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22nd April, 2016

Thinking of buying off-plan?

Thinking of buying off-plan?

We talk to 10 Fine & Country agents in the UK and overseas for their top tips for anyone thinking of buying off-plan.

Mark Walker, Sales & Investment Director at Fine & Country New Homes Solihull (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/west-midlands) shares his insights. He has more than 20 years of experience in this area.

“Two types of people are purchasing property off-plan: those who want to buy a home to live in, and those who want to use property in the buy-to-let sector.

There is an increase in buyers choosing luxury properties off-plan. Two to three years ago, we wouldn’t have seen luxury homes for more than £1 million, selling before they were built. But recently we have sold detached homes (£1 million) that have been snapped up within 19 days of going on the market. This is due to a shortage of quality housing on the market and buyers are eager for a more bespoke approach, where they can select their fixtures and fittings, rather than having to wait until they move in.

Buyers are looking to purchase their property earlier than before, which means that they can pick the best plots in developments. Plus, prices can often increase before completion, so it can be beneficial to buy early.”

Here are some top tips:

1. Research the developer and agent thoroughly

2. Check their reputation to ensure that they have completed other developments in the past without any issues.

3. When you have decided to buy, make sure you confirm the specifications.

4. Find out about any service charges, so there are no surprises later.

5.Speak to your mortgage provider as they may offer a six month availability, but the build may take eight months to be completed.

Elena Ivanova, Managing Director at Fine & Country Costa Blanca South (www.fineandcountry.com/es) discusses buying off-plan.

“There is an increase in buying off-plan in Costa Blanca South, particularly among new coastal projects. After the global recession, we are running out of resale properties, so the developers need to build new projects. We also have a lot of land available in prime locations, which gives us a competitive advantage compared with other areas of Spain and the Mediterranean.”

Here are some of the benefits for buying off-plan:

1.New modern design with better materials that are adapted to new EU efficiency standards.

2.The option to make changes in the property, personalising the kitchen and bathrooms.

3.You can also choose a better location when buying early.

4. Payment can be spread over a 12-month period with some developers.


1.You can’t move in straight away.

2.Some areas may not be as developed. It will take time to populate them.

Questions to ask:

1.Don’t sign a contract without your agent and/or lawyer.

2.Ask for a bank guarantee which insures your money until the property is finished.

3.Ask for as many copies of licences and documents available.

“Remember to use the right agent and only go to the well-known developers to avoid any potential issues. Find a lawyer to check all the paperwork and sign the contract correctly to avoid any problems in the future.”

Charles Eddlestone, Sales & Lettings Manager at Fine & Country Fulham (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/fulham) on buying off-plan:

“Off-plan developments offer buyers the opportunity to purchase a property before the development completes. In some cases, this can be two to three years down the line. By buying early, you effectively have the opportunity to purchase with the probability of high-capital growth over a two to three year period.

In many cases, the uplift can be great that a number of investors sell the apartments before completion. This means that they only pay in the region of 15% of the property’s value. Selling off-plan is a popular option for overseas buyers. It is an opportunity to place a deposit in a stable economy, where capital growth and high-rental yields may offer attractive returns.”

Matthew Brouwer, Managing Partner at Fine & Country Lincoln (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/lincoln):

“There are numerous benefits to buying off-plan, but there are two that spring to mind; prices may be more competitive and there is often the opportunity to choose fixtures and fittings. As with all property investments, ensure the sale is water-tight and covers all eventualities. Ask to see a completed property and if possible speak to the owners.

But, why is buying-off plan becoming more popular? Buyers have the security of a sale as their investment in a project grows.”

Dominique Scott, Associate Director at Fine & Country Brighton & Hove (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/brighton-and-hove):

If you are thinking of buying off-plan, then ask these key questions.

1.How will the property be finished?

2.What are the anticipated running costs?

3. Can you ‘snag’ the property before completion?

4. Will any guarantees be included? For example, are there any guarantees from NHBC? (www.nhbc.co.uk)

5. How energy efficient is the building?

6. What are the terms and conditions for leasehold flats, ground rent and service charge?

Nuno Durão, Managing Partner at Fine & Country Portugal (www.fineandcountry.com/pt)

“Buying off- plan gives you the chance of buying something now, that will be ready later. So, you have less financial constraints as you pay over a long period of time.”

Here are some of the most important considerations when buying off-plan in Portugal:

1.Ask a lawyer to check all documentation.

