Buying an off-plan can be fraught with difficulty, especially if the property isn’t completed until several months later, but it’s still a popular option for a slice of buyers.
However, while whimsical artist’s impressions — and potentially even a show home — might look tempting, this is one area of home buying where you need to tread carefully.
There’s financing to consider, with deposits required to secure properties and many lenders not offering mortgages on off-plan homes.
And even if a lender lends on off-plan properties, the mortgage deal may only last for six months, meaning you may need to reapply for finance if the property isn’t completed within that time.
There is also the crucial question of whether the property will live up to expectations and look like the product that was sold to you on paper (or more likely, via computer-generated images).
If you buy off plan, will the property end up looking like the computer generated images?
Anyone buying off-plan should check contracts carefully and have a professional review them before signing on the dotted line. It is important to check whether a deposit is refundable or non-refundable and what conditions are imposed.
Buyers should also take note of their rights, obligations and recourse options if things do not go as planned.
The first advice from experts is not to be seduced by fanciful developer drawings and brochures and think clearly about what the development will be like.
Jeremy Leaf, a North London estate agent, said: “CGIs can be very accurate, but they can also be a little misleading as they are a picture of what is expected.
“Building issues can mean the developer can’t physically build what they want; there may be problems on site, changes to planning and conditions. There needs to be some flexibility, common sense and wiggle room on both sides.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that the builder or developer is deliberately trying to be deceptive or trying to get away with anything.”
What if something drastically changes?
Mr Leaf added: ‘Nobody wants to buy a two-bed flat through a CGI just to find a single room and a double room. If the buyer wishes to continue despite everything, he must ensure that he has the opportunity to resolve this problem. Goodwill and enthusiasm on both sides can help find a solution.
The Federation of Home Builders explains that there are a number of consumer codes and safeguards in place that aim to protect customers in this case.
He said these codes and warranties have a range of information requirements that “ensure homebuyers get an accurate description of their home.”
‘Nobody wants to buy a two-bed apartment through a CGI to find a single room and a double room,’ warns an estate agent
The HBF explained that a new code called The New Homes Quality Code will increase consumer protection. It was published by the New Homes Quality Board last year.
It will come into force in the coming months, alongside an independent ombudsman for new homes who will provide recourse to consumers in the event that they are not satisfied with their building or consider themselves, for example, not to have received precise information.
Claire Coward of HBF said: “The new code protects vulnerable customers, helps customers make informed decisions and tackles any issues with ‘snag’ issues.
“If a customer is unhappy with the way a complaint they made has been handled, they can refer their case to the New Homes Ombudsman Service.”
Four off-plan homes for sale
1. Two-Bed Apartment, London, £1.75m
This two bedroom apartment is part of the Battersea Power Station development at Nine Elms in London
The flat is on the market for £1.75m and is being sold by Copperstones estate agents
The luxury apartment is on the fourth floor of the new building and comes with a 993 year lease
This two bedroom apartment is part of the Battersea Power Station development at Nine Elms in London.
It is on the fourth floor of the building, which will provide residents with access to a 24-hour concierge, residents’ lounge, bar, gym, swimming pool and private cinema.
The leasehold property has a 993-year lease and is on sale for £1.75million through Copperstones estate agents.
2. Three-Bed Apartment, Kent, £895,000
This three bedroom apartment is part of a new development in the coastal town of Broadstairs in Kent
The development of 18 apartments, each with luxurious interiors including open-plan living areas
The leasehold property is on the market for £895,000 via Cooke & Co estate agents
This three bedroom apartment is in the coastal town of Broadstairs in Kent and is part of a development of 18 apartments in the original grounds of the North Foreland golf course.
The leasehold property is being sold for £895,000 via estate agents Cooke & Co.
The apartment’s listing says the computer-generated images are the artist’s impressions only, although he does “everything possible” to offer a realistic representation of what the finished development will look like.
3. Two-Bed Apartment, Dorset, £750,000
This two bedroom apartment is in the affluent Sandbanks area of Dorset, known for its sandy beaches
The Dorset apartment development is just 200m from the beach and 500m from the harbor
The leasehold property is being sold for £750,000 via Fine & Country estate agents
This two bedroom apartment is in the affluent Sandbanks, known for its sandy beaches and expensive properties.
The Dorset apartment development is just 200 meters from the beach and 500 meters from the harbour.
The leasehold property has a 125-year lease and is being sold for £750,000 through Fine & Country estate agents.
4. Three Bed Bungalow, Perth, £450,000
This bungalow is on a development of four similar properties in the Perthshire village of Murthly
The property is currently under construction and will not be fully completed until the summer of this year
The property is on the market via Your Move and is selling for an asking price of £450,000
This three bedroom bungalow sits on a development of four similar properties in the village of Murthly, Perthshire.
It is about 15 minutes north of the city of Perth, at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands.
The property is currently under construction and will be completed in early summer 2022. It is on the market through Your Move and is selling for £450,000.