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Mark Rushworth

Life

Harron Homes

Harron Homes

This post is going to be amended as we progress through buying our Tiverton/Windsor from Harron Homes. For the record this is the first time I’ve moved home, having bought my current house 15 years ago straight out of university. Needless to say a lot has changed.

Disclaimer: Apart from my buying a new build home from Harron Homes I am in no way affiliated with their marketing. This is my personal experience and thoughts of the buying process and not part of some SEO campaign (tho I’d love a crack at it). Ive tried to make this a genuine resource for new build home buyers irrespective of supplier.

Selection Caveats

When we started looking for a new home we had a few criteria that had to be ticked off:

  • Good value for money
  • Lots of land
  • Close to motorways (and preferably closer to work, i have a 35 mile commute each morning)
  • Close to trains
  • At least as good a spec as the current house (3 bed, integral garage, garden front and back, drive, great views)

Picking a House & Location

Firstly about why we chose a new build from Harron Homes and not from one of the other builders:

Barratt / David Wilson (DW) Homes

The same company owns both. We looked at a local development near Pellon Lane in Halifax which was the last phase on a development that’s been around for years.

The show homes were both OK with well designed interiors except that in each case the stairway twisted around on its self part way highlighting the lack of space and small footprint of the house.

All of the houses we viewed did not make a good use of space and had odd spaces which were not useable. We found the layouts odd and claims were being made about rooms being big enough for a living room and dining room in the same space. On inspection it was clear that these rooms not big enough to be combined spaces.

At Pellon lane the back gardens were a warren of fencing this resulted in poor views at the rear of most properties.

The service was OK but in the end we decided not to peruse this as the homes had no roadside garden and were tightly packed together on a hill that meant everyone was overlooking everyone else and the development felt dark.

We also visited houses which were for sale at the Castleford site and these had lots of snags such as cracked ceilings, cracked walls and were finished badly. These were not a good advertisement for the houses available and did not make me want to buy. At the Castleford site the sales team wanted to sell houses to us which had already been build rather than discuss the houses which were in the first phases.

Overall we were not impressed with DW Homes or Barratt and would not recommend them.

Persimmon Homes

We looked at a few persimmon homes and were impressed with the space around the site. What irked us was that exactly the same house was around £10k more in a location closer to us, Also it became quickly clear that Persimmon buy land next to (very large) industrial units and liked buying land that had issues with water. Persimmon’s homes have lots of space and uniquely have loads of bathrooms and a utility room which was nice.

At Persimmon in Heckmondwike the sales team were judgmental and it was obvious that they did not think we could afford the houses we were looking at as they were initially dismissive and unhelpful. Once the credit checks had been completed they became more animated and engaging. On the this particular site there were houses with posters in the window telling people not to buy and to knock on the door to see all the snags Persimmon had not corrected. This was off putting due to how pro-active residents on this site were at stopping others buying houses. Even when walking around the site residents were actively telling you to steer clear and that there were a lot of on going issues with the houses.

The most helpful salesman was at the Blossom Meadows site when making initial enquiries. At this site residents were positive about the experiences they had with Persimmon which was reassuring given the negativity about the company at the other site.

What is impressive about Persimmon is that they are open and honest about what are extras in the show homes as they have tags on these with the prices. This is helpful as it gives you an idea of how much things cost. From looking at the extras for Persimmon it highlights that the houses are of a low specification and that there is standard is lower than other builders. For example the cooker and hob as standard is white where as other companies it is silver.

In terms of working out budgets it was difficult to do this on the Persimmon homes as the sales teams did not know the council tax bands and we expected the sales team to readily know this information.

The negative publicity for Persimmon led to us looking at forums for the company and this reinforced what had been said to us at Heckmondwike. Also on a personal level somebody we know bought a Persimmon home in a different area and they advised us not to buy with them as it has taken a year to correct all the errors and they informed us of there bad experiences.

Overall the publicity and the negative feedback led to us not wanting to pursue a house with this company as we could not trust in the firm. We would not recommend these houses and would warn people to check the extras book out before entering a process with this company as it may turn out expensive.

Miller Homes

The miller homes developments near us resembled Persimmon’s however their property was leasehold, not freehold meaning you’d have to pay ground rent forever… another hidden cost.

The show homes we looked at were okay but we were not blown away by them. There was not a lot of land with the houses.

Miller failed to make an impression on us hence why there is not a lot to write about!

Taylor Wimpey

We visited two Taylor Wimpey sites one at Lindley and one at Castleford.

At Lindley the sales advisor was fantastic as she was engaging and interested in our needs. The site being built is small and a large number of the homes were earmarked for affordable housing. We viewed the show house at this location and noticed the ceilings were exceptionally low (we are both 6ft), this is the only company where the ceilings have been a problem.

We viewed three show homes with Taylor Wimpey in total and we found the downstairs layouts odd as the living room is at the back of the home, the kitchens were galley style and there was no utility room. The bedrooms were of an okay size and there were lots of storage which was good. The storage space stood out as most new builds do not have this or have very little of it.

This was just a no go due to the ceiling heights but from looking at the specifications good quality materials are being used and the standard specification is impressive.

Harron Homes

For us, Harron Homes trumped all of the other developments based on a number of critical factors:

  • The house styles are well thought out
  • No strange architectural details to compensate for poor layout
  • Largish front garden
  • Not built next to working factories or industrial businesses
  • Not built on areas with water issues
  • Many of the homes have wooden banisters on the stairs (funny how this becomes important)
  • The housing developments weren’t cramped together
  • They had not only lots of bathrooms and a utility area but also a built in dressing room on the master bedroom.
  • Large back yard
  • Not built on a hillside
  • Integral garages (not shared)
  • Unique architectural details i.e. brickwork in each development that stopped the developments feeling like a factory produced builder
  • Next to no bad press about the business since the mid 2000’s

…and we loved the layout of the Tiverton which ticked all our boxes (except storage which we sidelined due to the integral garage)

We visited three Harron sites in total and have viewed five of there show homes. We had good experiences with two of the sites however the third was horrendous.

At the sites where our experience was positive the sales staff were friendly, helpful, spent time with us and made us feel welcome. Whereas at one site the sales team appeared to be judgmental and did not want to sell us anything even-though we were interested with builds on there site. Interestingly enough other people have felt the same when we have spoken to other couples who have attended this specific site.

One big niggle about un-professionalism at Harron is that when we have visited the sites the area manager has been hiding behind an open car door smoking and been huddled with another member of Harron smoking in front of the show home. I hold a strong opinion that you do not smoke where customers can see you. Most firms do not allow this or promote this type of behaviour due to the companies image.

A Word About Show Homes

You gotta love show homes. As we looked around the various property developers sites we took a ton of photographs of their show home interiors. Its interesting how they place mirrors which was my major discovery. Just be careful when looking starry eyed around these developments because there’s a few things you should know.

Your home comes unfurnished and with the bare amount of fixtures and fittings when you move in. Imaging this… bare cables with just a bulb hanging from the ceiling in most rooms, no carpets or flooring anywhere, an unfinished back garden that isn’t level an doesn’t contain grass, tiles that don’t reach the ceiling and just act as splash-backs for sinks etc, everything painted in magnolia, white not chrome switches and sockets, no extra lighting details in kitchens i.e. under cupboard lighting or extra spotlights and no curtains or rails. In fact much of the detail you see, in the case of Harron Homes are things like a mixture of tiling on the walls in the bathrooms adding an attracting pattern, aren’t available full stop.

We discovered that Harron Homes pretty much exclusively use next.co.uk for their interior trimmings and fittings. So head over there if you’re trying to recreate a look.

Buying the house

We first looked at another development which had the show home we liked. The development was almost complete and in its final phase and we thought we’d take a look at a few house types.
From the outset the sales team appeared to not want to help us and gave us the opinion that we weren’t good enough for their development. Our continued contact with this particular team reinforced this as they systematically went out of their way to give us the worst possible service.

Needless to say we tried our luck at a near by development that was just starting out which had the same house style albeit in a slightly less desirable location. The sales exec was warm and welcoming , a complete contrast to the team at the previous development. The sales rep admitted that she was new to Harron Homes, setting the scene for a bit of give and take while she got used to Harron’s particular offering.

As we were initially interested in two different houses on different sites this complicated the part exchange process. On one of the sites it felt like they were forcing us to the other site just so a sale occurred there as they kept saying ‘we cant match the deal they will give you’ and ‘we wont give you anything’. In the initial stages at this site it was obvious there was no room for negotiation, we took advise from online forums about negotiating a price for the house however it became apparent that Harron do not drop the prices of there homes. Also the sales staff were clear from the outset they would give us nothing and did not want to do a deal.

What was infuriating was that the sales staff at both sites were openly talking and communicating in front of us about how they were doing with us and discussing who would get the sale. The behaviour felt tactical and we felt played. These conversations should have been completed when we were not present.

The deals

There’s some caveats that you can apply when negotiating your deal as to the incentives Harron Homes give,

  • They wont negotiate on property price – to do this means devaluing the other properties on the site which i guess messes up the mortgage and valuations for buyers.
  • They may give you over market value when you part exchange your property – we got a good offer on our home which we were more than happy with
  • Discounts for buying the first/last houses on a site – once they’ve finished a house they need to sell it to fund further phases/other developments so expect things like increased payouts on your existing house (see above).
  • Help to buy schemes get flooring and fees paid for free – this should be the very first thing you negotiate because if everyone else is having it then why not you?
  • Deposit is £500 which they hold in escrow in case your property needs repairs before they sell it on.

Tie ins

They make you sign a piece of paper stating that you have to use their solicitor and mortgage advisers. I assumed that this was so they could claw back some referral fees. I’ll talk about each provider in detail later in this document.

We were told that if things didn’t work out that we could use our own mortgage people etc. Don’t take this as gospel as many things we were told have been less than true.
Update: We’ve found out after the fact that this is against the Consumer Code for Home Builders which states:

You should not restrict the Home Buyer’s choice of legal representative

This would suggest that incentivised legal fees cannot restrict you from picking your own solicitor.

Hidden Up Front Costs

As mentioned above we were assured that having paid our £500 deposit that everything else was paid for and didn’t expect other bills. Where we did expect bills we foolishly thought these would come in at the end after our equity was released.

  • Legal Retainer £300 – you have to pay this up front to their preferred solicitor. I have no idea if we get this back as part of the £1,500 Harron Homes are contributing to the legal fees etc.
  • Mortgage Retention Fee £200 – you have to pay this to the mortgage company to secure the mortgage you’ve selected/been offered
  • Upgrades (in our case) £2,000 – for the various enhancements to the property that we wanted i.e. floor to ceiling tiling in the bathrooms. We were told that this was a very low amount.
  • Electrical inspection fee and fix £600
  • Gas safety certificate £300
  • Annual estate management fee £120 – covers the upkeep of the shared spaces. I’d have thought the council would have managed this as they do any existing property but this doesn’t seem to be the case

That’s a whopping £3,520 we had to find that we didn’t expect to pay out.

Reviewing the Plans

You get to look over the site plans in great details. These come in different layers covering everything from landscaping to sewers. Here’s some things to look out for when reviewing these plans:

  • Manhole Covers – it seems that Harron Homes like to dot manhole covers all over the place. chances are that your home has at least 2 or three of these on your property, usually in the garden. This is a major pain as surely there’s enough sidewalk space for these? My guess is they’ll be a lot of garden digging ups gong on when things go wrong in the future.
  • Street lighting – check if you have a streetlight outside your house or face the dull orange glow into your bedrooms all night
  • Power cables – in Harron’s case these were moved from being overhead to underground. If your concerned about this then make sure you check it out
  • Balancing Ponds/pools – This seems to be a feature of most sites now.
  • Visitor Parking Spots – You know there’s going to be a fight for parking… just look around any modern development so if you know your going to have lots of visitors you might want to choose a plot that’s close to a visitor slot.
  • Gradient – In Yorkshire, you know every developments going to be on some sort of hill. Check the plans for retaining walls and other eyesores. Also ask about the gradient in your garden as no one wants to mow up/down hill.
  • Imagine the views – look at the house and imagine the views form your windows to get some insight into how its all going to look in the end.

Promises Made

As part of the buying process you’re going to want to check and double check a lot of facts. Here’s some of the things we asked about

  • Double Drive – Due to the severe lack of road side parking I checked and was assured by the site manager that we’d fit two ‘normal sized’ cars (their words) on the drive.
  • Trees (landscaping) – In our plans it shows a tree on top of where the manhole covers are. I’m still waiting for a response to this as I wouldn’t want tree roots to cause issues with drainage on the site.
  • Garden Gradient – As the site is on a slope I wanted to check that both the front and rear gardens would be if not flat then at least level and was assured that this would be so. Part way through the development the front garden is still a concern for me as there’s no sign of this leveling out and i can see from the brick work where they anticipate ground level to be.

Picking Your Fixtures & Upgrades

If you’re buying off plan and the roof isn’t on your property yet then now is the point at which you get to select your interior features and appliances.Its also the point where you can upgrade any ‘free’ incentives offered when you first negotiated your deal. Harron Homes provide a booklet and each site office has a set of swatches and samples that you can look through.

A word of warning. Although Harron Homes’ website says they will try and accommodate your requests and that there are a range of off-book additions that you can request again the truth is somewhat different.

Standard Specification

The spec of a standard house with no incentives is pretty good and can be viewed here. You get a fitted kitchen, branded taps, choice of branded tiles, branded oven and hob, branded shower fittings and branded bath, loo and sink. branded taps and in most houses a bespoke branded set of wardrobes in the master bedroom. As i mentioned before the only things missing to make the house livable from the outset are flooring, curtain rails, curtains and lampshades, so make sure you negotiate/buy these first.

