Buying a new build, advice sought

Appreciate the collective knowledge of pinsters is more focused towards older properties and renovations but how and ever!

Mrs Cyrus and I are buying a new build after months of viewing properties ranging from 50-150 years old! and we are moving from our preferred location of Blackrock out to Dalkey, how things change.

Anyway just wanted to check some things with those who are better informed than I, for example is the survey process any different with a new house or is it the same thing? Better to get this done before contracts are signed?

Also, anything in particular to look out for with more modern built homes? im happy enough with the spec in a superficial sense, ceiling heights, alu clad wooden windows, decent joinery, kitchen etc but whats the sound proofing like on these modern built houses? It will be an end of terrace 3 storey town house of the kind most developers are building now albeit aesthetically more to my taste than most.

Anything to consider re sound proofing etc?

Also, whats the current thinking on wooden floors, from what i can gather most recommend engineered wood (assume i should ask that skirting isnt installed until i have the floors laid), is parquet much more expensive and can anyone recommend a supplier and a fitter of flooring?

Sorry for the rambling post.

I’m not that familiar with new builds but this much I’d say:

  1. Check out the builders other work. Visit developments and talk to folk and see how they’ve found things a few years in. Try to get a walk around inside yourself if you can - bring the missus to reduce the sense of threat. I’ve blagged my way into any number of houses this way :slight_smile:. Have they finished the areas around the houses well / completely. Have there been issues in finish/structural

  2. Homebond is next to useless. Not worth the paper it’s written on (if it’s any kind of comprehensive cover you’re looking for). They’ll only grant deep structural issues - but there are a whole host of things that can affect a house badly without being structural. Is there any guarantee given outside the limited Homebond. Say there are problems with the heating system, whose going to sort it?

  3. Consider a professional snagger. The level of finish in the non-show houses (and I mean construction finish too) will unlikely be as good as in the show house itself. It’d be an unusual developer who doesn’t keep his best lads / highest standards for the show house. Human nature an all.

  4. You’re looking at more than skirting left off to get a neat finish on floor installation. Door architraves, door saddles … what about the floor running up to the fireplace hearth and surround. Worth a chat with the builder. Can you not get engineered parquet? I’d imagine there are manageable sections available which interlock in sheet form rather than piece-by-piece? Perhaps not.

Engineered is certainly the way to go rather than solid. Get a good thick layer of wood topping on your engineered which will allow for future sanding.

  1. Another key area is insulation. A modern house will have a good BER. On paper. The devil is in the construction detail. If the insulation is thrown up and there are cold bridges all over the place then the actual BER plummets. An easy way to check this is with a thermal camera - surveyors will often provide this service. Pop the heating on for a while on a cold day, point the camera and any spots showing excessive heat leakage will show up clearly. It might be too late to do anything about it snagwise (since insulation is integral with the building and you’d have to rip things apart to put it right. But if the house is a sieve then you can draw your conclusions about the overall build quality. Given the price of a house in Dalkey, it strikes me as a good idea to let a professional look over it - I’m sure there are folk who are clued into what to look for in a new house (which hasn’t the advantage of time revealing it’s dirty secrets). Something to do before you sign the contract of course.

I don’t know if airtightness tests (air tightness a key aspect of high BER rating) are done on a sample property or on each property. If a sample, then there’s a reasonable chance your own property won’t be as airtight as the sample - which might be the show house.

If you can get the showhouse then you obviously get the pick of the bunch!

There’s a decent construction section on populated by folk well in the know. It’d be an idea to ask the same question there. If you could get the architects detailing of the construction (why not?) you may be able to get info from boards on how well the construction type acts in a soundproofing sense. It’s worth finding out - Charlesland in Greystones is a place I’ve heard numerous stories about re: bad soundproofing. Child cries 5 doors up and the sound travels to you … kind of thing. It’s not that old a development although standards might have improved since then.

Parking in new developments can be a real pain. Do you get assigned spaces outside your house? Where do visitors park?

Is there a garden, and how would it compare to older houses that you have looked at?

Is it over two or three floors?

