Review.
Quite often reports into housing quality compare the final product to buying a motor car. While the construction and delivery methods may differ, the buyer’s expectations are in many respects similar. They expect the product to be fit for purpose at the time of taking ownership and for years afterwards. However, buying a new home just increases the stakes when things do not go to plan. Then the costs and extra effort needed to put things right can be astronomical. Thus an effective system that acts to prevent delays and misunderstandings can only benefit all parties.
As a warranty provider, our role is to audit the developer’s work during construction of the new home and to provide a line of recourse for the owner up to 10-years after completion. Also, other stakeholders such as the lenders depend on our independence and the insurer’s financial strength to stand behind our 10-year warranty. Thus we have a vested interest to ensure the developer produces a product fit for purpose, and the homeowner has the knowledge to look after it.
The APPG have made ten recommendations which they hope will mean more homeowners are happy with the buying and owning process. Some are already in place and need tweaking while others will require a break from current ‘conventions’. Here’s a brief overview of some of those recommendations:
Andy Butchers, Director of Build-Zone Survey Services Ltd, shares his insider knowledge to help troubleshoot this area of a building whether you are considering a New Build or Conversion.
Basements in a new building can “hide” the ultimate in luxury in both new builds and conversions with the secret swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, games room, Gym, Home Cinema or Music rooms.
For conversions where space is limited and the cost of selling and “up sizing” may be prohibitive then extending upwards and downwards may be the most cost effective solution. However, working on an existing structure is considered more difficult than a new build.
As a Warranty provider primarily due to our risk management and visit regime we do not actually see many basement claims but as you can appreciate, when it does go wrong, along with the stress and disruption it can cause, it can be both extremely difficult and expensive to resolve the problem. I have detailed a number of pointers which should be considered along with your design team to provide you with the most cost effective solution and when constructed professionally should provide no problems throughout the life of the building.
1)Suitability of a Basement for its location.
One of the first things to consider is if it is appropriate and cost effective to construct a basement. If you look at recent press articles some suggest London Local Authorities are clamping down or even stopping (through the Planning process) new or updated basements as part of conversion work due to the ‘perceived risk’ to surrounding properties.
Redrow founder and chairman Steve Morgan has called for stamp duty and Help-to-Buy changes to drive the housing market forward and keep the economy growing.
Steve Morgan was speaking at the launch of Woodford Garden Village, one of the largest brownfield redevelopments in the North West, where local community groups, politicians and industry professionals had gathered to help Redrow celebrate its opening.
During the day he highlighted how housing transactions have gone down as stamp duty has gone up and the tax was affecting people’s mobility: “Stamp duty has a huge impact on the market. Not only do buyers have to raise huge deposits, they then have to find thousands more in stamp duty. The last two increases have been very damaging, particularly to the London market.”
He also called for Government to extend the time limit from application to completion on Help-to-Buy equity loans to 12 months from the current 6. This would enable first time buyers to reserve a new build house farther in advance of its completion when using the incentive; allowing them to compete with investors who are free to reserve at an earlier stage.
Overall though the Redrow chairman was positive about the housing market, and saw the current climate as a good time for housebuilders, with land finally coming through the planning system – albeit still too slowly for his liking – and for customers, with mortgage interest costs remaining low.
He was particularly passionate about the much-anticipated Woodford Garden Village development, on the former Woodford Aerodrome site, near Stockport, in Greater Manchester; a major brownfield site that will eventually feature around 920 new homes, a new primary school, and significant green space.
Horror stories on the Kevin McCloud show have been blamed as the reason behind a fall in the number of conversions. It’s not the first time a TV programme has changed the nation’s makeover habits.
Now barn conversions are officially on the wane with the number of agriculture-to-residential property conversions in England falling by a quarter over the past year. According to a report by funding firm Saving Stream, conversions dropped from 563 in 2015 to 413 for the same period in 2016. The decline is attributed to a lack of funding, uncertainty following Brexit, the increase in stamp duty on second homes, and adventurous builders being put off by horror stories on TV shows
Barn conversions are in decline because developers are scared by nightmare tales from TV programmes such as Grand Designs.
The number of agriculture to residential property conversions in England has fallen by a quarter over the past year a due to a lack of funding and developers’ jitters.
The decline has also been attributed to uncertainty following Britain’s decision to leave the EU but more must be done to encourage builders to tackle conversion projects, a spokesman for funding firm Saving Stream said.
A report into the conversion of farm buildings said they had dropped from 563 last spring to 413 earlier this year.
Blame has been lodged at property programmes which often show horror stories including builders forking out thousands of pounds over their original budgets or ending up with buildings that are worlds away from what was intended.
Following Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Stage One approval of the Build-Zone Code of Conduct for Home Builders, the Build-Zone New Home Warranty has been confirmed as acceptable for lending Purposes by Lloyds Banking Group and its various lending brands.
CTSI Stage One approval means that our Code has been recognised as having the potential to enhance the Consumer’s experience during the purchase of a new home from a builder/developer registered under the Code and the after sale customer care service.
As part of the approval process the Code Sponsor Sennocke International Insurance Services Ltd will be demonstrating to the Consumer Codes Approval Board that the code is working and of benefit to Consumers, and following that all our members will be able to proudly display the approved code logo. Full approval is likely to be in March 2017.
Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said:
“Although Sennocke is yet to be fully approved, Stage One approval demonstrates the firm is committed to achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. Consumers and mortgage lenders alike need confidence surrounding the housing market and this code aims to deliver exactly that.
We will continue to work closely with Sennocke towards the next and final stage of the approval process.”