The Book Selection

  • Carpet – 3 grades of carpet from around 6 different shades most of which are creams and light browns
  • Lino – 2 grades of lino from around 20 different styles. Note there’s no White tile style designs. We suspect this is due to them wanting to up-sell the show home style flooring as a tiled not linoleum floor.
  • Wall Tiling – 2 grades of tiles from around 16 different styles. Bathrooms can be upgraded not only in tile specification but also the amount of tiling provided. As standard you get a small amount of tiling around your sink for example. Full and half tiling is also available. In the show homes they mix and match wall tiles to add feature panels to sinks etc. This isn’t available unless you buy the show home in which case you have to have the style as seen.
  • Floor Tiling – We didn’t opt for this but there were around another 16 styles to pick from.
  • Worktops – One of Harron Homes big selling points is that their kitchen worktops are 60mm deep as opposed to the standard 30mm available on the high street. You can pick from around 6 basis styles including several wood effect, a light and dark granite style design and some in between. The up sell is for real wood or stone again available in several styles and colours.
  • Cabinet Doors – On the show homes they mix and match cabinet doors which look great. Again this isn’t offered as an option. What you do get is 2 grades of door in around 6 different styles and colours.
  • Cabinet Door Handles – you get a choice of around 8 different styles
  • Wardrobe Doors & Surround – You get to pick the style of door and have a choice of mix and match panels from mirrored to coloured. The surround for your wardrobe is also customisable with another selection of colours and finishes to pick from.
  • Bespoke Wardrobe Interiors – In the booklet it does say you can further tailor your wardrobes but we were told that this wasn’t an option any more as bespoke work cost them a lot of money due to things not being how the buyer wants when they finally move in. This was a major pain for us as we needed double hanging wardrobes. In the end we received a quote of about £1000 for a double hanging rail and opted to save £995 by buying a £5 one from ikea.co.uk. I suspect they price out things they don’t want you to have.Because of our persistence (we even went direct to the manufacturer) this has been removed from the extras list so make sure you have an up to date one.
  • Heated Towel Rails – Available in white or silver costing around £400 each!
  • Spotlights – Around £70 each!
  • Silver Sockets and Switches – around £20 each
  • Alarm System – Around £500 for a basic alarm system with not enough PIRs for your home so expect more up-selling for window sensors and PIRs
  • Shower Upgrades – you can upgrade to a rain shower head and add showers if your home doesn’t have a dedicated cubical in the master bathroom (ours did)
  • Home Entertainment System (Piped Music) – You can pay for a home entertainment system that pipes music throughout the home.
  • Under cabinet/worktop lighting – There’s a range of different lighting options available from under cabinet lighting and kick-board lighting to a lighting strip that follows the edge of the counter-top. We’re planning on doing this ourselves and saving a fortune thanks to ikea 🙂
  • Sky – You can have sky pre-installed
  • Oven/Hob Upgrades – We couldn’t have this as our oven is built in under a worktop
  • Dishwasher – we got ours as part of our incentives
  • Wine Chiller
  • Fridge Freezer – we got ours as part of our incentives
  • Washing Machines
  • Dryer
  • Fitted Wardrobes in other rooms

The extras booklet isn’t very easy to read and i’m sure we missed many things we’d probably like. Rightly or wrongly the sales team at Harron make no effort to ‘sell’ you anything. This takes the fun out of what should be one of the most exciting tasks. I’d have preferred more help with this.

Off Book Selection

As mentioned previously Harron Homes state in their literature that you can ask for pretty much anything you want. Here’s a few things off-book that we requested.

  • Mirrors – The show homes have fitted mirrors in the bathrooms which are inset like tiles. The finish isn’t that great but we thought it would save on drilling holes and risking cracked tiles. Harron Homes really didn’t want us to have this and quoted around £500 each for a 40cm mirror in each bathroom. We’re saving our money and going to risk putting our own in from the excellent styles available from The Range. Again we think they priced this job up so we wouldn’t go for it.
  • ‘Industrial’ Matting Inside the Front Door – You see this in the show homes and its a great idea especially when you’ve new carpets.
  • Patio – We requested a quote for a 7′ patio out back to accommodate our garden furniture and were quoted £1000 for this. I plan on saving a ton (or asking the team on site if we can get one done for cash when we move in.
  • Lawn to the rear – £130 a bargain. The backs of the homes come unprepared and the ones we’ve seen are a weed infested mound of earth. This is money well spent.
  • Custom Wardrobe Interiors – They say they’ll do it but they really don’t want to and provide ridiculous prices for the smallest changes despite the manufacturer being known for bespoke fitted furniture. We suspect they’re simply provided in kit form to Harron Homes and that they’re not actually installed by the manufacturer hence all of the problems we’ve had with this.

We Paid Extra For

  • Carpets/lino upgrade – £200 (why not)
  • Full tiling to master and en suite bathroom using 2 different tiles in both
  • 1/2 tiling to the down stairs cloak
  • Extra sockets at the foot of the stairs (vacuum)
  • Extra sockets at the end of the dressing area (straighteners/hair dryer)
  • Spot lights in the utility room (to save space)
  • Heated towel rail in the en suite
  • Lawn to the rear – £130
  • Industrial matting behind the front door – £35

This cost around an additional £2,000 which had to be paid up front.

Build Progress

We’ve just signed and visited the property. No roof on yet and it looks like the first floor is being fixed in place due to a large number of support struts littering all of the downstairs levels. I’m concerned about the level of the front garden and whats going to happen down the side of the house. I’ve been assured that the front will be level and the drive accommodate 2 ‘normal sized’ cars however the side remains TBC.

Build Progress

Managed to view the property for the first time. Its all breeze block walls and no partition walls, stairs or windows yet. I expected solid wood beams and am surprised to see some modern replacement that appears to be steel reinforced web-board. I checked online and this is pretty standard in modern builds. We’ve asked about the possibility of a patio out back and been quoted a ridiculous amount for this however grass appears to be more than reasonable.

The Mortgage Process

Up until this point things have gone fairly smoothly. As mentioned earlier part of Harron Homes’ sales process ties you into using their mortgage provider. In this case its The Mortgage Bureau.
Alarm bells were already ringing as I’ve previously encountered the Mortgage Bureau when helping a local mortgage brokers with their SEO. At the time they were the pushy sales people who helped with the financial crisis, fudging peoples incomes and getting mortgages for 120% more than a properties value (this is hearsay but definitely what i heard).

Needless to say we continued with trepidation.

Initially we corresponded through email and were asked to send over all of our personal info including passports etc through the post. Needless to say we were not happy about this and demanded that they visit us to collect and copy whatever they needed.

During the visit we pulled out all of our available documentation which we were assured would be enough, the rep touched upon insurance but we politely declined and thought everything was good to go. We were also asked to pay £200 through a strange website link to secure the Mortgage (yet another hidden cost) which I’m sure went straight into their back pocket for commission or something as despite having several re/mortgages. I’ve never had to pay an up front fee before.

The sales adviser we had was domineering and bullying when he visited the home as he wanted to up-sell and we declined. As we said no to things he was extremely challenging and rude as he was not getting a sale.

One thing you may not know is that few banks and building societies will provide a mortgage on a new build property and there are hidden charges applied to your mortgage if you don’t buy insurances and have accounts with the prior to your application. Our advice is to check with your adviser and work out ways around this as there is a saving to be made. Our mortgage is with the Nottingham Building Society. As a building society and not a bank I’m happy to pay a higher premium as at least they’re investing their own money and not virtual funds as you’d expect from a bank. In short, don’t expect moneysavingexpert.com or gocompare.com to help you find a mortgage independently.

The weeks following this meeting became incredibly stressful when we were palmed off on a group of junior executives and repeatedly asked to produce ever more paperwork and proof of income. We’ve nothing to hide however receiving two emails a day from different people which seemed a bit too much. I appreciate that they want to get things done quickly however we both work full time are generally away before the banks open and back well after they close and only had minimal time during the weekends to get the required information.
We’d have preferred to have been given a fixed list of what was needed at the beginning which I’m sure would have made the process smoother.

The documentation we were asked to sign we posted this to the company to the address on the advisors email signature. The paperwork did not arrive to the advisor and he then accused us of lying about sending the documentation back this then led to him sending the documentation to the Harron sales advisor. Whilst at Harron it became clear that it had gone to the wrong address and needless to say he never did apologise for his e mail signature not having the correct address or for the misunderstanding.

We’re currently being hounded to sign a document stating that we don’t want their insurances. I wish they’d take the hint and accept that as we’re not responding that we don’t want it. The reason we will not sign it is because nobody has gone through the services we are declining from them. We asked for this to be done in person and our request was refused as they do not do home visits and would only engage over the telephone.

The whole process from beginning to end seemed like an exercise in taking money from us and causing maximum inconvenience.

We have not been impressed with the company we have had to use and would tell people to stand there ground and do not use the recommended company as it is nothing but hassle.

Selling your home

We knew that our current home was desirable. Its cheap, has 3 bedrooms, a garage, drive, great views, garden front and back and is in a quiet cul-de-sac. I’ll be sad to leave. Houses on our street go fast and we were assured during the estate agents visit that we wouldn’t be waiting long and that they already had buyers wanting to buy a new home in the area.

Make sure you spruce up your home before the estate agents arrive. De-clutter all surfaces and artfully position decorations, ornaments and furniture to make the most of your home (and hide any DIY mwahahahaha!). They will quickly run around each room, taking photographs, using a light meter to measure walls and ask a few questions about the house. Ask about the surrounding area and you’ll learn a lot about what other properties go for.

The sale sign goes up and the estate agent starts booking people in to see your house.

Remember that while your showing people around you need to keep the house as close to pristine as possible which basically means constant cleaning inside and out. At this point you’re probably starting to box things up for moving.

  • De-clutter – This is a great opportunity to de-clutter and get rid of anything superficial.
  • Think curb appeal – clean any exterior surfaces, windows and paving, kill all weeds and have a general tidy up like throwing away those empty plant pots/planters you’ve been intending to fill for the past 10 years. Clean you car, mow the lawn etc.
  • Turn on all of the lights – even the under counter/cupboard lights. This makes your home look larger and more inviting
  • Eradicate smells – clean the oven, light scented candles and make sure you look has a quick squirt of bleach
  • Depersonalize – While you want your home to look lived in tone down your personal touches. Pack away all of your family photographs, paint over any bright and bold wall paper and box up the collection of crystal penguins (you get the point)
  • Entrance hall – clean the mirror (if you have one) remove all footwear, coats etc and ensure this area looks great. First impressions last.
  • Look at each room from their respective entrances – clear away any clutter and make sure you focus everything on the rooms best feature.
  • Stage each room – imagine all of the show homes you’ve seen while picking your new home. They’ll have had fresh towels in the bathroom, plates and candles on the dining tables. Carry this through to your home and you cant go wrong.
  • Update furniture, bedding etc – Remember if you buy it now you can take it with you so its a great time to revamp your furniture and decor as it will also help sell your house.

When you part exchange its a strange process as you’d typically ‘sell’ the house to any visitors when selling direct. You’re not there to haggle on price, you can suggest leaving things you don’t want to take with you i.e. those Ikea wardrobes that wont go into your new home.

The Paperwork

You’ll also need to provide Harron Homes with:

  • FENSA certificate for any windows
  • Gas safety certificate
  • Electrical safety certificate

When i bought my current house back in 1999 I didn’t get (or know to ask for) any of these. Needless to say it came as quite a shock. I know there was some sort of pack that needed to be produced a few years back but thought this had been ditched.

Now i don’t know about your home but I’m lucky to have family in trades, which means I’m generally good for the odd leaky tap or bathroom renovation. This however isn’t enough for Harron Homes meaning we’ve had to pay out for official certification, contact suppliers from years and years ago, and get trades people in to upgrade things like fuse boxes. So a word of warning. If you’ve been living in your home for around 10 years then there’s a load of hidden costs to bring your home up to code coming right at you. It might be worth looking around for free loft insulation and cavity wall insulation while you’re at it.
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Build Update

At this point Harron is estimating that we’ll be moving in in around 4 weeks however no date has been set. This deadline has moved on a full 6 weeks past the original ETA for completion of the house.

The house is now secure however a photo through the peep-hole shows the kitchen is now in including the extractor fan. Rooms appear to be being painted and the downstairs cloakroom has all sanitary ware installed and they’ve started tiling. I have noticed that despite our asking for 1/2 height tiling to this room, they’ve not done the back wall so will be monitoring this in future visits.
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The Legal Process

This is where we’re up to right now. After complete silence since we originally paid our retainer it took until the mortgage was completed and accepted by the building society for the Solicitors to re-engage. We recently received a packet containing lots of documents including scans of land registry maps etc.
Wading through the legal jargon we quickly came to realize that the legal documents were less than impartial. Instead there’s a mass of restrictions Harron place on you as a condition of the sale. Some of these include:

  • Aerials having to be placed on the back of the property despite where line of sight is with the main mast.
  • Harron needing to approve any future building on your property
  • Harron intend to charge the estate management fee despite the shared areas being incomplete

Needless to say we’ve queried all of the above as:

  • If the aerial gets a better reception at the front of the home then that’s where it should live. Otherwise this means having a pole stuck high at the back to reach over the roof of your house.
  • Whilst we accept that Harron need to keep the development uniform until all of the plots have been sold surely after this point they do not need and therefore should have a say in what I do with my property… that’s between me and the planing dept’ at the council
  • There’s no ‘estate’ to maintain due to our being the first people on the site and all shared spaces being currently under the bulldozer or covered in building detritus.

The solicitor has just got back to us and the gist of the responses are that ‘this is standard’ and due to this are happy to sign the contract.

image_1

Designing your new home

When it comes to be creative and having a vision then I have the edge over the Mrs as I’m a designer by trade. She loves loud colours and patterns however through a lot of demonstrations I’ve managed to convince her that bold means small and dark while neutral means light and airy. Between the two of us I think we’ve managed to define our style. Having vision is important as with a new build you’ll have to live with magnolia throughout for at least 12 months while the walls dry. We found that looking through show homes was illuminating (literally) and by taking note of furniture placement and decor the patterns associated with achieving this look became really easy to spot.
image_3

Lounge/Living Room

Colour Scheme: mid/light grey walls, mid/dark grey carpet, eggshell blue and mink accents, mid grey sofa. glass topped side tables and sleek oak units. The addition of mink to the blue allows us to warm up what would be a cold feeling room and allows us to brink in the oak from our furnishing which will also be run in through the legs on tables, sofas etc
There’s no fireplace in the new build so we’re going to place our low TV unit centre stage on the side wall. The wall facing the window will be eventually painted eggshell blue to match the curtains opposite

A mirror will be hung over the sofa facing the tv to increase light in the room

A large painting will be placed over a second sofa backed against the eggshell wall

A mixture of wall and table lamps will be placed in darker corners to add light

In the absence of any good looking ottomans, we’ve decided to build our own window seat in the bay windows using the Kallax unit from ikea.com. We just need to figure out how to attach a soft furnished top to it.

