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New build mortgages

New build homes can be in better shape and more energy efficient than older homes, but getting a mortgage for one might throw up a few extra hurdles. We look at the options available to those looking to buy a new build home and how to avoid the common pitfalls.
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New build homes - how do you get a mortgage for a house that's still being built?
Mortgages for new build homes

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What is a new build property?

Different lenders have slightly different definitions of ‘new build’ for mortgage purposes but generally speaking it’s a property that is newly built and has never been bought or lived in by anyone. 

It can also include properties that have recently been converted or substantially renovated specifically for the purpose of sale, or those that are not yet fully built, which you can buy ‘off plan’. 

Applying for mortgages on new build houses

The mortgage application process is the same regardless of whether your home is a new build or not, but if it’s off-plan you may need to send the lender some blueprints and images showing what the property will eventually look like.

How to get a mortgage for a new build home

Lenders may require a higher deposit and or charge higher interest rates when you’re buying a new build home, as there’s a risk that its value could fall in the first few years. This is because it will lose its ‘brand new’ appeal once someone has owned it. 

If you're buying a new build home 'off-plan' you may find it harder to get a mortgage than you would buying a property that has already been built, as the property price can change during the build period, making it a greater risk to lenders, particularly if it falls in value.  

Timescales for getting a new build mortgage

The timing of your mortgage application is very important when buying a new build home, particularly if it is incomplete. Your mortgage offer will have a validity period (typically around six months), meaning it could expire before the home is built. You may be able to get an extension of the mortgage offer if the property is not completed in time,but this is at the lender’s discretion. 

If the lender refuses to extend the offer, you will have to submit a new mortgage application. However, there are some more specialist lenders who have mortgages designed to cater to new-build buyers’ needs. 

Sometimes referred to as new build mortgages, the offers remain valid for longer on these products, typically between nine and 12 months. A mortgage broker will be able to help you find a lender offering a mortgage with a longer validity period, should you wish to buy ‘off-plan’. 

Mortgage lender criteria for new build mortgages

The majority of lending criteria is the same whether you buy a new build property or not, although there are typically stricter loan to value (LTV) limits on new build properties. The LTV is the maximum percentage of the sale price that they are willing to lend. 

For an older property, it’s common to borrow as much as 95% of the cost of your home, meaning you can secure one with as little as 5% deposit. With new-build properties, 15% is more likely to be the minimum deposit requirement, with some lenders requiring as much as 25%.

Developer incentives

Another thing to be aware of is how developer incentives are viewed by your mortgage lender. Although incentives, such as free stamp duty, that may be offered to persuade you to buy a new-build home seems like a great benefit, lenders will be cautious around the total monetary value of any benefits you receive.

Typically lenders are comfortable with incentives that are worth as much as 5% of the property value, but any more than this, they may reduce the amount you’re able to borrow, as they will deduct this value from their valuation of the property. 

For example:

If your home costs £150,000 and the total cost of incentives is £15,000 (or 10%), the lender could reduce the LTV and/or increase the interest rate on your borrowing.

Government help to buy new builds

The government launched the First Homes scheme in June 2021, which provides a discount of between 30%-50% on the price of new build homes in England. This is intended to help first time buyers on a lower income to get a foot on the property ladder. 

Key workers will likely be prioritised for access to the scheme, but it’s open to anyone that qualifies for the below criteria:

  • 18+

  • First-time buyer

  • Can get a mortgage for at least half the price of the home

  • Have a household income of no more than £80,000 (£90,000 in London)

  • The home cost more than £420,000 in London, or £250,000 anywhere else in England (post discount)

The local council may also insist that users of the scheme are:

  • Key workers (or essential workers)

  • Local connections to the area through residency or work

  • On lower incomes

Unless they are:

  • A member of the armed forces

  • The divorced or separated spouse or civil partner of a member of the armed forces

  • A widow or widower of a deceased member of the armed forces (if their death was caused wholly or partly by their service)

  • A veteran who left the armed forces in the last 5 years

The properties in the scheme have been built specifically for this purpose and with the intention that they will remain as affordable housing. This means that you can only buy one if you are happy for it to remain a first home when you move on, so you can only sell it to another eligible buyer and you must give them the same percentage discount that you got.

Shared ownership scheme

There are a number of new-build housing developers that offer shared ownership purchase through a housing association. Shared ownership allows you to buy a percentage of the property and rent the remaining share from the housing association, who own the rest of your home.  

With many shared ownership properties, you have the opportunity to gradually increase your ownership over time, so that you can eventually own it outright. 

Deposit Unlock scheme

This scheme is the first non-government home ownership scheme that is widely available in the UK and was developed by the Home Builders Federation to help people buy a new build home with a deposit of just 5%. This may go some way to replacing the government’s help to buy scheme, which is no longer open to new applicants in England and will close to Welsh applicants in 2023.

This scheme differs slightly in that it’s not just available to first time buyers, and those moving up the chain are also welcome to apply. More details can be found on the Deposit Unlock website

Where to buy a new build home

Most property search engines have a new build home filter, but many developers also have their new build homes listed separately, including information on whether or not they are eligible to be bought through a government financing scheme like the first home scheme.

Look for the NHBC Buildmark

The NHBS (National House Building Council) Buildmark is a 10-year warranty covering quality of construction. This will give you peace of mind about the build quality of your new home, but will also be an important factor for mortgage lenders, who are unlikely to approve a mortgage on a property without this guarantee.

What are the benefits of new build homes?

There are a number of benefits to owning a brand new home, these include:

  • It should be in pristine condition with no decorating or renovations needed

  • You can often choose the fixtures and fittings the builder puts in, such as appliances or flooring

  • Developers may offer incentives to convince you to buy from them – like paying your stamp duty, for example (although this could be deducted from the value of the property for mortgage purposes)

  • You may be able to use a scheme, such as the first homes scheme to make it more affordable

  • You don't have to worry about a property chain delaying the buying process 

  • New build homes are likely to be in a better condition than older ones and need less maintenance

  • New homes are more energy efficient and may have more modern features

  • New builds come with a warranty that covers you for any defects in the property

What are the drawbacks of new build homes?

There are always pros and cons to every type of home, and whilst there are lots of benefits to owning a new home, there can also be some drawbacks, such as:

  • They often cost more than older homes for an equivalent sized property in the same location

  • The property loses value more quickly as it’s no longer new as soon as you’ve bought it

  • New builds are often smaller than older homes

  • You may have to pay for the maintenance of any shared spaces

  • It can be harder to get a mortgage and the legal process can be a little more complicated

  • There could be delays if you’re buying off-plan resulting in your mortgage offer could expiring

  • If an off-plan property drops in value before its completed, you’ll still have to pay the price you agreed, which could mean your mortgage provider won’t lend you the amount you need 

  • You’ll usually pay a reservation fee to secure the property, which you’ll lose if you don’t or can’t go through with the purchase. The developer could also sue you if you back out of the sale 

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