A Helping Hand for Homebuyers at London Developments

Posted 7 November 2019 by Keith Osborne

Joe Antoniazzi of Barratt London tells us how the housebuilder looks after customers through the homebuying journey...

Joe Antoniazzi of Barratt London invited us to the Eastman Village development in Wealdstone, north London, to tell us how the housebuilder looks after customers through the homebuying journey.

“We place our customers at the heart of everything we do and therefore ensure that our people ‘hold our customers’ hands’ through their journey with us.

“A buyer will lay down a reservation deposit and we assist in pointing them in the right direction for all the information they need, bearing in mind a lot of our customers haven’t purchased a home before, and may not fully understand what a mortgage is and how it works. They usually don’t know what the Help to Buy scheme is, or how the legal process works.

“Our sales advisors are well trained in explaining all that to new customers and in pointing them in the right direction. Most customers opt to utilise one of our recommended independent financial advisors who give them advice on what they can afford with and without Help to Buy, as well as what they can expect their monthly mortgage payments to be, so that they can make the decision on whether it’s for them. We have two that we recommend in London, Talk24 and London & Country, both new build specialists who act entirely independently from us.

Eastman Village“So, we give customers a general idea of how the schemes work, but ultimately for the detailed conversation we pass them to the recommended broker. That puts them massively at ease about how the process works, and what happens at each stage is explained by the recommended broker.

“We also explain how the legal process works and the timescales involved in that, before they reserve. So, with a Help to Buy case, you reserve a property on Day 1, we exchange contracts within six weeks, and then complete on notice. So, once we receive our sign-off from the NHBC that the properties are complete we ‘serve notice’ to the customers which gives them 10 working days to legally complete. But this will not come as a surprise because, throughout their journey we remain in contact and issue several communications with reminders of key stages and explaining the entire process.

“Purchasers have the opportunity to go with any solicitor they wish, but they often opt to go with one of our recommended solicitors as they specialise in the new build process. Similar to the brokers, these solicitors act entirely for the customer; we have our own solicitor that works for us.

“So, at the point of reservation we tell our customers all they need to know and issue them with a Reservation Guide as well. That way they have something to refer to and read in their own time and ask any questions. Then once they’ve made their selection of which broker and solicitor they will use, we take a reservation deposit from them, which is £500 standard for Help to Buy and hold the property off the market for them.

Eastman Village“Once the reservation process is completed, our sales progression team become our customers’ main point of contact in order to make the process very smooth between the broker, solicitor and customer. We will inform them of this transition to the progression team, including who they are what they are going to do, with a handover email. The progression team then come back to explain the timescales involved and they then ‘hold their hand’ through the whole process. They will advise the customers when they need to submit Help to Buy forms, when they need to submit their mortgage application (which the broker will also assist), when they need to instruct solicitors, etc.

“That process happens over six weeks on average, the customer then exchanges contracts with us and we take a 5% deposit, less the £500. During that time, the customer and their solicitor will probably raise various questions which our solicitor will answer, so at the point they exchange they are happy to go ahead.

“Between exchange and completion, we remain in contact with the customer throughout the journey. Our sales and progression teams remain the primary point of contact for all matters concerning the purchase process and any selections our customers may have made in relation to their home, but shortly after exchange we introduce the customer experience manager.

“The customer experience manager is the individual responsible for settling our customers into their new home and becomes the main point of contact for any non-sales related matters. They will also be the main point of contact once customers move in.

Ridgeway Views“Circa five months prior to the anticipated legal completion time, our customer experience managers also facilitate a visit to the site which we refer to as ‘Meet the Builder’. Usually their first point of contact is an introduction, where they invite the customer to visit the site whilst it’s being constructed. The customers will get to see either theirs or a similar property (health and safety dependent) in quite a raw form, usually when the property has its partition walls up, to make the space easier to visualise. The customers have to put on full PPE  (personal protective equipment, provided by us*) and are chaperoned by a site manager, so they have the opportunity to ask any build related questions which our sales team and customer experience manager may not have been able to answer.

“The feedback from customers about this event has consistently been very positive as it is quite an exciting visit and they get to see the properties at a stage that they would ordinarily not have been able to. On the day, our customer experience manager also takes the customers through our occupation strategy, essentially setting out what the development will look like when they move in, what activity may still be happening, what to expect on the day of handover and any other relevant information. A presentation is sent to each customer setting this out as well.

“Communication will continue to go out to our customers from either our progression team or the customer experience manager, either providing updates or key event reminders. Circa 28 days before the anticipated legal completion date, a communication is sent so as to enable our customers to start mobilising their move in good time, this all leading up to the formal 10-day notice.

Hendon Waterside“Usually, just before legal completion customers will have something we call a home tour whereby the customer experience manager (and sometimes the site manager) will meet the customer at their future home and they will go through a multi-point checklist to show them how everything works at the property, so that when the customer moves in they absolutely know. This is the first time the customer will see the property very nearly completed.

“They then legally complete, and this is notified via the solicitors. The actual handover process is completed by the customer experience manager who will have been in contact with the customer leading up to this to confirm the arrangements on the day. On the day of the handover the customer is given all the keys, certificates, user manuals and anything else relevant to the property. We also furnish a comprehensive home user guide, and usually a settling-in gift is waiting in the home. All meter readings are taken on the date of legal completion and an acceptance certificate is issued confirming everything is in order.

“The customer experience manager remains with them as a point of contact for a period of three months from when they move in and will contact the customers regularly, particularly just after move-in whilst the customers settle in. Any questions they have, they can simply pick up the phone. The manager also acts as the contact between the construction and tradespeople, and the customer in the event that this is needed. For example, if there is a teething problem, such as a mark on the wall that needs to be painted over (bear in mind each property is subject to a robust quality control procedure before that time, but sometimes minor things can be missed).

Hayes Village“All the customer needs to do is contact the customer experience manager who will the liaise with the tradespeople and construction team to close out the defects. Whilst our teams work normal office hours, we do also provide an out of hours emergency support service.

“Circa three months post legal completion, once our customers are settled in, our customer care team takes over for the duration of the two-year NHBC home builder warranty. The team comprises of a contact centre in our head office with people who work directly for Barratt London, who receive calls and emails where defects are tracked; then a team of field service managers who go in and investigate any issues reported establish if it’s a genuine defect or not. In the event a defect is present, they then arrange for the works to be done by either the original subcontractor or a handyman, depending on what it is. Any issue is fully tracked on our systems so as to ensure that nothing gets missed.

At the end of two years, our customers continue to benefit from the 10-year NHBC structural warranty directly with the NHBC. All customers will receive details of this warranty through their solicitors when they legally complete on their home.

“In the weeks after completion, we usually host a welcome to the residents, normally drinks or a barbecue event as an opportunity for them to come together, to meet us all again and to meet the neighbours.”

 

Find out more about Eastman Villlage and other Barratt London developments such as Ridgeway Views in Mill Hill, Hendon Waterside in Hendon, Hayes Village in west London, Upton Gardens in Newham and New Mill Quarter in Wallington.

* Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

 

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