We’ve decided against running the curtains inside the bay window and will instead frame this area running curtains wall to wall across the void.
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Stuff that needs buying

If you manage to buy a house with no incentives then be prepared for a shock when you wank in through the door for the first time. This will probably be when you’re snagging. By default the finished house contains:

  • Kitchen
  • Shower
  • Oven & Hob
  • Extractor Fan
  • Sanitary wear in bathrooms
  • Single wire light fittings on the roof
  • Spotlights where they come as standard
  • Built in wardrobe in master bedroom
  • Extractor fans
  • Plumbing for washer/dryer (but no vent)
  • Waste/recycling Bins – £40 from your local council

There’s a lot missing from this list. Here’s the things you’ll need to buy or negotiate when your signing up:
image_4

The essentials

  • Carpets & Lino/stone floor tiling – ours was free as part of our negotiated incentives
  • Curtain Rails/Blinds & Curtains – as the window sizes are odd, we mirrored the show homes and bought extendable ones from next.co.uk. Surprisingly for curtains we found the quality to be superior from Dunelm mill compared to next who seem to rely of cheap printed effects.
  • Lamp shades or replacement light fittings – for now we’re opting to simply shade rather than replace as we cant decide on the type and style of fittings we like. Check your local next outlet for bargain discounts on lampshades
  • Alarm – Harron Homes only gives you 3 PIRs , the rest are up-sell so we’re contacting a local supplier and have a budget of around £500 for a decent system
  • Fridge Freezer – ours was free as part of our negotiated incentives
  • Dishwasher – ours was free as part of our negotiated incentives
  • Washer/Dryer – we went straight to the manufacturers White Knight and got a substantial saving and better model for less than could be found online. Otherwise try ao.com
  • TV Aerial/Sky Dish (no cable) – check with your local suppliers. We’re downgrading from Virgin to Freeview as we don’t watch live TV much any more and have been quoted £100 for an external aerial.
  • Phone line & Internet – Sky.com are offering a line rental only package with free 17mb broadband for a year and £100 M&S voucher effectively costing £85 for the whole year after the discount.
  • Bed(s) – opt for a storage bed with either drawers or a lift up frame as there’s not much storage in a new build home. I got the best deal price matching another site on click4beds.co.uk
  • Sofas – we’re bringing our existing sofa despite the fact it doesn’t match our vision of the new interiors. Since you can’t paint or paper for a year we’re going to live with it. Its a fabric chesterfield from CSL and on finance cost around £25 per month for a year.

Build Update

We’ve been told that the house should be ready in the next few weeks and is under ‘final fix’. We visited the same day we came back from our holiday and it looks like the house is nearly there. The walls are painted and internal doors in place, we did notice that none of the flooring was in and there’s still a lot of work to be done on the exterior such as the back wall being completed, garden and turf, front landscaping and driveway.

On the subject of the driveway I took the opportunity to visit the nearest completed site and took photos of how I’d like the driveway completed as having a 2 car drive is very important to me. With some houses there’s a single car block paved drive with a flagged path to the house. As our house is on a slight slope I want to make sure I’m not parking across the path as this wouldn’t be covered by the builders guarantee as its improper use and would most likely cause the paving stones to crack and/or the ground to slip. I took a photo and reconfirmed that the front would be like the emails attached image.

Packing Tips

Packing up your home in preparation for your move takes a lot of time so as soon as you sign start collecting boxes… a lot of boxes! Supermarkets often give away banana boxes which are great. They’re sturdy, come with handles and are easy to stack… you just need to make sure the hole in the bottom is covered, a sheet of A3 paper does the trick.

For larger items ask a local wholesaler or supermarket for large boxes and cut the corners out of them, placing these around your furniture to avoid scuffs and scrapes.

uy lots and lots of good quality parcel tape and a box of sharpies to label up the rooms destined for your boxed stuff.

Sell or Skip

Go through your house from top to bottom and before you pack anything have a massive clear out. If its not been used in over a year get rid of it. We’ve spend countless hours going to and fro from the local waste reclamation yards just to minimise what we’re taking with us.

Be ruthless

Once you’ve cut back… cut back again! you dont need most of it so focus on taking what you want

Hiring a moving company

I called around the local estate agents to see if they’d recommend a moving company and called the most prolific. For just the two of us and a few pieces of not very big furniture the moving company wanted to charge us over £800 to move. Having spent far too much money up front already we decided to do it ourselves… cue yet another de-cluttering.

Packing

If you have a garage or spare room clear it and nominate it for storage for packing. get as many large items into this room as soon as possible and begin boxing and storing.
We used our garage which still functions as our laundry space and overflow fridge which has caused problems.

Keep de-cluttering as you go along until you have most of it packed away. Our plan is to have an empty house 2 weeks before we move which is this weekend. so we’ve a busy time ahead. For the next 2 weeks we’ll be wearing and washing the same few sets of clothes, eating off a few plates and generally living the bare minimum.

Wish us luck!

Build Update

Nothing much has happened inside the house however they’ve leveled the back yard and installed a generous patio area which is far superior to that we’ve seen on on other Harron developments.
A chat with the Harron sales advisor has thrown things up in the air as we’re now no longer expected to move in on the 31st. By all accounts when you sign the legal documents you have to move in within 14 days of the NSBC having signed off the home.

The snagging is being downplayed by the sales advisor who says the visit is mainly to introduce you to the home and find out how things work… however having read up i know this is a very different thing. Ive compiled a list of around 600 snagging items which i’ll publish when we do our snag which raised her eyebrows.

Changes in Planning

We were warned before that things on the plans we originally viewed were subject to change and expected things like the landscaping to move around however we recently discovered that plans had submitted a change in planning request for the next two phases of the development (ours being the first). This was further exacerbated by the developers building a path across the street from our house that did not contain the cut out for a road that was to be our view from the front window.

By visiting the councils website you can view the planning applications and see what changes are being proposed.

I was happy to see that the adjacent road was still there and that our view wasnt to be spoiled by 3 story buildings as a bit part of our buying the house was its location and outlook on the site.

Meeting the Site Manager

Last week i met the Deputy Site Manager to go through some concerns. My biggest issue was in managing our expectation. I wanted to be absolutely clear what we’d be walking in on when we finally exchanged contracts. Arranging a time was a pain in the bum as they only work 8am – 5pm weekdays which meant arranging time off at work in short notice. So on a muddy Friday morning we headed out to the site with our muddiest trainers on.

  • Drive – Having been promised that we’d fit 2 average sized cars on the drive I questioned how this would work as the garden is on a slight slope and i didn’t want to risk side by side cars slowly pushing any flagging or block paving out of alignment. The Manager said that it works best top to tail and that there would be room for our 2 cars this way.
  • Phone Line – One of the comments below suggests that Harron Homes don’t fit phone lines. The manager talked me through how this was done and explained that points were fitted as standard inside and just needed BT to hook them up to the local exchange.
  • Side gate & Fencing – The show homes have a side gate positioned at the front of the property however there’s only one gate for an area that is built so both houses could place their wheelie bins there. I wanted to make sure this gated area was ours alone and that we wouldn’t have to share. The Manager explained that in standard houses the gate is pushed back allowing easy access to any external Metres and that our gate led exclusively to our back garden.
  • Moving In Date – If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know that the moving in date keeps getting pushed back and back. Its at a point where no one will confirm a date at all. I believe this is due to a cock-up in the installation of services (gas, electric, water etc) on site which is managed through 3rd parties. Best estimates at present are the first week in December.
  • Planning Changes – I questioned the planning changes and placement of a path opposite our house that didn’t have access to the roads as displayed on the site plans. No clarification could be give however i suspect that this path is temporary as on all suggested amendments to the planning documents the road opposite is present. Fingers crossed this remains true as I don’t want my view of the valley spoiled.

Halloween Update

Our weekly visit showed that not much has moved on in almost 3 weeks now. Apart from our back wall reaching what seems like 10ft high securing our back yard from the road side and the entire site being secure so we cant even walk up to the front of the house again, the utilities still don’t look finished and the ETA for our moving in date looks like being put back again. In our mind it now looks like the weekend before Christmas before we’ll be in. The Harron sales advisor states the NSBC will be inspecting the property towards the end of the month so from that point onwards we’ll be looking for an official date.

It looks like we’ll finally be getting neighbors as 2 more properties have been sold on our row and the other row of houses look to have exchanged contracts. This is positive as if Harron Homes are pushing for completion then moving in date must be due.

At the moment i’m researching into alarm systems and will report back with what i find to be the best solution.

Solicitors Paperwork

We have finally relented and sent this back due to the solicitor emailing twice in one week saying Harron is pestering her for this as it is running over. We continue to find it odd that contracts can be exchanged when the house is actually not finished but we have learnt within this process that nothing has been about our needs and you basically get worn down.

The biggest concern we have had about sending the paperwork back is being forced to move when it is inconvenient, but we are now at the point where any weekend is inconvenient due to the build overrunning. We suspect that we will now be moving the week before Christmas as even though this has not been voiced it has been alluded to. We already know that whatever happens we will be in by the end of December as this is the end of the builders financial year.

Exchanging Contracts

There’s been a flurry of activity over the past 24 hours with both Harron Homes and the Solicitors bombarding our voice-mails and email with requests for us to complete. We planned on contacting them over lunchtime today but they managed to catch the wife before she left for work this morning. This activity started as soon as all the paperwork had landed back at the Solicitors.

Concerns about exchanging contracts

The wife has just had a conversation through the solicitor with Harron Homes who’ve said that if we don’t exchange right now that they will pull all the incentives we negotiated as part of the deal. We will not be held to ransom and they are pushing the limit of our patience (it takes a lot for me to get rialled up this far!). All we want is assurances that the deal won’t complete while we’re on holiday as we have things and people to organise!

Just called the sales rep on site and explained our concerns and asked if a slight extension of a week or so would be available if completion happens over the holiday. Shes promised to speak to the area sales manager today and get back to me.

Found the Directors email addresses online and sent in a carefully worded email. It bounced! It seems like they don’t want people emailing them directly so copied the email into the standard Harron Homes customer service email address and highlighted that i didn’t ant the email simply passed onto the site sales rep. Received an email stating the message had been passed to the area sales manager. I replied that this wasn’t suitable and that it needed dealing with directly by the customer service rep or passed upwards to someone who had influence.

Update: Harron has called the wife and have changed their tune. Now we’ve been given a moving in date of the end of the month which if they exceed will be the second weekend in December. If this happens they’ll refund our moving costs! Which is a great result. Needless to say I’ve booked the day off and will be gung-ho finishing the last of the packing. I need to call around and see if people are free to help us move!

Snagging Your New Build Home

Our moving in date is fast approaching so in preparation for the day in which we can visit the property, I’ve scoured the web looking for tips, tools and techniques on how to snag. I did look into hiring a dedicated snagger however it started to cost silly money and was upwards of £1000 which i cant justify for a few hours work. As a web designer, even I don’t charge that much as my day rate.

Preparation

To prepare for snagging look into the following:

  • Free Snagging Lists
  • Image Galleries of Found Snags
  • Read all of the forums about snagging

Understand that Harron Homes don’t want you to snag and that as with everything in the process its going to be a battle.
With all of this done I’ve compiled my own snagging toolkit which joins up all of the freebie snagging lists and some tips on tools and procedures that will help the site manager action the snags.

Download My Free Snagging List Here. (40k docx file)

The instructions for filling each section in are basically Location > position > fault > trade i.e.

back wall > top right > patchy paintwork > painter

Once you’ve compiled your list I believe its best to break down your action points into trades and send them to the site manager.
As always i’ll let you know how we get on. No date for snagging has been set yet but it should be before the 21st!

Build Update

double drive
Visited the site today and got a pleasant surprise. The site manager was there and it looks like we’re getting a block paved double drive (side by side not top to tail) which is brilliant. They’ve also put in grass around the back and he confirmed the electrics and water were now in on site. They’ve also sold all of the units in our block now too. Its curious how the neighbors have grass down the snicket which is an odd choice as the houses are south facing so i’d expect this to die out soon. The site manager is a lovely chap. Go and see yours as soon as possible!

Build Update

We have been up to see the house as we wanted to see whether we would be moving in next week as advised…It’s been a very stressful week. This is unlikely as the house has still not been signed off yet and has been moved for next week. The 2 car drive featuring block paving is down and this looks fantastic and the garden is so much bigger than we had pictured, this we are are really pleased about. The walls and fencing for privacy are excellent. We are really happy with how the house is looking and just want to move now as we’re 2 months overdue.

Whilst at site we got invited to look inside our house which we accepted as we really wanted to see how our choices looked. The kitchen is impressive. It looks ace! We were really impressed with what we saw. The tiling is fantastic and the wardrobe is bigger than we remember. From being invited in the house we got to see that the tiling is not the full tiling we ordered but we have made the sales adviser aware of this and it is going to be sorted. Also the back garden was very swampy/spongy and looks like it might have a drainage issue due to clay soil which is in abundance throughout Yorkshire. There were footprints suggesting someones looking into it however we’ve prompted the sales team again just to be sure.

There looks like there is still a lot to do and it looks like we will be moving on the second date (December) which was agreed which were happy about… At least we now know.

Build Update

We can’t make it to the site this weekend but have been told that it will pass the CML today (fingers crossed). This is when the NHBC check the build and are happy to provide the 10 year guarantee. Its going to be a few weeks before we can snag and do the tour where Harron show you around and explain how to use the new heating system etc. No idea of the tiling has been corrected or carpets and flooring are down yet.

I’ve asked the solicitor how long you get to move in as the site rep has mentioned if you complete one one day you can move in on the next but don’t know the implications of this. For our December move in date the movers can only fit us in on the day after we’re due to complete.

Mini update: As of 11.30am this morning the CML has been signed off!
block paved drive

If Your Mortgage Quote Expires…

Last Friday was a nightmare. We thought everything had been put to bed and were finally on the home stretch.

Late in the evening we received an email from the site sales letting us know that the mortgage offer we secured at the beginning of this journey was set to expire just 9 days before we’re due to move in. We totally forgot that even tho you pay to secure your mortgage that it had an expiry date! By all accounts we should have been notified 30 days before this was due however for whatever reason this message hadn’t been passed to us by our mortgage company.

So late that night in a real tizz we emailed our solicitor and the mortgage adviser asking what the state of play was. Would we need to pay anything? Would this change our repayment amount?

What were the implications.

To our amazement both parties emailed back the same night. We received assurances that this was not unheard of with new builds as they have flexible end dates and that there is a provision in place extending this three month time-frame to six month.

Now that’s great service all around!

Check with your mortgage adviser and make sure you have the same provision!

Novembers Stamp Duty Tax Cuts

The budget in November 2014 has changed how stamp duty paid on house purchases is calculated. It doesn’t really apply to us as Harron Homes are paying our stamp duty as part of their incentives however, for someone buying where this isn’t the case it means you don’t have to pay anything on the first £125,000 of the value of your property. This means that someone buying a property at the average family home price of £275,000 would save £4,500 in stamp duty. Not bad!

Snagging Your House Your Home Tour

As we’ve been away for a week, we arranged with some difficulty to postpone our move in beyond the customary 10 days from the CML being signed off til after we came back from holiday believing this would give Harron Homes time to fix some of the issues we noticed during our peak into the house from a few weeks ago.

