Housebuilders hit back after survey raises quality concerns

According to a recent survey, consumers are shunning new builds partly because of poor build quality; however, leading industry bodies have criticised the survey as misleading. May 23, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
Housebuilders hit back after survey raises quality concerns

The recent HomeOwners Survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of HOA and BLP Insurance, indicated that consumers are not keen on new builds; only 19% would like to buy one. This is in part due to the poor build quality, the survey suggested. Fifty eight per cent of respondents said they were so concerned that they would want a survey as a quality check before buying a new build.

The APPG released a number of recommendations on the back if the survey, which the HomeOwners Alliance has fully supported, stating that the “pressure to build is coming at the expense of quality.”

Recommendations included a new homes ombudsman to mediate disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers; enforcing standardised house building sales contracts; and a mandatory right for buyers to inspect and, should they wish, carry out a full survey of their property prior to financial completion.

However, the APPG study is at odds with previous surveys, which show a remarkably high satisfaction rate among new build owners. According to the Home Builders Federation’s recent Customer Satisfaction Survey, 86% of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of their new home and 85% say they would recommend their home builder to a friend. Ninety% said they would buy a new home again.

“Levels of customer satisfaction amongst new home buyers are amongst the best for any comparable industry,” David O’Leary, Policy Director at HBF, told Show House. “Those who experience the benefits of new homes are understandably much more likely to appreciate the superior energy performance, lower running costs and peace of mind that comes with buying new.

“Recent research also shows that younger house hunters and first-time buyers are more likely to consider factors such as the ongoing running costs of the home, the ability to move in without redecorating or altering the property and appreciate the bonus of a 10 year warranty. Whilst outdated and misguided perceptions of the industry persist, more and more buyers are attracted to the build quality and design of brand new homes, as demonstrated by the increase in demand in recent years.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, warned that the results of the survey are more likely to stem from personal taste than quality. “It is important to remember that tastes among home buyers vary enormously,” he told Show House. “Many people have an unexplained bias towards older homes, many don’t. That’s perfectly normal, but this shouldn’t be confused with misconceptions about the quality of new homes. The satisfaction rates of those who buy new homes are generally very high, and in many respects new homes are built to far higher standards than older homes. Energy efficiency standards of new homes for instance are far, far higher than they were even 10 years ago, leading to significantly lower energy bills for consumers. That said, I believe the industry should never become complacent and we should welcome the scrutiny which inquiries like these bring.

“In particular, smaller, locally-based house builders, like those the FMB represents, will always be aiming to build to a higher quality. Small scale builders lack the economies of scale to compete with larger house builders on price, so they will tend to compete on quality to deliver a premium product. They will tend to work in a particular area or region and trade off a reputation for delivering quality, often bespoke homes. The FMB is keen to promote quality in the industry and I don’t believe our members would object to any of the recommendations being proposed by the APPG inquiry.”

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