2.Check that planning permission has been approved for the project.

3. Is financing in place to finish the project?

4. Are any major developments planned for the area? How will they impact on your property?

5. Are prices expected to go up or go flat?

6. Why has selling off-plan become more popular?

7. Does the developer have a good track record?

8. Will any furniture and fittings be included in the price?

9.Timings, ask when the project starts and when it will be completed?

10.Find a good lawyer to ensure you are protected, just in case anything goes wrong down the line.

Polly Greenway at Fine & Country Dorchester (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/dorchester)

What should you consider when buying off-plan in the West Country? Polly Greenway at Fine & Country Dorchester explains:

You can pick the perfect property apartment before anyone else. This may include the largest garden or the sunniest aspect, which is especially important if it is an apartment. Similarly, you may be able to upgrade the kitchen, add different appliances or choose different colour carpets.

Key questions - ensure you ask the following:

1. Are there any restrictive clauses?

2. Check the small print in the reservation form.

3. What happens if the anticipated completion date is moved forward? Weather conditions may make it difficult for the developer to complete.

4.Is the property leasehold?

5. What specifications are included in the kitchen and the bathroom?

6. Ask what guarantees are available. For example NHBC, Premier Guarantee (www.premierguarantee.co.uk)

Phil Sheridan, CEO of Fine & Country Dubai (www.fineandcountry.com/ae)

What are the benefits of buying off-plan?

"There are a number of benefits to buying off-plan. The price is fixed at the outset, so there is a possibility that the price may rise before completion. The price of the home is normally paid through a number of instalments (i.e. 10% reservation followed by 15%, 15% 15%, 15%, and 30% on completion), which ensures cash flow and time to sell exiting properties."

Linda Erasmus, CEO of Fine & Country Sub-Saharan Africa (www.fineandcountry.com/sa):

Top tips from South Africa:

1.Why has selling off-plan become more popular in South Africa?

2.The entry market; it is popular as there is no transfer duty.

3.The apartment living has become more popular in South Africa as people are more used to living in smaller spaces.

4.Luxury apartments on the Atlantic Seaboard have become popular due to limited space and more people wanting a piece of this beautiful seaside haven.

Benefits of buying off-plan:

1.Developers allow for minor changes so you end up with your perfect home.

2.If you have a specific aspect you want to be built in, it can be arranged with the developer.

3.The garden can be designed to suite your tastes.

4.Buyers have the choice of floor and bathroom tiles.

Buyer’s checklist:

1. Ask the agent how many units have been sold or how many must be sold before the developer can break ground?

2. It is also good to know whether the developer is the owner of the land and whether the land only will be transferred once sales are concluded. You want a developer with a good track record rather than someone trying to do a re-development without having the experience.

3.Ask to see the site plan that was approved by the authorities.


1. A buyer should familiarise him/herself with sizes. How big is a 3x3 bedroom as a property can be smaller when finished? Visit an established home with a 3x3 bedroom to get a feel for your new property.

2. Pay careful attention to what is included and what is excluded in the contract. Development contracts are large documents and the buyer needs to ensure that they read through every clause to understand what they get?

3. Pay special attention to the type of waterproofing for roofs and foundations.

4. Budgeting is not as easy as you have to pay extra for the garden. A second hand home comes with an established garden.

Karl Jennings, Senior Negotiator from Fine & Country Marbella (www.fineandcountry-marbella.com)

"Buying off-plan in Marbella is particularly popular due to the low level of construction activity for many years. This has created a pent up demand for more contemporary projects, the great majority of these are off plan.

But always research the developer, builder, architect and financier. To ensure the project is completed to the high standard. When you purchase with an established agent such as Fine & Country, they have already undertaken this diligence on the buyer’s behalf."

There are many benefits of buying off market:

1. Developers allow for minor changes so you end up with your perfect home.

2. Buyers are able to fix at a good price, as often developers offer lower prices to get purchases moving when they launch.

3. Buying off plan means you will take advantage of capital appreciation, if your property increases in value as it is being built.

"Remember do you research and be ready to move quickly when the right development comes on the market."

And one for luck...

A view from the capital - Adam Tahir, Managing Director of Fine & Country East London (www.fineandcountry.com/uk/east-london)

"Make sure you know your positioning, orientation in the building and elevation from the ground.

Buying off-plan is increasing in popularity as people want something new and something that has never been lived in before.

But make sure you do your homework before buying off-plan. Time spent on research is never time wasted."

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