Up until we visited we still hadn’t had any confirmation that we’d actually be in by the end of the week which meant having to do everything last minute.

We arrived late due to traffic having called ahead to give notice to the people on site and received a warm welcome from the site sales rep. It appears that some people are already in having moved in last week and more people are due to move in right up until Christmas Eve.

Having spoken to other people due to move into the site over email and based on what the sales rep had said previously we knew not to expect the ability to fully snag the house before moving in. This is contrary to everything you’ll read online about snagging a new build home however this is Harron Homes so you have no option but to play by their rules. With hope i took my snagging checklist.

The build isn’t finished and we were prepped to walk into a house where some things needed finishing off. I had hoped that the house would be ready to move in by now.
We’re really happy with the landscaping and architectural details outside despite our missing trees. The side of the garden has been raised by a foot lessening the slope caused by the house being built on a hill side.

We received a warm welcome by the site manager and were took to the house for our inspection. He explained that the tour should take no longer than 1/2 an hour and that the goal was to talk through the operation of the house. If we noticed anything as we went then they would be noted down to be rectified. At this point we lost hope of performing a full snag and with the light failing decided to fallow the plan set out for us.

We still love the house! The interior is great and build quality seems ok.

You’re shown:

  • Cooker
  • Hob
  • Where the water mains taps are
  • What the various features of the home are i.e. plumbing nuances in the downstairs cloak
  • We need to read a book on how the thermostat works
  • How to maintain windows and door tracking
  • Counter top electrical switching for fitted appliances
  • How the main pressurised central heating system works
  • How the hot water boiler works (this is hidden in the garage in the show homes)
  • Master electrical box

…as well as getting a general feel for the house.

During our tour we noticed a few things that needed snagging straight away. These include:

  • Incorrect tiling in downstairs cloak – They’ve replaced the glossy tiles we wanted with similar mat versions
  • Incorrect tiling finish in downstairs cloak – it has a skirting board on one wall which is mighty strange
  • Poor tiling finish in 2 upstairs bathrooms – this is due to their only partially tiling the walls which we snagged during an earlier visit. It looks like they’ve simply removed the capping and continued tiling above the original border. This has lead to large gaps filled with grout, an uneven finish where the previous join was with a noticeable sharp edge and chipped tiles along the previous join
  • Poor sealant around the bath, wardrobes and other features
  • A big crack in the exterior stone work under the window in Bed 2 – I raised this and was told if it was still a problem in 6 months they’d look at it

As mentioned previously there’s still a lot of finishing off to do which is not what we expected. Lots of bits looked like works in progress meaning we couldn’t have fully snagged even if we wanted to. It looks like they prefer to patch rather than fix any previous issues which is an ongoing concern. The cleaners were present during our tour however we were told that it would be re-cleaned prior to our moving in.

On a positive note we were told that after you move in they send the painters back in to fix any scuffed walls which is a nice touch.

As they’ve moving lots of people in pre Christmas we were told that the fixes required would probably be addressed some time in the new year meaning we’re going to have to live with a lot of problems pro temp. Not ideal but then you’re powerless to do anything about it.
Hopefully we can keep the site manager on side and get our snags rounded off as and when they occur for the next 2 years.

Updating Addresses

As we now have a final moving in date its time to call around all of your key services and give notice or update your details. Mobile phones, banks and credit cards are easy. You may incur a charge for cancelling TV or phone services. Expect long delays when dealing with power and gas companies and I suggest using an app like 0800 wizard to get local/national rate calls from mobiles by converting 0800s to 0333s.

License to Occupy

As we didn’t have access to a van until the day after we completed we asked the Solicitor if we could have a few days to move in. They said this was called a license to occupy and shouldn’t be a problem. The day before we moved the solicitor emailed saying we couldn’t have the extra day. Needless to say this threw us into turmoil. I made a quick call to Harron’s head office and asked why and if we could have the extension. The manager said this was fine and didn’t know why it had been denied. We were told that we just needed to hand the keys into the estate agents the following Monday.

Moving Day(s)

We completed on the Friday and awaited the money to land before we could have the keys to our property. The sales manager offered that we could store things in the garage while the process completed. Luckily we’d packed everything in smallish boxes meaning we could ferry our stuff using our cars. We completed at 3.30pm and continued moving everything we could.
The following day we had access to a large van meaning we could move our large furniture and appliances. Starting at 6am it took 3 hours to fill (all by myself) and took two trips. The following day i couldn’t move as all my joints had stiffened up!

Doing it in a single day

Before this experience I wouldn’t have thought that you could move in a day. I think if you prep right and have everything in boxes and centrally stored then this can easily be achieved. On the first day of our move some of our neighbors moved in at the same time and there were a few moving vans sat around waiting to be emptied. This meant that with a second or even third load waiting there would be time to spare at the end of the day to sort through things.

1st Day Snagging Lists

In addition to the snags identified during our tour we’ve noticed a few new problems with the house over the first few days. These are (in no particular order):

  • Wrong lino fitted to kitchen floors (however we like it so it will probably stay)
  • Hot & cold water feeds on both showers are reversed meaning we cant use the showers (Fixed within a few days)
  • No hot water feed to kitchen sink meaning we have to wash up by filling the kettle (Fixed within a few days)
  • Toilets flushing with hot water (Fixed within a few days)
  • Hot and cold water feed reversed to cloakroom sink (Fixed within a few days)
  • Bath water temperature is too low (Fixed within a few days)
  • All pendant lighting is too low meaning lampshades bang against doors when they’re opened
  • Scratches on kitchen worktop
  • Front room windows not fitted properly causing a draught
  • Immersion heater on meaning it would cost a fortune to heat (Just turned this off as the cylinder and separate boiler is enough to economically heat radiators and water)
  • Heating incorrectly setup so the boiler switched its self off and needed resetting a few times (Fixed within a few days)
  • Garage door wont open from the outside and needs manually faffing with to open from the inside
  • Holes in plasterwork under living room radiator
  • More cracked/chipped tiles noticed in all bathrooms
  • Connections for washing machines are unsafe as they’re a few cm away from electrical sockets
  • Lumpy lino in the main bathroom

To fix the hot water issues they’re going to have to pull up the bedroom carpets and floor, and cut a hole into the landing wall to rectify the feeds which should happen today (Tuesday). Windows and garage door have been promised to fix this Thursday.

There’s also no phone socket in the living room, just a blanking plate in the hall and a socket in the master bedroom. I hope i don’t have to have a flashing router in the master bedroom at night!
The thermostat is also difficult to work out and will require some playing with.

The site manager seems to know about many of the problems already however it would have been nice to be told these things were known and going to be rectified.

Wranglings: Your Clean and Tidy Deposit

Today Harron Homes contacted us about the clean and tidy deposit. After inspecting the house the issues identified were the oven was not clean enough (it has been cleaned 5 times) and seriously will not get any cleaner as it is a used oven, and the fact there are some bits on the kitchen floor. They also questioned the fact we had left the fridge and wardrobes as agreed with the buyer as this breached the contract despite the fact that he was happy for us to leave anything useful as it would save him money when he rented out the property.

The part exchange department told us this would impact on the deposit but could not specify what they would pay us. This we found bizarre as surely you would telephone with the figure your offering based on the issues.

In a strange turn of events we asked them if they wanted us to go clean the oven again and sweep the bits and they have authorised us to have the keys back to our old house to do this?!?! This is random but we’re hardly arguing if it means we get all of the money back.

We’ve always been skeptical about this money and thought it was never coming back to us but looks like we may actually get it even if it’s not all of it.

I do think that Harron Homes have a cheek highlighting there issues regarding what is clean and tidy after how they handed us our house as it was dusty and far from clean as they were still working in the house the day we completed.

Update: We did the clean up as asked. A few days later they’ve agreed to pay our clean and tidy deposit back! #epicwin

The First Fortnight

Merry Christmas! We’ve been in the house now for just over two weeks and have the following update:

It’s Snow Joke

It snowed over the Christmas holiday. No one came to grit the road. I don’t know if it was the Councils problem or if its covered by our grounds upkeep fee but nothing happened.

New Bins

Our bins arrived from the council in two separate deliveries? 3 bins in total. We’re sure we are now the envy of all our neighbors.

TV Aerial

Having decided to cancel our Virgin Cable account and opt for basic Freeview instead of Sky as we don’t watch that much live TV any more we asked aerialwaves.co.uk (tel:0113 8800 828) to help us out with a new aerial. £100 and 20 mins later our new aerial was fitting in the loft space meaning no unsightly antenna on the exterior of our property and tested TV lines in the three available rooms. They even threw in some free wall to set coaxial cabling.

Windows 0.9

The issue with our living room window being improperly fitted prompted a visit by the site manager and their glazing people. He said it wouldn’t be fixed today but managed to rejig the window setup so that the gap at least was closed meaning we’re not hemorrhaging heat any more.

Unsafe Washing Machine Pipework

At the same time the plumber arrived to fix our safety issues with washing machine pipework. He let the site manager know it was really an issue for the electrician however as one wasn’t available until the new year he instead dig out more of the wall and moved the pipework itself meaning we now have to have the wall re-plastered and painted in the not to distant future.

Persistent Boiler Issues

We still have issues with our boiler, a Glowworm that displays the error code F22. This meant that at least once a day we were left without heating or hot water. We called out the emergency plumber again and asked how this could be permanently fixed. He explained it was simply a matter of air being in the system and showed us where the air release valve on the boiler was, he also demonstrated that all of the radiators were partially filled with air too and we went around releasing the offending gasses until everything was water tight. If you do this yourselves then don’t forget to re-pressurise your boiler as releasing the air will cause the pressure to drop quickly.

Phone/Broadband Woes

Sky Broadband was due for installation on Christmas Eve. We received a text message on the Tuesday before saying this wasn’t going to happen and that we’d get an update on the 31st Dec. I called and the Sky team explained that the exchange needed upgrading for us to get our connection… it would have been nice to know before as we’ve now been within Internet for over a month in total.

Issues with your new address

As the new house isn’t on any databases we’ve had lots of trouble doing simple things like registering for an electricity/gas supply, buying things on sites like Amazon and moving bills. Some people in the development do have addresses already registered. We assume this is due to mail redirection however if like us, your having problems finding your address online you can update the post office who should already have the address on file, just marked as unused by emailing them via addressmaintenance@royalmail.com.

Furniture Fiasco

Our big red fabric chesterfield sofa is too big for the living room. We’ve looked everywhere and cant find anything we like even in the sales. This was a make do sofa as we have the same problem last time and we’re both reluctant to throw out a perfectly good sofa that’s only a few years old just for the sake of one of the french doors being able to fully open.

The site manager has asked us to put together a snagging list for their return in the new year. It’s a few pages long already. I’ll post it here with images once its finalised.

Snagging – 1 Month In

We’ve had a funny month due to it being Christmas so there’s not been many people on site. We’ve had the emergency plumber out three times now in addition to regular visits from the on site plumber and at present there’s still no fix for our central heating. All of the patching done so far has remained unfinished meaning we have cut outs and un-plastered and painted holes in the walls. One concern is how drafty the house is. The hall to garage door bumps and bangs all night and you can really feel the cold air coming in.

We’re trying to keep the site manager on side to get things done but our snagging list is growing by the day. Here’s where we’re at as of the 19th Jan roughly 1 month into having moved in.
Images coming soon.

Front of property

  • Front door chipped and scratched on both sides and splitting on the inside
  • The exterior window sill in Bedroom 2 is split straight through and needs replacing
  • We can’t open garage door from outside

Living room

  • French doors are marked on both sides and need repainting
  • Lh side window is not fit property and there is a draft/wind coming into the living room
  • Hole in wall under rh window sill needs fixing
  • Paint blemishes circled in pencil by the builders before we moved in need addressing
  • Pinhole on left hand wall
  • We were promised a phone socket in living room (the only points in the house are in the hall and master bedroom)

Hall

  • Pendant lights fitted too low. They hit doors when opened
  • Hall needs repainting due to patchy paintwork
  • Bottom of internal garage access door is unpainted
  • Draft strip on garage door has come loose and is ineffective due to I’ll fitting door
  • Underlay cut short between hall and kitchen

Kitchen

  • Scratch on counter-top lh next to sink
  • No stopper behind hall door. Even though there’s one in the show house!
  • Spotlight not working
  • 3rd fan setting inoperable on extractor fan
  • Plaster-work coming away in ceiling
  • (Badly patched) hole in the kitchen floor lino
  • Finish in corners of kitchen cabinets
  • Finish on ceiling around spotlights

Utility

  • Exterior door frame has damaged sill this can be seen with door closed from inside
  • Plaster-work and painting for amended pipework needs finishing (pipework was originally unsafe)
  • Ceiling finish around spotlights

Cloak

  • Remove skirting board
  • Finish tiling and grouting to adequate standard
  • Make sure tiles align properly
  • Chipped and blemished tiles need replacing

In short this entire room is an eye-saw and needs to be gutted and started again.

