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Anyone that’s in the process of buying a new-build home (or has bought one before) will have probably heard the term “snagging list” being bandied about. In case nobody has explained, this is a list of all the imperfections (or “snags”) that you find in a new-build home once it’s supposedly complete. If you’re lucky, this list contains just a few odd jobs and tidying up scuffed paintwork, but sometimes it can be much, much worse.

If your completion date is coming up and you’re at all worried about the condition of your house when you get the keys, here are five questions and answers to help you prepare for snagging.

When should I have a snagging inspection?

If you are buying your home off-plan (i.e. before it has been finished), you should arrange to have a snagging survey carried out as soon as your builder serves notice to complete. Most firms will provide this about two weeks before you can move in, which should give the builder plenty of time to deal with any pressing snags found during the inspection.

Where you’re buying a home that is already finished, the best time for a snagging survey is before you exchange contracts. If there are outstanding works or faulty items, you can include clauses stipulating that you won’t pay the full amount or formally complete until the snags have been addressed.

The warranty on a new-build home will only last two years, so the most important thing is that your snagging list is submitted before this expires.

What are the most common snags?

Common snags are small details that might seem insignificant at a glance – things like incomplete caulking, missing grout or patchy pointing on external brickwork. These might not seem like a big deal when you first move in, but if they’re not fixed they can cause more significant problems to develop over time.

There are certain snags that a surveyor is more likely to spot than the average homeowner, such as incomplete lagging (insulation) around pipework in the loft, or extractor fans which have been positioned to vent into roof voids, causing a build-up of damp.

Other snags are purely aesthetic, like scratched windows or paintwork that has been completed to a poor standard. Even if they won’t affect the functionality or structural integrity of the building, it’s important to get them addressed – your new home should be as perfect as possible, after all.

Is a snagging survey the same as a condition report?

Simply put, no. A snagging survey is designed to focus on quality, rather than the property’s broader condition like a survey does.

The companies that provide the warranty for new homes (like the NHBC and LABC) are only concerned about the structural integrity of the building, following guidelines referred to as “tolerances”. They won’t be interested in aesthetic details, which is where the snagging survey comes in.

In comparison, a property survey will look at potential flaws in the property’s structure and determine whether there are any defects which you should be concerned about before moving in. It’s a misconception that a brand-new home comes with an assurance of its build quality, which is why you should always arrange for a qualified professional to inspect it. The type of survey most commonly recommended for a new-build home is a Condition Report – read more about them here.

Will a snagging survey include structural defects?

Snagging surveys are designed to focus on the details that might have been missed while the home was getting its finishing touches. However, it’s a Chartered Surveyor’s job to look out for structural defects, so if they notice anything that raises a concern, they will highlight it for further investigation.

Be aware that uncovering a major defect may lead to delays. Your solicitor will need to be informed and kept involved so that they can manage the issues appropriately, as refusing to complete once exchange and notice have been given will constitute as a breach of contract.

Can I perform a snagging survey myself?

There is nothing stopping you from carrying out a snagging survey for yourself, but do keep in mind that a surveyor’s experience will allow them to inspect a property much faster and more accurately.

If you’re trying to save money by doing it yourself, be sure to do some research online beforehand to make sure you know the kinds of things to look for (here’s a template from the LABC to get you started). If you’re at all uncertain about whether something is a snag or not, it’s best to include it in your list and at least query it with the builder. Finally, it might sound obvious, but don’t plan your survey until the builder has confirmed the house is ready – there’s just no point.

Having said that, while a professional snagging survey might set you back a few hundred pounds, this is really just a fraction of the price of the house. It isn’t much for the peace of mind that a survey can provide, especially as surveyors may have a little more clout with the developer to get your issues fixed quickly.