First time buyers find out their three-bed new build is worth absolutely nothing

By Staff

Chris and Steph Oliver were over the moon when they got the keys for their first-ever home. However, the joy was quickly dampened after discovering their £130,000 property was now worth a big fat zero

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First time buyers discover their 3-bed new build property is worth absolutely nothing

Getting on the property ladder is a momentums occasion for many Brits, especially amidst the cost of living crisis- but the huge milestone quickly turned sour for one couple.

Chris and Steph Oliver have been left trapped in an ‘unsellable’ new-build home due to a building error that wasn’t flagged by surveyors. The couple bought a three-bed property for £130,000, using the government’s now-scrapped Help to Buy scheme.

But when their mortgage term expired back in 2015, they were horrified to find out they were effectively trapped in a worthless home due to an issue with the development – and they’re not alone.

The couple were told they could not remortgage because the building had not been completed in line with building regulations. It’s since emerged that all 13 homes in the new-build estate in Bradford are facing the same devaluation issue, as featured on BBC One Rip Off Britain programme back in 2020.

Speaking on the programme at the time, Chris, a graphic designer, said: “It’s a mess. We feel let down by the systems in this country. There’s been so many people who we should have been able to trust and rely on and no one wants to help.”

In February 2020, Sherwood Homes – the firm behind the development – went into administration leaving the families with thousands of pounds worth of work uncompleted. “We tried to contact Sherwood Homes. There was no reply. They stopped answering phone lines and emails. We were in a state of panic,” Chris said.

Adeel Azfal, 27, who lives with his partner and daughter Anya, 2, bought their house for £175,000 in June 2016. “We’ve got a young family. My partner doesn’t work so we are tied into what we thought would be our forever home,” he said.

“When we realised it was worth nothing it was a shock. I’m in £150,000 worth of debt to my mortgage provider and I’m paying for a house that’s worth nothing at all.”

One of the main issues is that the estate backs onto a former landfill site. While the site hasn’t been active for more than 40 years, the council says it still emits toxic methane gas, which can be lethal when combined with other gases.

The builders were supposed to fit a protective membrane under the floors of each house, but the residents have no proof that it was fitted correctly or even completed. Hamid Khan bought one of the properties for £180,000 in 2016.

He believes the membrane was correctly fitted at the time, however due to lack of paperwork, the only way to prove it is by ripping up the flooring. “You can only verify it if you break the whole floor. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “You’re so close to a landfill site and to not install a gas membrane and not install correctly. It’s just unheard of.”

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New-build solicitor Gary Rycroft said the residents should take action against their conveyancing solicitors. “The conveyancing solicitor on the face of it hasn’t spotted various issues you would expect them to spot,” he said.

“In terms of environmental issues arising on the site, the new road and the sewers. These are all fundamental issues and all part of the job you would expect a conveyancing surveyor would do.”

The Olivers and Mr Azfal said their conveyancing solicitors denied any negligence but agreed to pay a sum towards finishing the building work. Khan said he had taken his issue to the Legal Omudsman.

A Bradford Council spokesperson told the programme: “Clearly residents have been let down by the developer and the agencies that worked for the developer, and that is why the Council have supported residents through guidance and advice.

“We understand that a number of the residents have successfully taken legal action against the developer’s agencies in order to rectify some of the problems on site, which the Council considers to be the correct route for residents to be following.”

While a Homes England spokesperson said: “We have been in regular contact with Mr and Mrs Oliver over this matter and recognise the distress it has caused them.” It agreed to suspend interest payments on Help to Buy loans for affected residents.

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