Stairs

  • Holes under handrail
  • Walls cracking at joints

Landing

  • Bannister not secure around landing
  • Pendant lights fitted too low. They bang against doors when opened
  • Radiator needs securing
  • Plastering and paintwork needed to complete previous repairs to pipework (when hot and cold water supply was reversed throughout the house)

Bed 1 (Master)

  • Door frame to en-suite is chipped
  • Wardrobe needs resealing

Ensuite

  • Tiling needs re-grouting
  • Sealant needs redoing everywhere
  • Cracked and chipped tiles need replacing
  • Shower door needs aligning as does not close

Bath

  • Cubicle needs sealing better
  • Bath and side panel needs resealing with load in place
  • Tiles need finishing better – join between half and full needs redoing and chipped tiles replacing
  • Grouting incomplete and misaligned
  • Flooring and appliances need sealing to ensure watertight
  • Tiling unfinished above door frame
  • Marked lino
  • Lino uneven behind appliances
  • Shower surround scratched
  • Plastic shower fittings keep falling off

Garage

  • Cannot open door from inside without manually adjusting struts
  • Boiler keeps erroring f22 (at present we have no central heating and its snowing outside!)
  • Garage floods approx 50cm (2ft) in when it rains

Back Yard

  • Back wall is not attached to house there is a visible gap that needs sealing

indoor poolOur indoor pool
garage doorI’ll open the garage door… oh no wait, i cant!
painting issuesShouldn’t the threshold between garage and entrance hallway be painted?
decorating issuesThe decorators helpfully circled where they’d done a bad job before we moved in? NOW FIXED
ill fitting doorsIts drafty probably due to ill fitting doors.
chipped doorChipped door… there’s nothing like making a first impression. NOW FIXED
pendant lampshadesnone of the pendant lights actually allow pendant lampshades to be fitted
scratched worktopscratched worktop
chipped doorframechipped door frame on the back door
bad groutingill fitting box? just grout the gap it will be fine 🙁
chipped tileschipped tiles and not the ones we picked.
weird tileweird circular indentation on tile
leaking radiatorleaking radiator (and lots of boiler problems). NOW FIXED
skirting boardskirting board on one wall in a tiled room?
poor finishpoor finish where tiles meet door frames
poor finish againpoor finish again
poor finish againpoor finish in corners – i realise the tiles are knobbly but a professional shouldn’t leave it like this
partial groutpartial grout to back of toilet
poor finish near floorspoor finish near floors
holes in kitchen linoholes in kitchen lino
spotlight not workingThis spotlight has never worked… even on the initial tour. NOW FIXED
blown plasterworkblown plasterwork in ceiling. NOW FIXED
crackscracks appearing everywhere. NOW FIXED (but ongoing)
handrailholes left under hand rail. NOW FIXED
more cracksmore cracks
chipped tileschipped tiles in master bathroom
poor sealant workpoor sealant work
inconsistent finishThe downstairs loo looked like it was supposed to be grouted to the wall? should this be the same upstairs
sanitary warebase of sanitary ware needs sealing to avoid damp getting through.
shower fittingsshower fittings falling off
scratched shower surroundscratched shower surround
poor tile finishpoor tile finish
different pendant light, same problemdifferent pendant light, same problem
more cracksmore cracks
shocking finish to bathroomshocking finish to bathroom
shocking finish to bathroomshocking finish to bathroom
ensuite doorsen suite shower doors don’t close. NOW FIXED
shocking finish to bathroomshocking finish to bathroom
cracked tilescracked tile behind towel rail
patched wallplumbing was back to front here’s how they fixed it… still waiting for patch and paint 5 weeks on. NOW FIXED
chipped tilechipped tile
botched tilingThey only tiled 1/2 way up despite us paying for full tiling. Heres the botched repair leaving an uneven finish (to the touch)
more botched tilingmore botched tiling
poor finish and installation to skirting boardpoor finish and installation to skirting board
door stopshow home has a door stop. none present when we moved in. NOW FIXED
window issuesill fitting window plus its got sticker marks on it.
more sticker residuemore sticker residue
holes in paintworkholes in paint work (no we haven’t tried to hang anything yet as the house has to dry out) NOW FIXED

Tackling the Tiling Manager

Tiling manager came to the house today and I can think of choice words to describe him, he was arrogant, defensive, argumentative, rude and shouting. During the exchange he told me it was my fault the tiling was wrong as I had placed my order for full tiling after the half tiling had occurred errrrr WRONG. After being called out for this he then decided it was the sales woman who had caused the fault as she had not placed the request for full tiling. Either way he was not prepared to take any responsibility for the errors despite our seeing all of this written down on our specification document.

I requested the tiles be fully taken off in the cloakroom and told him if I had been paying at the end I wouldn’t have paid as the work was shoddy and sloppy.

The tiling manager tried to tell me that the chips in the tiles and the holes in the grout were due to the house moving which is an interesting explanation I guess. Anyway he wants to clean all the tiles first and re-grout before he will consider re-doing the work.

On a different note the site manager was great he apologised for the tiler, intervened and assisted. He also sorted a plumber out straight away who has fixed the leak and arranged for the boiler to be looked at. He has told me they are placing the snagging list into trades and will then give dates for it to get done in bulk which I’m obviously really pleased about.

Boiling Point

The site manager kindly arranged for glow worm to come look at the boiler. A text was received the day before the appointment advising that they had been booked and would telephone before 9am on the day to give an approximate time of arrival. On the day no telephone call received and nobody attended to fix the boiler. So the saga continues with a boiler which works 25% of the time. The boiler just feels like an uphill battle as Harron Homes have done all they can and are now reliant on the boiler manufacturer resolving the issue. Its certainly frustrating with all this cold weather and patience has now run out as heat are necessary.

Error F22 – Damned You!

Water Leak Detected

leaking front windowleaking front window

Oh joy. The recent snow fall has resulted in our pre-broken window leaking water into the front room. We now dare not pull the curtain on in case it turns moldy.

More Snags

With a lot of persuasion we’ve managed to get Harron Homes to agree to fix a majority of our minor snags (see the above images which have now been labelled as fixed) however more snags have been discovered.

  • Missing caps over screws in the en suite shower – as we couldn’t us it before we didn’t notice this.
  • Airing Cupboard door now wont close (the door has shrunk)

Things like our door issues, extractor fan, worktop scratches and window are being passed back through customer service (for what that’s worth)

Harron Customer Services

I had the pleasure of telephoning customer services and the call handler I had was new to Harron but incredibly helpful. I discussed with him the charter which used to be on the website about issues being logged and emergency work being done in 24 hours and non-emergency within 5 days. I told him I can no longer see this on the website and he did not know if this was still the case.
I mentioned to him that I had contacted the NHBC about my warranty and that this was not logged with them, it turns out it would not be as it is apparently with the LABC. From speaking with the NHBC what was interesting is that you could log your snags with them, they would then write to Harron and give them 10 days to rectify them, if they were still not completed they would send an inspector out who would then commission the work and then bill Harron for it. What I found out was that they intervene if the snags are not rectified even before the 2 year period.
The reason I actually telephoned customer service was to follow up my complaint about the tiling manager (I was told they are having a meeting about him) and my boiler.

I was asked to go through my outstanding snags which I did and I was offered an inspector to come out and see these. Once further discussion occurred with his manager they removed this option, however this was finally agreed after negotiation as some of our snags require re-placements which cost money therefore need the inspector to authorise. I have been told he will telephone me in the next few days (the sceptic in me suspects the call will not come).

As helpful as the call handler was I was told that customer services are not dealing with snags and this is via the site manager. Everything we discussed will be re-directed to him for him to action.
I explained to the call handler my frustration is that no time scales are in place for the work and that I felt I had been patient and now needed these due to the abundance of issues with the house.
Following the conversation with customer services the site manager telephoned and I was given the details to sort the boiler myself and dates for my tiling to be done. It was also agreed that my snags needed to be bottomed. I am now at the point where we need to give the chance for the work to be done on the agreed dates.

Boiler Saga Continued….

I am (again) attempting to get my boiler fixed. I telephoned the company involved to find out why they did not attend Monday and it’s due to them going to the wrong address. I cannot understand why when they had telephoned the site manager to arrange the time and text me why they did not telephone to follow up why nobody was at the address.

On trying to arrange another appointment (bear in mind they have failed to attend 3) I am told that my area is very busy but this is on the area they do not work weekends. I am also told that I have to take more time off work to accommodate the appointment as they cannot book the job as the first or last appointment.

After lots of negotiation they have said they can narrow the appointment to morning or afternoon but cannot guarantee the first or last appointment so I do not need to take further time off work. As always there is no manager available and the call handler allegedly does not know the name of the senior managers within the company. I am assured that the manager cannot do anything for me so I do not need to speak with them as they cannot be flexible at all and this is the best they can do.

As always they can acknowledge my frustration and the inconvenience but they cannot do anything for me.

I am fed the typical call centre lines ‘my manager is away from their desk’ ‘my manager is unavailable’ ‘my manager is busy’ and ‘my manager will call you back’ when you know the manager doesn’t want to give you time of day. As always the call handler wants to get you off the line so you are guaranteed a call back.

I have to actually eat my words as surprisingly the manager did telephone back and opened with ‘I have no power’ ‘I cannot organise any set times’ and I was told repeatedly that nobody in the company has any power to be accommodating even-though they had continually let me down. Again my frustration was acknowledged with a lot of ‘I understands’.

After repeating how they had let me down and how they had inconvenienced me the manager eventually decided she would see what she could do for me to be more accommodating and guaranteed me the first appointment. What really annoys me is if I had not been persistent I would have been left with an appointment I could not do.
New Customers are Short Changed
On the old Harron Homes website (2014) there was a page called “customer charter” that outlined their commitment to solving snags with your home.

harron homes customer charterCustomer Charter 2014

In it they commit to solving major faults within 1 day and at least taking a look at minor faults within 5. Needless to say 9 weeks in this isn’t how it has worked despite everyone’s best efforts.
The new charter doesn’t cover any of this meaning new customers are buying into a service where snags can last indefinitely. I think this lack of transparency is worrying for a business that has so many issues with existing sites at present.

To see Harron Homes new less transparent customer charter click here.

Harron Homes Changing Goalposts Once You’ve Moved In

I’ve blogged here previously about not being able to snag. From the outset we have been told time and time again that you don’t get an opportunity to snag your new home before you move in and that snagging happens over the 2 years of warranty once your in. On the day of our tour we were told this was simply to show us how things worked and if we noticed anything along the way that it would be taken care of however snagging was a separate issue left for once you’ve moved in.

Today we spoke to Harron Homes customer service about issues with our worktop and kitchen lino and were told that as we hadn’t spotted this during our home tour that it wasn’t part of our snagging and wouldn’t be remedied.

Needless to say we were gobsmacked!

So it appears that if you don’t snag on the day they tell you is not for snagging then none of your snags will get done.

Luckily the site manager is again a superstar and has said not to worry as he’ll honor what was originally stated and would get these items replaced for us.

This begs the question what the [expletive removed] are Harron Homes customer service doing? Why are the terms under which original customers have bought their properties not being changed. How come Harron homes can totally fail at following their own protocol whilst expecting customers to be held up to a shifting set of criteria and processes.
We are not amused!

Spare a thought for other Harron Homes Sites

We’ve been patient until now and have always tried to portray a fair and balanced view however Harron Homes Head office have really [expletive removed] me off today. While I’m sticking the proverbial boot in there’s a few sites that have opened over the past month namely Hazlemoor fold in Blackley and Saffron Park in Liversedge who are having their own problems. For example although the homes at Hazlemoor fold are £50,000+ more than the same homes at our beloved Queensbury Gardens, the people there have been plagued by poor build quality, unlivable homes and dangerous sites. On moving day one family couldn’t move in as the site manager said their home was unsafe for their children, the homes are falling apart and the finish is appalling. Every day there’s a new story that really makes us feel for the families up there.

Read some of the comments below if you don’t believe me and there’s a dedicated Facebook group where you can see first hand what they’ve had to put up with so far. It makes our site and our paltry problems seem like we’re living a charmed life!

In short… buyers be warned!

A visit from the Inspector

A workman came to start on our snags and I told him about the promise of an inspector coming out. He actually laughed and told me I was being fed some rubbish! I will say the telephone call promised never came and when this has been tackled with customer service I was told there is no point as they will just tell the site manager what work they have to arrange. So the inspector never called and what was promised came to nothing!

Tiling getting fixed (attempt number 2)

It was promised that the cloakroom would be stripped back and re-tiled if this is what I wanted by the Site Manager. Unfortunately this did not happen and only a few of the (many) the chipped or marked tiles replaced. Its hard to believe the tiling could get any worst but it did as the tiler has used mastic everywhere rather than re-grout. It riles me that I have paid for full tiling when I look at the mess of my bathrooms. The work is shoddy and if I had paid upfront I would not have made payment! Its hard to believe the tiling looked better before this ‘fix’.

goop fixes everything? tiling004 tiling003 tiling002 tiling001 tiling012 tiling011 tiling010 tiling009 tiling008 tiling007 tiling006

Tiling saga continued…

The Quality Manager has got involved with our tiling issues and at his request, we’ve sent him pictures of the bathrooms to assist us with getting it rectified. He has acknowledged that the tiling is diabolical but as of yet he has not managed to keep the promise of getting back to us within the timescale set. Its tedious having to keep chasing people up and if you set yourself a time scale stick to it! Fingers crossed the tiling is getting sorted Saturday but I am skeptical they can sort this in a single day.

LABC Warranty

I telephoned the LABC to check our house has a warranty and it turns out the house is not even on the system and is just covered by a cover note. This is concerning when a cover note was issued to the solicitor and that the house should be fully covered. This prompted a telephone calls to the solicitor and Harron Homes. According to the solicitor this has happened on other sites and its due to paperwork not being filed by Harron Homes. The Solicitor kindly offered to deal with Harron’s solicitors to sort this out.

I also contacted Customer Service and they stayed they would ring me back same day after making inquires however the phone call never came. I again have had to chase this matter and have been told by Harron Homes customer services that they need to speak with the Sales team?

This has currently not been rectified and I suggest everyone check their house has a warranty as this is an issue across more than our site.

Full cover would allow house owners to send snags through the LABC who can then strong arm Harron Homes into fixing the faults in days rather than months. Needless to say we suspect the confusion around this may be a ploy to either save money or avoid this scenario.

Boiler update

Our boiler is still not fixed after a whopping 10 weeks of waiting and freezing temperatures. Glowworm, the boiler company have been out and recommended that Harron Homes revisit our property and fit the boiler correctly due to it being overly ‘sensitive and modern’. By all accounts, the boiler measures the temperature between out and in flowing connections which need have to have a maximum variance of 11 degrees to stop the f22 error. Achieving this equilibrium takes 2 staff and is allegedly fiddly lasting around 1/2 a day. The job has now been passed back to Harron Homes and we are awaiting this to be sorted. Fingers crossed that some day this year we will have a boiler which works consistently!

Piggy in the middle

I contacted Harron’s Customer Service as recommended by the Site Manager. Customer Service said I shouldn’t send any issues to them and to refer everything to our Site Manager. Customer Services have made decisions about requests we’ve made as per policy and alleged they have spoken to our Site Manager and Deputy. When questioned, the Site Manager and Deputy stated they did not say what Customer Services have advised. We contacted Customer Services again who then conceded and said all decisions are wholly with the Site Manager.

Reading this is exhausting so imagine what its like dealing with this and having 3 people telling you different accounts of the same request. All I ask for is consistency. Can Harron’s team please start to read from the same hymn sheet. It’s hardly rocket science.

Harron Homes’ Customer Service Managers

I have made several requests to speak with a manager, this is always politely declined and a message is taken and emailed to them to contact me. The phone call from the manager never comes and conveniently when I’m on the phone they are ‘in a meeting’ or ‘away from their desk’. The customer service operators work within the brief of keeping the customer from the manager but fail you by taking messages which are never responded to. It raises the question are the messages actually passed on? And if they are, it suggests ignorance at management level and the total disrespect towards the customer.