Personally, I would much prefer an older house with decent parking and a garden over a higher density new build for the same price.

We have 3 spaces outside of our house, and its only a 20 house development so it won’t have the same issues as larger developments I hope esp ones with apartments as well

The garden is also quite big as we got an end of terrace with effectively a double size std garden

It is over 3 floors

Thanks as always York you always go above and beyond in your responses it’s appreciated

Any recommendations for a professional snagger? Presume a good surveyor would be worth the investment prior to contract signing

I’ll add:

Look up the planning permission. It’ll be online. Read it start to finish. Look at other planning permissions in the area. Make sure you’re happy with all aspects of it. Watch out for potential changes and incompletes. For instance an estate agents plan may show a nice park, the planning permission might show that’s been granted pp for apartments.

Look up local area development plans. Same deal, make sure you’re happy with what’s planned for the area. Also look at how your development fits & matches the local area plan. Are the planners being consistent?

With both the above, bear in mind the big caveat that none of it may come to pass.

Second half of my advice is sketch up. It’s a free downloadable drawing program. Surprisingly easy to use. Draw the plans up. Use the warehouse import feature to arrange furniture, make sure it fits. (Tip: ikea furniture is pretty much all available as an import, even if you’re not buying ikea, it gives good guidance on size). Sketch up also allows you to plot a sun/shadow profile. You draw the house and surroundings, pin its location and you can plot the sun & shadows for any day/time combo. Its brilliant.

All things being equal, new build is the way to go.

Air tightness and insulation are critical in anyway l new build

Thermal comfort throughout. No draughts.

I don’t doubt that current building regs are “better” than what went before, and that’s almost certainly the case w.r.t energy efficiency, but “newer is better” has always been the case in theory, and yet my older current house is more comfortable than my newer previous house.

Do any professionals on here have a view on whether the 2013 building control regs have improved standards of build? There seems a clear conflict of interest in that architects are commissioned (and therefore answerable to) the builders that commission them. If an architect was known to be signing off on dodgy practices, would that even be detrimental to their business?

You can get an architect to sign off on stuff sight unseen. And you can get architects, I’m sure, who would lie at the other end of the spectrum. The developer would decide at which end of the spectrum he prefers to operate.

The trouble here is the amount of oversight, which is very little. In England, I gather, you’ll have the building inspectorate (a state body) visit throughout each key stage of the build - and you can’t progress until sign off. Here, you might not see anyone from building control from one end of a development to another, and then only cursory.

The key, as I said earlier, is the attention to detail - from the architect detailing correctly, to the builder building according to architects design to the individual tradesmen applying workmanship to the levels required to achieve the designed result.

Suppose, for example, poor scheduling of roofing timber installation. The timber is wetter than it ought to be having lain in a builders providers in the relative open, is installed in wet conditions, has plasterboard fixed to it before it’s dried out - since the build must go on. Hairline cracking of the plasterboard will occur as the timber shrinks over time. By time, I mean over the course of a year or two.

I’d probably put more effort into checking out a new build than I would an older house.

The big difference before was that architects weren’t really signing off of dodgy practices - in general, they just didn’t have a clue what was happening on site and had to sign off nevertheless. Asking a builder to open up a wall to check for insulation is a dangerous game and would only be undertaken with some prior knowledge.

The construction professions (architects, engineers) moved from being very site based to being very office based. The increase in professional fees for BCAR is basically to pay for an architect/engineer/surveyor to get back on site and check the work.

It’s not just one person though - every aspect of the buiding process is now under scrutiny.

A big thing for me is the size and layout minimum requirements.
Generally new build now is far more liveable then anything built mid 90s to end of boom.
There’s more storage, utility rooms, big downstairs bathrooms etc.

Build quality wise, we just bought new build and the impression I’m getting from the builder (reinforced by the snagger etc.) is that our builder specifically but builders in general are trying to build a good solid reputation for themselves right now. Builders want happy customers in the 150 houses they’re building now because it’ll make the 1500 houses they’re trying to get financing for easier to finance and sell.