How the New Homes Quality Board is Raising Customer Care Standards
With the introduction of the new Code by the New Home Quality Board (NHQB), property developers are required to meet more stringent criteria that applies to both the homes they build and the customer service they provide for their buyers.
NHQB state that, ‘The framework was introduced in 2022 and has delivered a step change in developer behaviour, a consistently high standard of new home quality and service, and strengthened redress for the purchasers of new-build homes where these high standards are not achieved.’
The new Code looks set to succeed in raising standards in consumer care for homebuyers but how, exactly, is it achieving this goal?
Buyers of homes built by NHQB-registered developers will be protected under the measures of the new Code, which have been designed to offer peace of mind for consumers.
Understanding the requirements of developers under the new Code will help buyers make informed decisions about their purchase, and will also work to assure them of their safety in the buying process. This is intended to help increase the trust in homebuilders and work to increase sales of new homes.
As well as the support offered by the New Homes Quality Code (NHQC) requirements, buyers can find also support after completion if they are not satisfied with the home or customer service they’ve received, or the way a complaint to their homebuilder has been handled.
In this instance, buyers of NHQB registered developers have access to the independent New Home Ombudsman Service (NHOS). The NHOS is easy for the consumer to use, comprised of a six-step process to reach an independent decision on the complaint the buyer has registered. This will be issued both to the buyer and developer for review before a final decision is made.
This service can greatly increase peace of mind for property buyers, as they know they will have the option of escalating a complaint that is not dealt with well by their homebuilder.
Setting Expectations for the New Home
The NHQC ensures that developers are clear in their communications with buyers and open about the homes being sold. This transparency begins from the earliest opportunity, starting with the details provided in their marketing materials, which must not be misleading in any way.
The communications throughout the sales process must also meet the strict criteria set out by the new Code, including a fair reservation agreement (with an appropriate cooling off period), compliant completion content and demonstrative aftercare beyond sales, including defect reporting and complaints procedures, detailed in writing to the homebuyer.
Vulnerable customers must be considered in all aspects of the sale, including the marketing materials provided for the development or home.
It is also the responsibility of the developer to provide details of any ongoing work on site and realistic timescales for this to be completed.
Through a broad range of requirements from the developer, the NHQC dictates that from the initial contact with a homebuilder, customers are protected and supported, and this protection continues to apply for two years following the date of completion.
There are several methods used by the NHQB to ensure the Code protects consumers in the lead up to purchasing a new home.
The NHQC stipulates that vulnerable customers be supported accordingly in their home purchase, and that they understand all aspects of the process.
The Code prohibits the use of high-pressure sales techniques, such as offering financial rewards for quick decisions or implying a property will soon increase in price in order to secure a quick sale. This allows consumers the breathing space to consider their buying decision carefully.
All deposits must be protected by developers signed up to the NHQB, ensuring financial protection for buyers.
The NHQC also requires developers to be transparent in the information they provide about the home so that buyers are not faced with any unwanted surprises after completion. This includes details of any possible additional payments or delays in timescales.
The developer must also create a fair reservation agreement, which includes a ‘cooling off’ period for customers.
In the lead up to completion, NHQB-registered developers are required to perform a pre-completion inspection of the new home and confirm that the property meets the criteria to be described as a ‘complete new home’. This means developers are no longer able to offer discounts to customers for moving into an unfinished home.
And finally, crucially, the NHQC places the onus on homebuilders to provide an effective aftercare service, including the provision of an easily initiated defect reporting system and complaints procedure, and that any issues of this variety be dealt with in a timely manner.
Choosing a Developer
When an interested homebuyer wants to purchase a new home, they can firstly ascertain whether the developer of the home they are interested in is registered with the NHQB.
If the homebuyer has reserved a property before the date that the developer registered with the NHQB, then their home purchase will not be protected by the NHQC.
With the creation of the NHQB and the new Code comes the ability for homebuyers to choose a builder they know they can trust. This is a great way to encourage more homebuyers into the new homes market, but not such good news for developers who aren’t registered.
If you are a property developer not yet registered with the NHQB, it is time to act. With the safety assurances for buyers offered by the new Code, you are likely to attract more buyers and retain customers as long-term advocates of your brand.
The idea of creating new processes or content to comply with the new Code can seem daunting but as an NHQB-accredited content supplier, we can help you ensure that all the information you supply for your customers is Code compliant.
Our Reservation and Completion Manuals ensure you comply with your Code obligations – and as we write these individually for each of our developer clients, they also work to enhance your brand while adding reassuring safety measures for your customers.
You can find out more about our NHQB accreditation and how we can help you here.
To find out more about the new Code, why it was created and how it is being received by the industry, read our recent conversation with NHQB’s Andrew Preece, here.