Problems with our houses design

Having moved in there’s a few things we’d question about the design and layout of the house (a Tiverton AKA the Windsor on newer builds)

  • Pendant lights – These are all a standard size which begs the question why have they been positioned in front of doorways as when you as even a modest lamp shade your door bangs against them. In the kitchen the suggested room layout puts the dining table in the centre of the open space however the light fitting for this room is towards one end meaning you cant have lighting overhanging your dining table as you would expect.
  • Phone points – There looks like there’s one in the hall (under a blanking plate) and a fitted point in the bedroom. Wheres our internet router supposed to live? Putting it in the bedroom means a veritable disco of flashing lights in the corner of the room all night. Wouldn’t it have been better to put one in the front room.
  • Off centre windows – In all bedrooms the windows are off centre in the available space. this means curtains look strange and fitted incorrectly.
  • Nothing is square – if the tiling and skirting boards are to be believed then no walls or ceilings in the house are square. There’s no gap at one end of the bathroom and a 3/4 inch gap at the other end above the tiles in our bathrooms and furniture leans away from the walls.

These niggles seem small however on a day to day basis they’re very annoying. I’m sure we’ll get used to it eventually.

LABC update

It’s been nearly a week since we spoke to the LABC and basically we’re no further on. The solicitor has not updated us as they are awaiting a response from Harron’s solicitors, Harron Homes customer service are unable to update us as there waiting for an update from sales and the LABC cannot update us as they are awaiting the paperwork from Harron. Basically were in the hands of others, trying to be patient but its annoying as there is nothing we can do to move this along. The solicitor is checking there is nothing serious we should know about as the warranty hasn’t been actioned so here’s hoping this gets sorted soon and the process speeds up!

Tiling update

We’re nearly a week on and we still do not know what has been authorised in regards to the tiling. It feels like the quality manager is unable to meet our request and is avoiding telling us the outcome. I am willing to consider the fact he is genuinely a busy guy busy negotiating for us to get us what we want which is why its taking so long. Who knows? but the thing is you can’t help immediately thinking the worst possible outcome due to no feedback when direct questions are not being answered. My concern is the tilers come on Saturday and we have no agreement of what work will be done, also as we have been told door frames need to be removed for the work its hard to envisage that all the tiling will be complete in one day. I’m just hoping that the quality manager doesn’t screw us over and drop us an email at 5pm Friday with what is going to happen as that would seriously take the mick. All I want is the discussion which was suggested by him to know what’s going to happen. Anxiety is high over the tiling and we just want some assurances that its third time lucky in getting this job done properly!

LABC/NHBC Update

Having spoken to the site manager it appears that we’re not LABC registered for a reason. That is that most of the early part of phase one are actually NHBC registered. We called to check and nope, we’re not covered their (yet) either. The saga continues…

Boiler Fixed.

Its taken over 12 weeks but the guys finally got their act together and balanced our boilers pressure correctly. Having 4 days of consistent heating has made the house toasty! If your boiler errors with the code F22 then it takes 2 men 1/2 a day to balance the boiler. Hopefully all of the other houses on our development have had the same fix applied?

Next stop looks like its going to be the tiling (again). The site manager’s manager is in the house this morning inspecting the work. We have an email from someone claiming to be the quality manager saying they’ll do ‘whatever is required’ to fix our issues however this latest manager wants to double check that its right before he commits to anything. Our issue is that we have conflicting views from people… lets see what he decides.

3 month round up

It has been over 3 months since we moved into our Harron Homes and here is a summary of things we have learnt and how things have progressed.

Snags

  • It has taken 13 weeks for Harron homes to fix our central heating boiler. We now have constant heating. Despite being told it was air lock issues, boiler needing replacing, radiator bleeding problems in the end it took Glow worm to identify it had simply been installed incorrectly taking 2 men ½ a day to fix.
  • It has taken 13 weeks for Harron Homes to fix an incorrectly fitted window to our front room. This has now been rectified and the window no longer has a draft or leaks water.
  • Tiling throughout all three bathrooms has still not been rectified. So far there have been 2 attempts at the tiling and each attempt to put it right brings more faults and has failed to replace cracked, chipped and poorly grouted tiles. Attempt 3 is now scheduled for next week so fingers crossed this is successful and due to the issues with the tiling we have been offered a free tiled floor in the cloakroom.
  • Minor snags such as shortening pendant lights, painting and re-plastering has occurred and there are very few jobs left in this area. Plaster work has been made worse by the Harron Homes team due to bodged repairs.
  • Hole in the kitchen lino floor is still not fixed. As of yet we are unclear when the lino will be refitted however we have been promised the entire room will be replaced.
  • Scratches to the worktop and chunks out of the back door frame continue to be an issue and as of yet there are no dates as to when this will be fixed.
  • The front door has been fixed but only half of it was repainted leaving an uneven finish, we are still waiting for the other half to be painted.
  • The garage door now opens this took 8 weeks for this to be fixed
  • Double doors into the living room are water damaged, these have been replaced with door that have cracks in the seal and full of dirt as they have not been cleaned properly before they were (half) painted.
  • Back Garden has no drainage and this floods and is like a swamp, this is something which has been repeatedly raised and not dealt with. Be warned this issue is not just at our plot.
  • Exterior pipework is unfinished and needs to be corrected so that it is properly fixed to the outlet and wall and terminates within the relevant drains as opposed to being directed to their approximate locations.
  • Fixing the Internal fire door has been bodged. We’ve had this independently inspected and been advised it is not up to code.
  • Grouting around the kitchen window in front of our kitchen sink has a really uneven finish and shows up every splash. Wiping it clean takes off the paint.
  • Main bathroom ceiling is wonky and the top inch on one side is filled with grout tapering off to a 0.5cm grouted area on the opposite ceiling wall edge.
  • Bathroom wall around the window is not straight (causing us tiling issues)
  • Promised phone socket in the living room is missing
  • To date the mastic man hasn’t arrived to finish off our cloakroom.
  • New damage has been done to the adjoining wall in our bedroom due to the works in the en-suite. We expect this to be resolved as part of the work

Useful Information

  • If you leave a key with the site manager for snags to be completed things get done whilst you are not there, when you get home you know tradesmen have been in but you end up playing spot the difference as you are not told what work is being undertaken.
  • When snagging is undertaken by the builders whilst you are at work be prepared to come home to a mess as they do not clean up after themselves. We have had workmen leave dust all over the carpets, dust and plaster over clean pots in the kitchen, plaster over the kitchen floor and mess our furniture. By all accounts ‘they’re not used working on homes that are lived in’.
  • Be prepared for more damage to be done to your property when repairs occur. We have had paint on our carpets from re-painting, white paint being splashed over the magnolia walls, damage to our bathroom and kitchen floors whilst undertaking the tiling, mastic all over the bathrooms and paint on the glass of the internal doors
  • Be prepared for a job being half done examples of this is our front door was repaired and only half of it repainted, the internal garage door had only half the insulation strips fixed, when doors have been changed the hinges have been placed at different parts of the door frame so there are big chunks in the framework and it is unfinished, doors have been partially glossed, the ceiling was filled but not sanded down or painted, 2 out of 3 pendant lights were shortened so 1 looked a bit odd until it was adjusted and the holes in the wall were fixed but the water damage was not sorted.
  • The stairs will crack as they are placed in the house as a whole, apparently it doesn’t matter how the stairs are fitted this will always occur and is a known problem.
  • It has taken 3 months for us to be told by the council what band we are in, now this has been sorted a lump sum is required as this has been backdated.
  • It has taken 3 months for the water board to contact us as this is how long it has taken for Harron Homes to contact them with the relevant information according to the correspondence they sent out.
  • The Gas, Electric and Water direct debits are inflated until the companies can get a gauge on how much these will cost. At present we anticipate paying 1/3 of their quoted fees based on 3 months use during winter… over summer it should be less.
  • Customer Services encourage you to have everything agreed in writing. We have found even if things are in writing this does not make a difference and when requesting this to occur it rarely does.
  • Check out the 10 year building warranty and make sure the information has been sent to the right governing body. Our NHBC warranty is not in place, according to the NHBC and the solicitor this is due to Harron Homes not sending the information which has been requested. We had originally been told to check the LABC which is a different body and not one our home was covered by.
  • Customer Services pass logged jobs onto the site managers and in their own words ‘the site managers have more power than us’. It is a waste of time contacting them.
  • It took a month for the bins to be on the bin round so we had to make trips to the local tip to start with. Now we are on the bin round our bins are not always emptied as the council cannot always access the bin due to the building work which is occurring on site. To date we’ve had our bins collected a total of twice in the past 13 weeks.
  • If you want to escalate a matter within Harron Homes this is impossible. We have asked for details to do this and have been told by people across a wide range of departments that they will not give out the information for this to happen as they do not want to get involved. If you speak with Customer Services though they will send you the complaint procedure, we will let people make their own judgement about this process.
  • Harron Homes remind you they are a small company when you start questioning systems and processes. I am still unclear why this would prevent a company providing good customer service.
  • Currently we have no street lighting and this is a safety issue.
  • We still do not have a phone line or access to the internet and we have been told a long line of reasons as to why this has not occurred. According to Sky the infrastructure should have been ready for the 14th January 2015. What is really frustrating is that some houses have internet and this has not been equitable, we have been without for nearly 4 months now.
  • When they build your home they use the plans as a guide. The builders have artistic license to make adjustments if the build is slightly off spec. This is why we have a loft hatch outside our bathroom and not positioned in front of the water heater room as it is in the show home. This means if the house design doesn’t make sense i.e. in our case phone sockets in the hall, they have the ability to change the plans.

Lies Told

  • We were told by the site sales manager that “the water meter has been cemented over so we cannot give you the meter number so until we can Harron Homes will be paying for the water of the site”. We received a back dated water bill so this wasn’t accurate.
  • We were told “If you provide me with a breakdown of works required I will ensure this is carried out with no argument”. This was put in writing and has not been honored and totally ignored by everyone spoken to.
  • We were told “Your warranty is with the LABC”. It is actually with the NHBC and 13 weeks in we still have not been registered by our solicitor due to Harron Homes sitting on the paperwork (now fixed).
  • We have been told varying solutions to our tiling including that we could have the cloakroom restarted from scratch. This agreement came from the site manager (verbally) and a quality manager (in writing). This is not going to happen as this should never have been agreed.
  • This is the most random which could be true or a big major lie ‘Mr Harrison (an owner of Harron Homes) is concerned about the hole in your lino’ SERIOUSLY?? Out of all my issues this is his biggest concern, can’t say were convinced that this is true!!

Other concerns

  • We have received copies of emails from Customer Services containing other home owner’s information in the form of email threads whilst corresponding with Harron Homes. This means that your information is not always kept private and mistakes happen.
  • The grass out back looks like its dying. This is to be expected with a north facing back garden that gets no light.

Positives

  • The build of the house is fantastic and all of the issues we are having is due to the contractors that Harron Homes have used rather than the builders. This is an important thing to remember when addressing the snags.
  • The site managers do seem to be on our side and can be heard arguing with contractors to get us the solution we want.
  • Now that our heating is working consistently we can see how the house retains heat and this is a massive positive as the heating does not need to be on that much.
  • We still love the house, despite all the difficulties and battles we have had it has not tainted our view of the house. It is starting to feel more like home and it is getting there.
  • There has not been as much cracking as expected, we have anticipated this since we have moved in and we have not had much of this. It could be down to the lack of heating but either way we are surprised at this.
  • Double Drive at the front of the house, this is a major blessing as we are not having to park on the road. This is one of the things we are glad we kept asking for as its fantastic.
  • The kitchen we picked out we love this. The oven is far better than we expected as we originally thought it would be too small but is fine.
  • The wall we have around the back garden, we continue to be happy with this and pleased we do not have fencing. We like the privacy this gives to the back of the house and the fact it will be low maintenance.

Tiling attempt 3 and 4

As you are aware the tiling has been an ongoing saga and we are not quite at the end of this issue. We were promised by one of Harron Homes Contracts Managers that our tiling work would be done without argument, this did not happen and when he could not uphold his word he would not take phone calls or answer emails from us. As he was not prepared to tell us this would not occur he made the site manager deliver this news.

As Harron Homes went back on their promise in writing this then led to Contracts Manager #2 coming along with the deputy site manager and inspecting the bathrooms. This by the way was inspection #4 which begs the question as to whether anybody talks to each other and why 4 inspections had to occur. During this visit it was iterated that Contracts Manager #1 had agreed to something he should not have got involved with and should never have promised us anything as he had never inspected the work. This then led to Contracts Manager #2 offering us a different proposal which to be honest was not well accepted as what we were promised was not honored even though it was in writing. We were unhappy with this and wanted to escalate the fact Harron Homes were not honoring what they promised but was blocked with this as Contracts Manager #2 advised he did not want to get involved with this and we should be solution focused. Harron Homes please note it is not okay to promise things in writing and not honor this. Cutting a long story short we were subtly backed into a corner as we had nowhere to raise our discrepancy so we had to agree to what was proposed. At this time we were reminded about how Harron Homes is a small company and do not promote or assist with escalation as they are not the NHS, after perseverance Contracts Manager #2 said he would raise my issues but I doubt this ever occurred. As a gesture of goodwill we were offered a free tiled floor in the cloakroom which we accepted with apprehension due to the state of our current tiling.

When the tiler attended for attempt #3 all I can say is there was a lot of swearing and he had different ideas on how the tiling should be tackled compared to Quality Manager #2. We got the tiler which was recommended from other Harron Homes sites and has work has been very good as he places high standards on himself but at times he has been hindered by the instructions he is forced to follow which go against how he would like to work. Due to the enormity of rectifying all 3 bathrooms this led to the work going over schedule resulting in attempt #4. At this point we were very happy as the cloakroom is a vast improvement and it was agreed the bathroom and en suite would be fixed the following week.

Attempt #4 did not go too well as this led to us identifying that the bathroom wall was uneven which became problematic as this led to the tiling work coming to a halt in this room as the tiler wanted the whole wall ripping off, skimmed and then the tiling to occur where as his boss wanted him to continue tiling and back-fill. In the en suite bathroom attempts to get the tiles off the walls began which again caused problems due to the thickness of the tiles. This has led to the wall having holes in and falling down on the small areas which have been started. This work was also stopped as the recommendations of the tiler were that the tiles needed to be taken off completely and a different tile used as what we had picked should have only been used for a feature wall.
On both attempts the site manager was present to supervise but it was bizarre how he could not authorise any of the recommendations of the tiler and this had to go through the Contracts Manager. To me it seems pointless having someone overseeing a job if they cannot make any decisions if things go to plan. So due to the lack of decision making this has led to the tiling not being finished.

The Contracts Manager has been to our home and inspected the incomplete work. We have voiced our concerns about refitting the sanitary ware in the cloakroom and have been assured this shouldn’t be a problem. The main bathroom has been a bigger job than anyone expected and an uneven wall means they’re having remove and replace a large section. Having looked at our ensuite he agreed that a piecemeal job was causing more damage than it was fixing and has agreed to take off all of the tiles, fix the walls and start afresh. We have been given the option of picking less difficult tiles this time which we’re happy to do if it makes the job easier and minimises future issues.

