Why can't new homes builders give fixed completion dates?

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, answers your questions
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© Merrily Harpur
Question: Why can't a builder give a fixed completion date? Buying a new house is difficult and I have been told it's best not to try unless I have no property to sell or I'm prepared to go into temporary accommodation until the new house is ready.

Answer: If a property is in the course of construction it can be hard to predict when work will be complete and give a definite completion date as construction can be affected by weather and planning issues among other things.

Usually a contract for the sale of a new-build property provides that completion must take place on notice and within a certain number of days (often 10 days) following physical completion of the property.

Once building works have been completed the seller will serve a Notice to Complete on the buyer, requiring completion within a certain time period. Usually a Notice to Complete cannot be given unless a building regulations completion certificate or a new homes warranty and insurance certificate, such as an NHBC, have been issued.

There is often a "long stop" completion date requiring the developer to use reasonable endeavours to complete the property by a certain date. For instance, if there is a long delay caused by striking workers the buyer can rescind the contract.

If the buyer has a property to sell, to synchronise the sale and purchase, the sale contract should provide for completion on notice, but often a buyer of a property other than a new build will not accept this.

It may be simpler to buy a new property if there is no connected sale or if the buyer is willing to move into temporary accommodation until the new build is ready and completion can take place.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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