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The Problem with New Build Homes

August 2019

We all know the feeling of elation that comes with driving your new car for the first time, or when you take your shiny new smart phone out of its packaging. When you replace an old item for something new, you wave goodbye to fears of it not working properly or of it breaking down and that feeling of satisfaction makes you feel it was worth spending the money.

So you should surely get that same feeling of satisfaction when you buy a brand new home when it’s from a large PLC house builder (ie those listed on the stock exchange)? Having flicked through the alluring coffee table marketing brochures, you feel that you are buying into something special. The stunning kitchens, the luxury bathrooms, the smart lifestyle – it all looks so appealing and you are prepared to pay that bit more for the peace of mind that comes with a brand new home from a sizeable and reputable building company.

However there is a dark underside to all this high gloss and glamour. When it comes to the PLC new home builders, I feel we are being duped.

The bottom line is that they are owned by shareholders who unsurprisingly, want to see a sustained rise in profits at each quarterly figure update. Happy shareholders are good for business. But as a large PLC, how do you continue to deliver a steady upward trend in profit that in any other sector would defy logic? You take a hefty 25% to 30% profit on every unit you sell. But how do you achieve that level of profit?

As you will have seen regularly in the press, there are countless examples of where the new home builders cut corners on all the bits that you can’t see in the fabulous brochure or property that you’re selling to your unsuspecting buyers.

The builders know that we love to be able to see, touch and feel the things we are paying for, so that we buy into the lifestyle we aspire to achieve. So when you walk through the door in to the show home, you’ll find it dressed like a photoshoot for a high-end home interiors magazine. Sumptuous soft furnishings, quality kitchen work-surfaces and designer bathroom fittings are all set off perfectly with today’s fashionable off-grey colour palette.

However, lurking beneath the beautiful, perfectly-styled surface, you could find cheap plumbing, dodgy electrics and structural defects. Even more worryingly, the BBC recently reported on missing fire barriers in roof spaces and builders refusing to let independent surveyors in. “Don’t worry,” they say, “we’re covered by a guarantee.” But have you ever tried claiming against one of these guarantees?

The other issues surrounding these sprawling new build sites, is scant attention given to the infrastructure to support them. There is little consideration of schools, GP surgeries, shops etc, and homes are squeezed into every space available to maximise profit. This is in addition to the Leasehold scandal, commuted sum manipulation and their uncanny knack of erecting new builds on our precious greenbelt land. One chief executive even took home an obscene £75,000,000 bonus arguably on the back of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which was of course funded by us the taxpayer.

One of the problems is that we have had 18 housing ministers in nearly as many years, none of whom have much experience in this complex field. Our current housing minister is Esther McVey, who was formerly a television presenter for GMTV and Children’s BBC. I rest my case.

It’s time we had a housing minister who has knowledge of the housing sector and who will last the course. Well I’ve had almost 20 years in the field, so maybe I should throw my hat into the ring? I hope I would get your vote and let the politicians see what the Gold Standard in property is all about!