Latest HBF survey findings follow industry focus in aftermath of build quality scandals

Buyer satisfaction with new homes has risen for the fourth consecutive year to hit its highest level on record, according to the latest annual survey by the Home Builders’ Federation.

The HBF’s annual customer satisfaction survey found that 91% of buyers would recommend their builder to a friend – meaning the housebuilders surveyed reached an average “five-star” rating of over 90% for the first time in the survey’s history.

Construction worker

The score, a 2% increase on the figure from last year, comes after a sustained drive to improve quality in the industry after the survey recorded a serious fall in customer satisfaction as housebuilders ramped up build rates in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The positive findings come amid huge concern over the quality of new build homes following a series of build quality scandals, including the ongoing crisis over the fire safety of recently built high rise blocks, which has seen leasehold owners facing huge repair bills and housebuilders forced to pay out hundreds of millions to fix dangerous cladding.

The score represents a rise of 7% in the headline rating in the past four years, after what the HBF admitted today were “unacceptable falls in satisfaction levels” leading up to 2017. It means all listed volume housebuilders, bar Persimmon and Berkeley, received a five-star rating.

Persimmon, despite stating in its recent results announcement that it had been “trending above five-star” in its HBF customer ratings since early 2020, received a four-star mark, and Berkeley Group did not take part in the survey.

The survey covers completions in the period from October 2019 to September last year.

However, the overall score relating to whether buyers will recommend their builders to a friend continues to mask some persistent concerns over quality. The survey also found that 19 out of 20 new homes buyers reported snags to their builder, with just under a third of buyers saying there were more snagging problems than they had expected.

A quarter of home buyers said they reported 16 or more problems to their builder. 

The improvements in quality follow a series of build quality scandals in recent years, with Bovis Homes, now Vistry, having been found to have paid customers to take on incomplete buildings in order to hit internal deadlines, and Persimmon found to have presided over a “systemic nationwide failure” to properly insert vital fire-protecting cavity barriers into its timber frame homes.

HBF’s executive chairman Stewart Baseley said the results demonstrated that the industry was delivering an excellent level of service in the opinion of over 90% of its customers. He said: “The fact that we have seen four successive years of improved satisfaction levels shows the clear focus builders have been putting on the customer.

“That this level of satisfaction has been delivered during a pandemic that saw sites closed and builders unable to access homes for a period makes it even more of an achievement.”

The survey results were hailed by individual builders who recorded improved quality scores in the period. Those to move from a four star- to a five star-rating included Taylor Wimpey, Keepmoat, Story Homes and Lovell. Kier Living also improved its score from three star to four star, while Lagan Homes moved from three star to five star.

Vistry – set up last year from the merger of Bovis with Galliford Try Partnerships and Linden Homes – achieved an inaugural five star-rating.

Of the 48 housebuidlers rated, 42 achieved a five star rating, and none fell below four star.

Lovell managing director, Steve Coleby said securing the 5 star rating from the HBF was “incredible and is a true reflection of the talent and commitment of every single member of the Lovell team.”

Colin Wood, chief operating officer at Story Homes, said: “To achieve five-star builder status and such a high level of customer satisfaction, especially considering the extraordinary circumstances of the past year, is a fantastic achievement for our business.”

The industry has recently announced plans for a New Homes Ombudsman designed to ensure complaints by homes buyers are dealt with fairly.