New faces

There has been a significant change in the sites management team. This means we’re anticipating having to start again with negotiating many of the snags as there doesn’t seem to be any official record of what has been requested or agreed.

Harron Homes Courtesy Call from Customer Services

This week Harron Homes customer services gave us a call to see what snags were outstanding and what still needed to be done. This raised alarm bells as surely they should know this when they have the snagging list and so do the site managers. What came out of this telephone call is that neither party is communicating with the other and that the snagging list has got bigger due to Harron Homes workmen damaging the property and causing further damage to the original snags. Customer service’s assured us they would follow this telephone call up with an e mail about what we had discussed and this has not come.

Tiling Attempt #5

The main bathroom as you are aware has a ceiling which is not level and a wall which is not level. When the contracts manager came to visit he told us that to do the best job of fixing this it would be to rip everything out but as it was a new bathroom he cannot see why we would want to do this and would like to try and fix it a different way by re-skimming the ceiling and realigning the tiles which are uneven due to the wonky wall as this would cause us the least hassle.

The work on the tiles has been completed this week and all we can say is that they are still uneven, there is not a smooth finish, the grout is of different thicknesses/uneven and the work around the window you can see the edge of the tiles and the seal is bending. The issues we have are that;

  • It’s obvious Jonathan, our preferred tiler hasn’t been involved in this work.
  • This work was carried out without us present, it was stipulated strongly we had to be present for this work due to the number of issues we are having with this particular job and by going against this agreement makes us feel they are trying to cut corners with this job.
  • The tiling is still not right and it is getting worst the more attempts which are occurring.
  • The tillers we stipulated did the work as we know they do a good job were not used.
  • This section of tiling has been worked on but the other tiles which need replacing have not been touched (this is most likely a blessing looking at the standard of the repair)
  • We were not told this work was going to be undertaken or asked if it was acceptable to go ahead without us present

What compounded our angst was that we didn’t arrive home until late on Friday so couldn’t discuss this with anyone. Having spoken to the new site managed he confirmed that no one was supposed to have done any tiling work that day and he assumes that the manager of their contractors took it upon themselves to try and fix the work independently. This begs the question why wouldn’t you do a good job if you know there’s an ongoing problem? Secondly we were assured that the work would be quality checked however on when questioned we were told that they didn’t have time to do it.

On a positive note the workmen have been very considerate and have made a great job of cleaning up after themselves this time and we managed to get a good nights sleep despite the ensuite being stripped back to bare wall.

Fobbed off again

Well after emailing and telephoning the contracts manager about the issues we had with the tiling last week and being repeatedly told he would telephone us, today customer services advised that he was no longer dealing with us. The reason for this is that he is not on site every day and that everything now has to go through the site manager. I understand that as the senior he wants things dealing with at a lower level and agree with this model of working. What is frustrating is that for 4 days I have been told he would be in touch by customer services and the site manager. It is disappointing that he failed to communicate his exit strategy and the plans for site to take over. The site manager promised us that he would personally oversee our tiling work due to the number of errors occurring and that he would personally inspect it. Just goes to show that when things run over schedule and problems occur people bail at the first opportunity and do not want to take responsibility for their decision making. Customer Services advice is take it up with the site manager. Overall I would have more respect for the contracts manager if he had just picked up the telephone and spoken to me about this rather than ignoring me for 7 days and getting others to relay his decisions.

Tiling Update

The walls in the en-suite are now ready for the tiling to go ahead we have been told that moisture resistant boards have been used so that the walls do not need skimming. We are not too sure about the truth of this due to conflicting advice online. Also if the tiles are removed in the future does this mean the wall will fall down? We would welcome advice on this matter as we are clueless as to whether this is true or a way of cutting corners.

A lot of things have moved forward with the tiling this week as we now have 2 days identified for this work to be (fingers crossed) completed. We really want this right now as it has been going on for months and are hoping that due to having so many issues that the tillers will bring their A game.

200 comments!

A big thank you to everyone who has shared their stories in the comment section below. Keep sharing your tales (good and bad) and feel free to ask any questions.

E S C A L A T I O N is a dirty word

Due to the issues with two contracts managers we have wanted to escalate to their managers within Harron Homes. As always when an escalation request is mentioned harron homes have gone deathly quiet and ignored us this applies to customer services and 1 of the contracts manager’s . The reason we have wanted to escalate is;

  • Requests in writing not being adhered to
  • Being ignored by contract managers (in fact this apples to everyone) when we have e mailed, telephoned and left them answer phone messages
  • Agreed actions not occurring for example work in the home not being supervised, agreed jobs not being actioned in agreed time scales and lack of communication regarding jobs being undertaken
  • Advice given by tradesmen conflicting with the contract manager’s recommendations
  • Lack of attention to detail meaning works need to be revisited on numerous occasions.

Our experience is that nobody wants to assist you in escalating any matters, it’s as though everyone is in each other’s pockets and they don’t want to get each other in trouble. As nobody will help you escalate issues that arise or allow you to make senior management aware of s**t service it make you think that they do not care about you as a customer and that they can treat you however they please. As we keep telling customer services, site managers and contracts managers ‘It is not okay’ to keep treating us the way you do and ‘it is not acceptable’ to give different messages as the one thing Harron Homes is good at it inconsistency and contradiction.

The fact that we’re being told by everyone that they agree and “its not good enough” and “you shouldn’t have had to wait this long for this issue to be resolved” just adds insult to injury.

Harron Homes official complaints procedure (Feb 2015)

The following is taken directly from an email we received on February 10th.

We hope that Harron Homes can deal with any concerns or defects that may arise, however, if you do not feel that your site team has dealt with your concerns effectively and you wish to speak to somebody else please contact our Customer Service Team who will investigate your complaint further and respond accordingly.

The below complaints procedure shows the escalation process that will be adopted when dealing with any customer complaint.

  • Any complaint should be sent in writing to our Customer Services Department. The Customer Service Coordinators will confirm receipt within 48 hours and following their investigation of the reported issues will provide a full response within 10 working days.
  • If the response is not satisfactory you should advise the Customer Service Coordinator who will then escalate the complaint to The Contract Manager, Field Sales Manager or the Customer Service Manager. Again following further investigation of the matter a full response will be provided within 10 working days of the escalation request.
  • Hopefully at this point your complaint will have been addressed to your satisfaction, however if this is not the case then a further written communication should be sent into the Customer Service Manager detailing why you feel the matter has not been addressed effectively. The matter will be escalated to the relevant Department Head or Director for their input. A full response will be sent by the Customer Services Manager on behalf of the Director or Senior Manager within 10 working days.

Please note that all formal complaints must be in writing and can be submitted on email to customerservice@harronhomes.co.uk or to Colton House, Temple Point, Bullerthorpe Lane, Leeds, LS14 9JL.

Bad Press

Home owners at another site in Lindley have gone to the press to highlight their plight. It seems that Harron Homes have been neglecting and bodging fixes on their builds for almost a year now. A radio interview was conducted today 8th April 2015 on BBC Radio Leeds at 7am with a chat started at 8am. You can also read about it here http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/lindley-residents-slam-house-builder-over-8998215.

My concerns are not that Harron Homes might go bust part way through a build as some have suggested but that they seem to be in absolute denial about how they’re treating customers. We’re constantly paid lip service and told its not good enough, and you shouldn’t have had to wait that long etc however there’s a massive lack of action or transparency about whats being done about it.
As a customer what I want is:

  • A central point of contact within Harron Homes who acts as an advocate for our issues internally. They should record and manage all customer and internal communication about each issue and have access to information on timescales, challenges and the authority to kick ass to get things done. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell us if somethings not going to plan as knowing about it is actually a good thing otherwise we’re left in the dark as we are now. We need a schedule of work. At present your passed form pillar to post and no one seems to want to be responsible to us the client.
  • It being impressed on Harron’s contractors that they are responsible for delivering the highest quality solution for Harron’s clients. The focus presently seems to be about turning things around quickly using the minimum resource which means errors being piled on top of errors and for example in our case our main bathroom being pretty good to start with and getting progressively more bodged up as things are being ‘fixed’. Its exhausting.
  • Quality control on all snags. They do check houses as they’re progressing however there is no final sign off on a house as things are being done at the last minute and again in our case while we were trying to move in. So we know there was no final sign off on our home and no chance in hell it would have passed the pressure test they’re supposed to do on each home when getting an environmental certificate (due to our windows being ill fitting). Everything needs to be quality checked independently of the contractors by someone not tasked with controlling spend. Of course this needs to be balanced but it cannot be cost effective for contractors to be constantly revisiting a property to fix the same issue over and over again.
  • The lived on site being fit for purpose. At present we’re being drip fed utilities and services. We’ve still no phone connections, partial street lighting has just gone in and our bins aren’t being collected due to the council jobs-worth’s not being prepared to enter the site while construction is ongoing. It would help if Harron could create a solution for these problems as no one else is empowered to do so.

With hind sight Harron Homes should also:

  • Let new buyers snag. The snags don’t have to be done before you move in but knowing they’re on the list would be a great tension reliever
  • Document the buying process and include 3rd party deadlines and timescales. You’re left in the dark and demands are made giving no time to make rational decisions.
  • Encourage community groups. Dealing with a single point of contact on site wide issues must be easier.

By allowing customers to have this kind of service Harron Homes would have

  • Happier clients
  • Less snags! People get pedantic when they’re being messed around
  • Better reputation
  • More sales & an easier sales process
  • Happier staff and contractors
  • Less theft (from disgruntled staff)

If Harron Homes would like to get together with myself and possibly some other customers I’m sure we can help to create systems and processes that not only make the snagging issue go away quicker but also help improve the speed and profitability of all works. I for one would donate my time.

Snagging Update

It looks like our cracked window sill in bed 2 has been replaced and chips in the front and back door frames have been fixed. The worktop looks like its had the scratch fixed too but as no one tells us whats happened we’ll probably never know.

What concerned me about this latest round of snagging is that the contractors just turned up one morning out of the blue. The wife called the site manager, deputy site manager, customer service and contracts manager to verify the identity of these individuals but could not get a response so let them in. They could have been anyone! Luckily for us they were legitimate and fixed some things.

Fingers crossed that the tiling goes to plan. They’ve tried to push through tiling directly onto board but as the previous tiles were onto a skimmed wall and that my bro who’s a plumber has suggested such, that we again get the job done right and not a bodge. We have infinite patience and are happy to wait until things are right before tiling works start and want this done right in one go. If they have to come out again we will be majorly P*!$ed off.

Progress

Since all the media coverage our site was allocated a snag coordinator which involved going through the snagging list AGAIN. After this conversation things started moving quickly with the promise that all the remedial snags will be completed within a week and the contracts manager making contact. We are pleased that the contracts manager finally spoke with us as he has intervened with our tiling and authorised the wall in the en-suite to be skimmed for an even finish (It only took a week for someone to agree this was needed). As our tiling is a major issue the contract’s manager has now took control of this (again) and has promised to supervise this job himself to ensure that it is finally right. We are very happy with this outcome as the contracts manager has a good eye and is not one to cut corners. We now have an agreement with the contracts manager that he will present us with a schedule of works on Tuesday it now feels as though there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Harron Homes ‘Sacks’ Customer Service Dept

We end the week with the knowledge that all of Harron Homes’ customer service department has been… well let’s call it sacked. This information has come to us via social media due to tweets which have been sent from ex Harron Homes customer service team members. This has left us with un-ease as to what will happen next, guess we will have to see what Monday brings and I really hope we do not have to repeat the snagging list yet again!

We feel sorry for the staff however ineffectual they were as you cannot forget these are real people with lives and responsibilities and not just voices on a phone.
The question still remains will contractors be held responsible for sloppy work or has the buck been well and truly passed by Harron Homes head office?

6 month round up

Snags

On the whole most of our snags are done now. The paintwork snags have not been completed to a good standard but we are now drawing a line with these and getting the decorator to sort these when we decorate. Also whilst some of the snags have been undertaken damage has been done to the property such as our bathroom door now has dents in it and there are some specks of paint on the hall and bedroom carpet

For us our snags were completed whilst we were on a two week holiday. We trusted the site manager with our key and property which was a really big thing due to all of the issues we have had for the past six months. We are pleased to say this gamble paid off and the property was left clean and tidy.
The snags we still have outstanding are;

  • Cloakroom tiling
  • Drainage in our back garden
  • Block Paving
  • Flooding Garage

Tiling

En Suite

The en- suite was ripped out, re-skimmed and then re-tiled with different tiles that made the job easier. The old 3D tiles were the cause of many problems. This approach really sorted out all our issues and it now looks really good. We are really happy with this room and have no complaints.

Main Bathroom

The main bathroom has had bits and pieces completed but the main job was tiling on a wall which was not level. The tiling in this area is significantly better but it is still not perfect. The imperfection is only visible very close up and for the sake of finishing this room we have made the decision to call it a day as we believe this is the best it is going to look. The only way this room could be 100% correct is if the wall had been re-skimmed so that it was level however Harron Homes have refused to do this. They also replaced our shower door and flipped it around so you didn’t have to reach around the open door to turn on the water. The ceiling has been leveled so no 1 inch+ discrepancy on one end. The finish isn’t great around the edges but as we’ve said before we’ll let it go as enough is enough.

Cloak Room

As the smallest room in the house where you sit and have nothing to do but look at the walls, any issues jump out at you. The cloakroom has had 4-5 tiling attempts and we are sorry to say this room is still a disaster. The finish is still atrocious. We have chipped tiles, holes in the grouting, uneven tiles, careless mastic work and on the whole one big complete mess! The site manager has come to inspect the work and told us that the issue is the tiling but even if they did more work it would look no better as this is what happens when they use this tile. I asked the site manager if he would have this work in his home or the show home and after lots of hesitation he answered yes. Due to being in dis-agreement with the site manager he told me I had to talk to the NHBC as they would need to come involved now. We have made customer services aware of our angst and issues with the tiling and they have been fantastic as they have met with the MD and the quality manager is now going to undertake a second view of this room. The NHBC have also been contacted and they have written to Harron Homes on our behalf they have been really helpful and explained what happens next from them.

Drainage

Whilst we were away our wall has acquired tennis ball size holes in the exterior of our garden wall. This is supposed to help our elevated back garden drain as it is constantly waterlogged when it rains. At present no water escapes through these holes and the groundwater seeps up and across our adjoining road from the base. We have asked about French drains which would provide an escape route for any excess water. Presently our holes are no use nor ornament.

