Nearly three-quarters of new homes have defects - report

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 17:00 29/05/2014

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A report showing nearly three-quarters of new-home builders have to call their builder back to fix defects is actually fairly normal practice, a well-known builder says.

More than 600 people were surveyed by building research entity Branz, which found that 73 per cent had had to call the builder back after they moved in, although only 9 per cent had anticipated no defects.

Twenty-seven per cent were dissatisfied with the repairs made, and 15 per cent disputed their final bill.

However, 91 per cent were at least "fairly satisfied" with the overall quality of their home. Those who had had a lot of input into the design of their home were generally more pleased.

Branz economist David Norman said it was apparent that builders were not meeting the expectations of new-home owners.

"The clear message from the survey is that slow or bad service in dealing with defects after move-in strongly affects the likelihood that new house owners will recommend their builder," Norman said.

"The challenge for the industry is going to be maintaining and improving performance as workloads increase, particularly in the Auckland and Canterbury regions."

However, Mike Fox, of Wellington's Primesite Homes, said it was not unusual for builders to get a call back.
"Any new project that's finished will invariably have some maintenance period and that's what being reflected in those figures," Fox said.

"That doesn't mean those are serious problems."

It was also common to have discussions about costs late in the piece, particularly if building-material prices rose or if a homeowner wanted to make changes.

"If the builder has good processes ... it's unlikely there would be a dispute over payment."

Fox was not surprised dissatisfaction rates were higher  in Auckland and Christchurch, because builders there were under pressure and could not always get back to a job quickly.

"In areas where there isn't as much pressure, the service levels are higher, and I think that's what the survey reflects."

The time taken to complete a building project had been dogged in the last year by increased demand on resources, and new health and safety requirements which forced builders to stop under certain conditions, Fox said.

The new regulations were adding about three weeks and $10,000 to $15,000 to the time and cost of a new home, he said.

Changes to the Building Act mean that from later this year, builders will be responsible for fixing defects to their houses for 12 months rather than the typical 90 days. 

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