16th April 2019

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The volume housebuilder model resembles that of British Leyland in the 1970s

David Gelling, Managing Director


Recent research by the Homeowners Alliance paints a pretty dismal picture of the state of much of the UK’s new housing.   According to the Alliance, only two thirds of new homeowners are content with the way their builder has dealt with quality concerns.  

The problems often go well beyond snagging.  Barely a day goes by without at least one national newspaper recounting the tale of a new homeowner’s outrage at badly fitting doors, sagging ceilings, condensation or mould.   The Home Builders Federation, which represents the industry’s established players, has found through its own research that the number of new home owners reporting ‘snags’ had reached  an astounding 99%, up from 93% in 2015.

The volume housebuilder model resembles that of British Leyland in the 1970s – delivering a product that everyone expects to be full of defects - and if things don’t change, it quite possibly faces a similar future.   The big housebuilders are in an almost unique position.  Think about it, what other products and services still exist where people are apparently prepared (and expected) to put up with such appalling quality and service?

This is not a new problem, things have been this way for years and they aren’t getting any better.  UK volume housebuilding is monopolistic, with poor quality control systems and poor accountability that doesn’t prioritise its customers’ interests.  Contractors are often rewarded on the basis of quantity rather than quality and different contractors working on site are often not properly coordinated, leading to mistakes and defects.  

So who is best placed to address these problems, government or the industry?   A New Homes Ombudsman has been promised, but there is no timetable yet for legislation to bring such a system into being.   The idea has also been mooted that Government should take on responsibility for the warranty system for new homes.  Similarly, there have been calls for those companies who have been slated for poor quality output whilst making vast profits on the back of Help to Buy, to be barred from participating in the scheme’s remaining years. 

Perhaps some of these do make sense, but I think we can all agree that Government has enough to worry about sorting out the Brexit quagmire; developers should be focussing on getting our own house in order, if you’ll excuse the pun!!    But are we equipped to deliver the massive cultural change that the country’s downtrodden home buyers need?

This Land was borne from a powerful desire of a number of old property hands – including yours truly – to lead the charge in offering a principled alternative to this sorry saga. We’re modest in scale at present – with a 27-site portfolio expected to deliver around 2,000 homes – but great things come from small beginnings.   Our philosophy with snagging is simple, we will make a firm commitment to all of our customers that we won’t ask them to complete on their home purchase until they tell us that they are entirely happy with what they are buying, i.e. no snagging issues.   What’s more, all our buyers will have a customer relationship manager appointed to them who will guide them through the whole process, keeping them informed of progress and guiding them through the choices they will make – such as landscaping or alternative fixtures and fittings.   We want to establish our brand as one that enables us to build long-term relationship with our customers.  This is how it often works for other lifestyle brands such as cars, fashion and travel, so why not homes?   Surely where you live is the ultimate lifestyle choice!       

Buying a house is a huge adventure – especially for those buying for the first time.  At This Land, we want to make it a pleasurable experience for our customers.   With the current poor service and product quality to which UK housing delivery is justly renowned, that statement sounds like an impossibility.   Our mission - which we choose to accept - is to make it the norm. And we will.