Should I bother with a ‘snag list’ before moving into my newly built house?

Property Clinic: your queries answered

Q I am buying a newly built home in an estate. The house is covered by the new building regulations, which I understand require inspection and sign off by an assigned certifier. I felt that I could save money by not getting someone to inspect the house for me. However, my friend, who works on a similar site, advised me to get a snag list done. Is this really needed?

A The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR) require a developer to appoint a professional to design, inspect and certify that the property will, when complete, meet all requirements of the building regulations and be free from defect. This professional can be a registered building surveyor, registered architect, or registered engineer.

The BCAR process involves an inspection regime during construction and the collation of technical data and certificates for each element of the work on completion. This information is stored on a cloud-based Building Control Management System (BCMS) hosted by the local government management agency. The local Building Control Authority administers the process. On completion a certificate of compliance must be uploaded on the register in the local authority before works or buildings may be opened, occupied or used. This should give a purchaser comfort when buying a newly built home.

However, human nature, being what it is, can mean that in some cases, not all elements are fully visible during milestone inspections and indeed there can be human error in assembling some of the component parts during construction. Human error can involve small, simple cosmetic errors, such as placing a light fitting off-centre, or more fundamental issues, such as failure to provide adequate ventilation to timber framed houses. There can be poor attention to detail when placing fire-stopping on a party wall and I have recently seen issues with regard to the obstruction of escape windows by the placement of conservatories below.


Quality control

The assigned certifier will not be on site at all stages and unless there is a very rigid quality control system in place, my experience is that defects or snags will exist.

I had a recent case where some of the windows had to be replaced because they had been damaged during installation. Another recent inspection required some of the window boards to be taken out and reinstalled as they were running off-level. It is still common to find issues of non-compliance with balustrading to staircases and balconies.

Each house is different and each will have its own snags. Builders will typically “pre-snag” and find the most obvious issues which require attention. However, my advice would be to have your own independent inspection and snag list carried out. It can be difficult to get a builder to return to deal with items that you may only notice once you have taken occupation of the house. Whilst it may be attractive to save money and do your own snag list, I would advise that you avail of professional experience with this type of work.

Noel Larkin is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,