How to buy a new home off-plan

Posted 9 September 2015 by Keith Osborne

Our guide to understanding the pros and cons of buying a new home off-plan.

In desirable parts of London, purchasing off-plan is already the norm, and there are signs that the trend is spreading throughout the country, with a recent surge in the number of buyers purchasing properties at the design stage.

Buying a home that might not exist for a year or more can be a lucrative investment in a fast-moving market, but there are some dangers.

Here’s our guide to understanding the pros and cons.


Buying off-plan represents an opportunity to be the early bird that catches the worm. If you purchase early, the value of your property could increase significantly before you even move in. For example, if you agree to pay £250,000, and a year later on completion the property is worth £280,000, you could sell immediately for a tidy profit.

Developers love selling off-plan as it helps with cashflow and provides a surety that the property is sold. With this in mind, discounts of up to 5% can be available for early purchases, with the best deals usually reserved for cash buyers and investors buying in bulk.

Purchasing off-plan could allow you to secure one of the best plots, perhaps with great views or a south-facing garden. You might also be able to choose fixtures, fittings and interior finishes.

New build homes offer greater energy efficiency and lower maintenance bills, and defects are covered by an NHBC warranty.

Important considerations

Property prices could fall. If you have agreed to pay £250,000 and the value has slumped to £220,000 at completion, your mortgage provider may get cold feet about lending the amount originally promised, and the developer will still hold you to your contract, which could create a shortfall.

The property might not be finished on time. Some mortgage offers are only valid for up to six months and might be withdrawn if the build takes longer than expected.

Plans and brochures don’t always provide a clear picture of views, noise and light. If you are one of the first buyers to move in, you could experience disruption while other properties are being finished.


  • Arrange finance for the purchase in advance
  • Select a property and pay reservation fees
  • Arrange a valuation of the property from a surveyor and finalise the agreement
  • Exchange contracts and pay a deposit (usually around 10% of the purchase price)
  • Keep up to date with progress at the development while the property is being built
  • A few weeks before completion, conduct a snagging survey to find any defects
  • Be ready for the ‘short stop’ (when the developers expect to finish building) and ‘long stop’ (when the property must be finished) completion dates

Top tips for buying off-plan

Do your research. Look closely at the developer’s track record of delivering quality properties to their original timescales. Find out about local transport links and amenities and assess any other developments in the area.

Understand exactly what you are getting. If you’re viewing a show home, find out what will be included and what will cost extra. Make the most of any input you have in the decorating of the property.

Seek the independent advice of a solicitor. Contracts vary from development to development, and it is important to ensure your interests (and deposit) are protected.

If you are planning on selling or letting the property once it has been completed, ensure you understand the market. Find out how many of the other units are likely to be sold and let to assess the competition.

Other buying advice articles

Why buy a new build - pros and cons


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