NHBC

We have been in touch with the NHBC and they can only become involved with our issues once Harron state they are not going to do any more work. Once this occurs they will write to Harron and give them 10 days to respond and re-consider whether they will do further work. If the answer is still no the NHBC will come and inspect the work, if they then believe the work needs to be done our understanding is they will undertake this and then bill Harron as well as fine them due to not adhering to the builders regulations.
Over the last six months the NHBC have been really helpful and informative as they will give you advice and guidance. Also if you are having issues it is worth logging them with the NHBC as they refer to this when the send correspondence to Harron.

Customer Services

The original customer services team got culled so there is now a whole new team in place. The positive thing is that if you ask for a manager you actually get to speak with a manager. So far when they have agreed times and days to telephone back they have completed this. It is still early days about whether they can sustain this good service as its only been a few weeks but fingers crossed this is the start of something good!
The proof will be if any of our issues get resolved.

Site Managers

The communication with the site managers is generally sporadic and inconsistent as we have had;

  • Excellent customer service where we have been telephoned back, had visits to the house before work, text messages responded to and emails responded to and being advised when workman are accessing the property.
  • Terrible customer service where we have left answerphone messages and had no call back, text messages and emails ignored and no communication about work being undertaken within the home. This has been to the point where we have had to ask whether we are being ignored and avoided. The positive has been that if you tell customer service nobody is talking to you they do action responses for you.

Due to the site having houses occupied and work being undertaken it appears as though the managers have been allocated to either new build or snags this has been positive as one person has organised and coordinated all of the work being undertaken the negative has been that we are not sure how much the site manager knows about what is going on in the occupied properties as when talking to him about work he has looked like he doesn’t know what were on about. This though could also be explained that he has been approached ad-hoc, in-between jobs and been unable to give his full attention to what is being advised.

Escalation

With all the negative publicity you would think that escalation processes would be in place. We have had mixed messages about whether this is something you can do as employees have different advice on what you can and cannot do. Examples are;

  • In regards to the tiling we were told the only person we could escalate to is the NHBC this was due to the site manager stating he had the final say then conceded that customer services can over-rule him
  • Customer services advisors have stated that you cannot escalate in Harron Homes so the only place you can raise issues with is the NHBC
  • The customer services manager holds a different view and states that things can be escalated to her and she has two meetings a week with the MD to feedback issues and she is able to undertake this role

When Harron Homes staff are telling you there is nowhere or no way to escalate it immediately makes you escalate as if nobody is going to listen to you the only way you can make people aware of the issues are via media outlets or taking a stand. This cannot be good for business and luckily for Harron Homes the customer service manager is talking sense but she appears to be the only person who is aware of how escalation can occur as this information does not seem to have been filtered to all employees.
Since the new customer services manager has come in I would like to highlight that this has been the only time I have successfully been able to escalate an issue and this is a massive improvement.

Customer Service has regressed

After a good start with calls being returned we’re back to the same format of Harron Homes’ old customer service experience with customers again being left in the dark. If you get a response at all it takes days. It doesn’t matter who you speak to this is consistent across all facets of their business.
*sigh*

3-7 month round up

Street Party

With a big thanks to everyone on Facebook a street party was organised as a way for us all to meet AFK (away from keyboard). We had a great time and everyone brought food. There was even a cake competition which Mary berry would have loved lol. It was a great day and indicative of the type of great people who have bought on site

Customer Services

Customer care has been inconsistent, we have had good and bad service the past 4 months. The positives have been the customer service manager keeping us updated on a regular basis regarding Harron Homes lack of progress, telephone calls being returned and only being dealt with by this one person. This has made a massive difference and has stopped inconsistency; this good service has only been provided the last 2 months though. The not so good has been the customer service manager not responding to emails, not responding to telephone calls and basically ignoring us, this has not been happening recently and we seem to have moved past this now (fingers crossed).

NHBC

We have logged some of (big) outstanding jobs with the NHBC this is due to the site manager stating that in his opinion the work in our home was to a good standard, he would sign it off for other houses and would have it in his home. Interestingly enough when the NHBC came to inspect the works (tiling, block paving, flooding garage) they felt Harron Homes had not adhered to guidelines in place and have recommended further work due to the current standard not being acceptable. We are at the point where Harron Homes have around another 2 weeks to advise a plan for these works and if this does not happen the NHBC will do our jobs and in the process fine and bill Harron Homes. I would strongly recommend using the NHBC as they have been fantastic with us, we have learnt that they can assist and do a lot before the 2 year mark.

Visit from one of the Directors

A visit was arranged for the director to come out to view the remaining works within our home. When he came out he was adamant he did not want to talk about past issues and told me that if I continued to talk about our difficulties and issues he would not continue to inspect the works and would leave. The director came out and made recommendations on what works needed to be completed, told me what he would do and then changed his mind and advised he would prefer for the NHBC to inspect and make recommendations. This felt as though he was ‘edging his bets’ that Harron Homes may not have to do as much work as he advised. The director explained that Harron Homes pay a premium to the NHBC and it is like car insurance and because they do this they want to use the NHBC, he also told me the NHBC can do works quicker than Harron Homes so it is worth having the inspection. At this visit he maintained he cares about customers but this did not come across as he would not engage in the things we would like resolving and it was all about moving forward due to Harron Homes not wanting to address the past experiences. I understand moving forward is the focus but sometimes you have been treated so badly you need to resolve this before you can and then allow you to re-trust Harron Homes.

Formal Complaint

We logged a formal complaint at the beginning of May 2015. Harron homes have not followed their protocols and have not responded. This has been raised with the customer service manager who has advised its above her pay grade (I would like to remind her she is the first line of response), as she has not replied the director should have responded, he also has not bothered. Both the customer service manager and the director are aware of the formal complaint and aware they have ignored it but continue not to respond. This is another example of Harron Homes disrespecting the customer and making it laughable when they tell you they care. In our opinion if they cared they would take the time to respond.

Ongoing Works

We still have big jobs which need completing, our shower in the bathroom is leaking and has not been fixed, we have so far had 6 weeks without this. The reason this has not been done is due to the plumbers not providing a quote. This is ridiculous and getting beyond a joke. The tiling is still ongoing issue, the NHBC have made recommendations and were waiting to see if Harron bothers to put it right or if it goes to the NHBC. This also applies to the block paving and the leaking garage. We also have a leak in the living room due to sealant work not being completed outside of the property this has been an issue since December 2014 and still not fixed! In an attempt to complete our remedial works customer Services sent a worker out to undertake internal works, he has not managed to complete anything on the list as when he came out he highlighted our stair case was not properly attached and he needed to fix this. We are still awaiting plans on when internal works will be undertaken.

Planning

We have asked Harron Homes repeatedly for a plan of all outstanding works, this request is consistently ignored and we never get a plan. Most of the time direct questions asked about outstanding works and planning are ignored.

Health and Safety

One of our front windows does not open properly due to the drain pipe. We have been to the sales office and checked the plans and these have been followed correctly. This has been highlighted and again we are waiting for someone to take the time to fix it.

Exterior drainage

Early on we noticed that one of the exterior drains was filled with gravel and sand. We reported this and was told it would be fixed. It wasn’t. Things got so bad that the water being expelled from pipework was overflowing and turning the side of our house green so last weekend we took it upon ourselves to fix it ourselves. 3 pint glasses worth grit, stone and sand later and the problem is now solved. It shouldn’t be down to us to fix issues like this that we haven’t caused.

At present we are being largely ignored by everyone at Harron Homes and fully expect them to be incommunicado until the NHBCs timescales have lapsed and Harron’s issues are fixed by NHBC contractors. As for all other works there’s still no sign of anything being completed meaning no work has been done on the house since May (it’s July now).

1 Year On

Snags Outstanding:

  • Block Paving not finished to adequate standard
  • 2 x trees missing from original landscaping plan
  • Missing screw covers from en-suite shower cubicle
  • Bubbles in kitchen lino
  • Weather strip ineffective under garage door

Recently Resolved:

  • Boxing and sealant in cloak room
  • Stairs re-secured
  • Towel rail refitted and central heating system re-balanced

15 months on…….

We have not done an update for a while so we figured it is about time this our review was updated so that our journey with Harron Homes continues to be documented. As always there have been up’s and down’s and un-beliveably we still have outstanding works on the property.

Customer Service

We have has operatives from customer service within the home to fix minor snags. The last operative was within our home in December 2015 and he undertook a ‘patch’ on the floor boards as he did not want to undertake the job properly as we had decorated. He was told to do it properly as we would rectify the decorating however he was insistent he didn’t want to complete this as it was a big job and it should be re-logged with customer services. This job has still not been done and the operative has never returned to the property to undertake this works. This is the second time he has started works and not returned. The job has been logged but NOTHING has happened since.

I have had a lot of email exchanges with the customer services manager, when you ask something specific like the complaints procedure, reports which have been written, why Harron Homes have not done the works she does not respond, this as always is not helpful as nobody takes any responsibility. It should not be a shock to us that this occurs due to dealing with Harron Homes for so long but it just makes you more angry and frustrated that they just don’t give a s**t. We have contacted her manager via email on occassion he replies other times he doesn’t it is very hit or miss. When we have telephoned him he will answer the phone but then he cannot get you off the phone fast enough and does not telephone back even-though he assures you he will. He is not interested in what is going on and becomes very rude and argumentative if you question why things have not been done.

We have had three members of Harron Homes view our leaking shower since January 2016. Works were arranged however cancelled by the customer service manager as another inspection was required. It was never explained why this occurred and nobody will provide us with an explanation. The person who come out from customer services damaged the shower further due to forcing the plinth off the shower. He acknoweldged he had damaged it before he left the property and assured us it would be fixed which has yet to happen. This individual advised he was writing a report on the shower this has never been shared with us and Harron Homes customer services have refused to share it with the NHBC when I have requested the report via this route. The response to this job from Harron Homes is to go via the NHBC and this appears to be due to not wanting to fix the damage or delay undertaking the works. The person responsible for exasserbating this issue no longer respondes either.

One member of Harron Homes team when they attended our home advised that there hands are tied as they cannot make contractors return to customers properties. They advised that there are problems with the manner of staff in customer services and that they have been told they need to speak with the customer better. I still do not understand why members of Harron Homes come into your home and slag off there staff team and provide the customer with more ammunition.

Harron Homes staff members and contractors have voiced that they know what is wrong with the business, what is going wrong but there hands are tied. Again staff enter your home and are opinionated about the company they work for but there views are always negative. Even to the point where they have stated that they would never buy a new build home.

I have had a member of the Harron Homes customer service team tell me ‘I am doing you a favour’ this was infuriating as Harron Homes undertaking the work on my property is not doing me a favour. We complained about the language this staff member used and we were told that there are two sides to every story.

We still have outstanding jobs within our home and these are logged with customer services, we keep chasing these and the response from customer service has been that they do not understand why the work had not been undertaken or have advised they thought the work had been done. Either way we still have outstanding works and are not moving forward.

NHBC

The NHBC finally took over the work for block paved drive due to Harron Homes not rectifying the drive in the timescales set. It has been a long process as the drive was first inspected in June 2015, re-inspected September 2015 after Harron Homes undertook two attempts of relaying the drive and then completed by the NHBC in April 2016. The drive now looks fantastic and the NHBC have used fantastic contractors.

I have been told that every telephone call made to the NHBC regarding jobs logged or issues, Harron Homes get billed for which is worth knowing. They also get billed for the inspections which the NHBC provide and billed if they have to undertake the works.

All snags need to be logged with the NHBC within the first two years otherwise they will not inspect these or take them on (This is what we have been advised). Due to the lack of action regarding our leaking shower this has been logged with the NHBC and we are awating the inspection.

We have had some problems with the NHBC though as our case manager never returned telephone calls when messages were left, for her to telephone we had to make contact with the NHBC via facebook and this then resulted in her finally calling.

Site Managers

In the whole 15 months we have had around seven site managers. When site managers change there appears to be no handover and you basically start at the begining which is frustrating. The site managers have no power and the experience we have had is any decision they have made had been overruled as there approach would cost more money as they want to undertake a job properly.

The best advice we could give is to get anything that is said by the site manager or deputies in writing as we had an experience with one who called us liars and denied the conversations he had with us.

When site managers and deputies change you are not given this information by Harron Homes and you find out by word of mouth.

We have found if a site manager favours the customer and wants to do a job properly they will not be on site long.

Snags

The biggest job we have left is our shower tray in the en-suite which is cracked and leaking. This snag has been made worst by Harron Homes as they have damaged the plinth and shower cubicle when they inspected the works. This job was logged in January 2016 and has still not been fixed as Harron Homes have decided after three inspections the NHBC also need to look at the works. This has left us without the use of the shower which nobody is that concerned about.

Floorboards upstairs are in-correct, this work was started in December 2015 by the customer services operative and has never been finished as he never returned to the property and advised it needed to be re-logged as it was a big job.

Scratches to worktops in kitchen this has been logged since 2014 and has still not been completed.

Lino has bubbled after it was replaced due to stretching and it being sealed to the floor, someone has been out to this but it is not resolved as they have not finished the works.

Plants at the side of our home have been damaged or left dead due to mud and debris from construction vehicles. These have been reported but as yet are still unsigtly.

In our landscaping plans we are supposed to have a tree front and back to give us some privacy. We now have a tree to the front of the home placed directly next to a drain cover. We have expressed concern that the roots from this tree might strangle the drain causing us future problems and have been advuised that this has been passed to Harron Homes landscaping teams for resolution. We have yet to hear anything. We still have no tree to the rear of our property.

Pipework outside our property was improperly installed and meant we couldnt fully open our windows. Harron Homes inspected this and told us it was a simple job to fix. Several months on and multiple visits later various contractors told us they duidnt know how to fix it. We came back from holiday towards the end of last year and notice it had been rectified however no one had told us the work had been undertaken.

The Development

This still requires a lot of work by Harron Homes as the pathways are un-even and bumpy making them dangerous underfoot. The balancing pond is open and exposed making it an area where a serious accident could occur. There are no signs up advising of the dangers which is suprising when we live in a litigation culture.

The drive into the estate is un-appealling due to the rubbish which is present at the sides of the mill and the land on the other side not being turfed.

Due to the long drive into the estate cars have a tendancy to speed as speed bumps or traffic calming is not in place. The road it self is tretcherous as cars skid and drift due to the lack of grip on the road.

Street Signs have only put up on one road in the estate. The main road of the estate still does not have a street sign which results in continued issues with post and deliveries.

We were offerred some free plants by Harron Homes as they advised they wanted to make the estate look prettier, this has not been achieved but we now have some primroses!

New Residents

New residents continue to buy on the development and all are experiencing ongoing issues with snagging. This shows that Harron Homes have not learned any lessons from the past 15 months and continue to provide sub-par fix and finish on their properties and fail yet again to provide aadequte customer service and support.

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