How to buy a new home ‘off plan’

CGI of a home at The Lilacs in Trimley St Martin, Suffolk, where 50pc of buyers have bought off-plan

Strength of demand outweighing supply means that many buyers are having to reserve their homes 'off plan' - Credit: Savills

This year has very much begun in the same vein as 2021 – with strength of demand for new homes far outweighing supply. Consequently, many buyers are having to reserve their property ‘off plan’.

Essentially all this means is buying a home before it’s built. But for the inexperienced it can understandably be a daunting process. After all, how do you know exactly what you’re going to get without the reassurance of bricks and mortar?

Fortunately it doesn’t appear to have dampened buyers’ enthusiasm. Our scheme at The Lilacs in Trimley St Martin near Felixstowe for example now has more than 50 per cent of homes reserved while still under construction.

CGI of new homes at The Lilacs, Trimley St Martins, which are for sale with Savills

50 per cent of homes at Trimley St Martin have been reserved while still under construction - Credit: Savills

CGIs and artists’ impressions have become more sophisticated in recent years which allows us to give an excellent representation of a property both inside and out.

There are also some significant advantages to buying off plan. In return for a relatively small deposit you can secure a brand-new home and often get a say in the final design and build – allowing you to personalise your home and choose fixtures and fittings in a way that isn’t always possible.

In a rising market, buying off plan can also be a savvy purchase as you pay the price for the property as it is valued at the point of sale and not at the point of completion (although of course the reverse is also possible).

Close up of new apartment plans and smartphone being held by young woman

Buying off plan can sometimes mean that you get a say in the final design and build - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Smaller deposits also mean it is often more affordable for first time buyers, while some developers will offer a discount in order to secure an early sale. There’s also the advantage of a 10 year building warranty.

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However, unless you’re the last one onto a development there’s likely to be some building work going on when you arrive and – depending on the stage of build – you may have to wait a little longer to move in than you would for a completed house. If the build is delayed, you could also have to re-apply for your mortgage as most offers only last six months.

But there are steps you can take to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Even when buying off plan developers like to know their buyers can proceed to exchange of contracts in a swift time frame – so it’s important to have your current home on the market (or ideally sold or under offer). Having alternative accommodation arranged if you do need to wait can also work in your favour.

RMG Photography - July 2017Savills - Staff portraits - 2017.Pic - Richard Marsham/RMG Photography

Max Turner, who leads the new homes team at Savills Ipswich - Credit: Richard Marsham/RMG Photography

If you need to borrow, make sure you have spoken to a mortgage advisor and have your finances in order. Similarly, instruct an experienced solicitor to ensure all the paperwork is watertight. The legalities matter a great deal, so this isn’t an area to try and save money.

You may also want to research the developer’s previous schemes to check they have the experience and reputation for delivering what they’ve promised. All developments have some teething problems, but you need to know previous buyers were satisfied.

Before you commit to a purchase it’s also worth looking at where your chosen property sits within the development. How close is it to other properties? What orientation is the garden? Is it close to any new access roads?

While not suitable for everyone, choosing to reserve off plan isn’t necessarily as complicated or unnerving as it first seems. With the right preparation it can often prove an effective way to secure a new home.

For advice about the new homes market contact Max Turner at Savills Suffolk on 01473 234826 or