Many investors in London property, especially those from overseas, choose to buy an apartment in a brand new development, often off plan. Rental demand for these smart, new properties is extremely high and continues to grow, as tenants opt for the high spec and appealing amenities they offer.
If an investor is paying anywhere from £300,000 to £2 million for a property, it is not unreasonable for them to expect it to be perfect. They trust the developer to deliver what is stated in the brochure, however, the reality can be rather different. Even the best developers experience problems with quality. During the property boom of the last few years, some developers, particularly smaller ones, have struggled to find good building contractors. The market’s continued rise has meant a stronger demand for properties, which has led to builders finding themselves under pressure to complete jobs quickly. This can potentially lead to workmanship problems and certain builders lacking the required skillset. This is why “snagging” – inspecting a property for defects and poor finishing – has become more important than ever for buyers.
A recent client of ours bought a three bedroom apartment in a new-build in Kensington for £6 million, from a reputable developer. Their experience below shows why snagging is so important. They accepted our advice and agreed to instruct our specialist snagging expert to compile a professional report – the detailed report is 50-100 pages in length for a one bedroom apartment. Despite the £6 million price tag, 256 defects were identified in the report. The developer fixed 151 of these, however the follow-up inspection identified an additional 56 new problems, caused by the contractors while fixing the initial defects. That left 161 outstanding issues on the day of completion. Thankfully, our team was able to work hard with the developers to resolve the issues.
The problems were reported immediately by a professional, which resulted in the developer admitting responsibility and fixing the problems. However, if the client had done it themselves, they openly admit that they would have missed details like holes under the kitchen units, which would allow rodents easy access. Most of the defects would have gone undetected for some time, if ever detected at all, and once sufficient time has passed, it becomes almost impossible to persuade the developer to rectify. Disputes can go on for months, even years. Another client in the same building found 26 problems with their property (we imagine a professional would have found a lot more!), but because they didn’t report them until two months after completion, they are still trying to get the developer to fix them and resolve the issues.
Issues can range from cupboard doors not closing properly, faulty electrical sockets, broken window catches, and poor finishing such as scratched tiles or scuffed paintwork. There can also be major problems that aren’t immediately obvious to a non-professional. For example, if the structure of a building is substandard, perhaps because floorboards are not fully closed, rats and other vermin can get in, causing expensive damage – this can be quite a shock to the tenant in the middle of the night!
Many problems can be unseen or hard to spot, so we always use an independent specialist to do work of this nature. Some companies offer a handover service, but this usually only involves a brief look around and collection of keys, which in all honesty is a complete waste of time, as real problems can go undetected.
Another client bought a property in Fulham, insisting on carrying out the inspection himself. After looking around, he and his wife informed me that they had checked everything and it was fine. I felt strongly that an expert eye was needed and came to a compromise with them, offering to do the snagging for free if we were unable to identify more than 10 items. We found 47 defects, including a hairline fracture in a granite worktop. The worktop was replaced by the developer, however, if it had not been discovered until later our client would have found it difficult to prove the damage had been caused before completion and may have had to pay for a replacement himself.
The secret is to identify all the defects and report them to the developer before completion, so they can be rectified before any money is handed over. This is why it’s vital to have a professional do it, as some items are within tolerance, such as the gap between the skirting board and the floor.
If the defects are serious, they can also affect the property’s appeal, giving a negative impression to tenants and making it harder to let. It can also reduce the asking rental for the property. Major problems could force a tenant to move out while remedial work is undertaken, and they may withhold rent to compensate for the inconvenience. The landlord may even have to pay for them to rent another property in the meantime.
Our specialist carries out a pre-completion inspection, reporting findings to the developer. Another check is then carried out immediately prior to completion day, to make sure everything has been corrected and that no additional defects have arisen. This is a belt-and-braces approach but it can save clients major expense and inconvenience. We believe the modest cost (prices start from £400) against an investment of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a new property is worth every penny, and offers vital protection for landlords.
The consequences of failing to ensure a new rental property is in perfect condition could mean a substantial loss of rent for landlords, as well as the expense of rectifying those problems – a real false economy.
If you would like to find out more about our specialist snagging service for new-build properties, please email us
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View all posts by Marc von Grundherr