Should I use the developer's solicitor to buy a new build?

Last updated: July 2024 | 3 min read

Developers frequently suggest a specific solicitor for your new build purchase. Such recommendations may include referral fees, where the developer gains a financial benefit. When deciding, consider balancing the convenience of using a recommended solicitor with the possible risk that your best interests might be compromised.

Pressures for using the developer's solicitor

Developers often recommend a particular solicitor for your new build purchase. These recommendations can involve a financial incentive for the developer, to direct you to a certain legal team.

This practice raises concerns about the impartiality of the service you receive. Your decision should weigh the convenience of using a recommended solicitor against the possibility of a conflict of interest affecting your best interests.

Common sales tactics used by developers and estate agents

Sales agents and developers may exert pressure on buyers to use their preferred solicitor. Tactics include suggesting faster transaction times or a smoother process. However, you, as a buyer, should scrutinise these claims. Using the developer's solicitor is not mandatory.

You have the freedom to choose an independent conveyancing solicitor, ensuring they represent your interests, not the developer's.

Should I choose my own solicitor over a developer's?

Evaluating the independence of your legal representation

When buying a new build home, the decision to select an independent solicitor over one suggested by the developer is a significant one. A new build conveyancing solicitor might be biased towards the developer.

An independent solicitor represents you without external influences, ensuring your best interests are the primary concern.

This independence becomes very important in situations where conflicts of interest may arise. Solicitors linked with the developer might have biases affecting their advice. Your legal advisor should be wholly focused on your needs and concerns, especially in complex transactions like new build purchases.

Here we have a detailed article about some questions to ask about your new build.

Comparing costs: developer's solicitor vs. independent solicitor

Cost is a major consideration in choosing between a developer's solicitor and an independent one. Developers often promote their solicitors by highlighting convenience and savings. But sometimes, the quoted fees don't cover all aspects of the transaction, leading to unexpected extra fees.

An independent solicitor, while possibly higher in initial quotes, might offer a more comprehensive service, preventing unforeseen expenses.

Always compare the detailed breakdowns of costs and services offered by both to make an informed decision that doesn’t just save money but also secures peace of mind.

How does the conveyancing process differ for new build properties?

Conveyancing (the process of legal transfer of property), for new build properties presents different challenges and requirements compared to older homes.

The legal process often involves dealing with developers, ensuring compliance with planning permissions, and handling contracts that are still in development.

One significant aspect is dealing with NHBC's build warranty or similar policies, which provide protection against structural defects.

New builds often have more complex issues related to land ownership, access rights, and future maintenance agreements.

These unique elements necessitate a conveyancing solicitor with specific experience and expertise in new build transactions.

Dealing with incomplete agreements and NHBC inspections

Another part of the conveyancing process for new builds is managing incomplete agreements and NHBC inspections. Often, contracts for new builds are signed while parts of the development are still under construction. This situation demands careful handling of contractual terms regarding the completion and quality of the property.

NHBC inspections assure the quality and safety of the new build. Your solicitor must be adept at negotiating terms that protect your interests in the face of possible construction delays or defects and ensure that all necessary inspections and certifications are properly arranged and completed.

What are the risks of using the developer's solicitor?

Potential conflicts of interest and their impact

When purchasing a new build home, using a builder's conveyancing solicitor may seem convenient. But the misalignment of interests might lead to a less vigorous negotiation on aspects such as the purchase price or snagging list issues.

If problems arise after purchase, a solicitor with closer ties to the developer might not advocate as strongly for your interests.

Issues of non-compliance with planning regulations

Another risk involves oversight of planning permission and building regulations. New build conveyancing requires meticulous review of numerous legal aspects, including planning permissions and restrictive covenants. There is the task of having to arrange NHBC inspections.

A solicitor aligned with the developer might not scrutinise these details with your best interest in mind. This oversight can lead to future legal complications, especially if the property does not comply with local planning regulations or if restrictive covenants impact your use of the property.

Buyers should be cautious and consider whether their solicitor will thoroughly address these issues.

How to choose the right solicitor for your new build

Assessing a solicitor's experience with new builds

When purchasing a new build property, the expertise of your solicitor plays a major role. You, as a buyer, should focus on a solicitor's familiarity with new build homes and their unique legal challenges.

Experience in this niche ensures they can handle complexities like build warranties or land registry issues specific to new builds.

Check their track record in handling new build purchases and their knowledge of relevant processes, such as arranging NHBC inspections.

Key questions to ask when selecting a conveyancing solicitor

Selecting a conveyancing solicitor for your new build purchase demands careful consideration. Start by asking about their experience with new build properties. Enquire about their approach to key stages like pre-contract enquiries or how they deal with exchanging contracts.

Find out if they have dealt with developer's solicitors before and how much experience do they have in this area.

Questions about their fees, including any referral fee they might receive, can help assess if you're getting a fair deal.

Ensure that they clearly explain what's included in their service, so you're not surprised by extra costs.

What to expect during the new build conveyancing process?

Stages from reservation fee to exchange of contracts

The journey of buying a new build starts with a reservation fee. This fee secures your interest in the property. Following this, solicitors work on reviewing contracts and addressing queries. You'll encounter various stages, including receiving the draft contract, raising enquiries, and obtaining a mortgage offer.

Each stage brings you closer to the exchange of contracts, where you become legally bound to buy the house. It's a structured process, ensuring all legalities are clear and agreed upon before moving forward.

Understanding stamp duty, snagging lists, and other forms

Stamp duty is a tax paid on property purchases. For new builds, it's calculated based on the property's price.

One aspect specific to new builds is the snagging list. This list identifies any issues or defects in the property that need fixing before you move in.

Other essential forms include the NHBC (National House Building Council) warranty, which covers any major defects in the building's construction.

Understanding these elements will ensure you pay a fair price and that your new home meets expected standards.

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