Readers’ comments | Persimmon’s quality review and snagging retentions in housebuilding
Persimmon is to conduct an independent review into the way it handles customer care
Satisfied customers are the result of good design and construction. Inspection is a backstop at best.
Let’s incentivise excellence in design and construction through an award scheme adjudicated by the NHBC that the public can use as a benchmark of the quality they can expect from that developer’s products.
Better reputation, better sales, reduced after-sales costs, better margin – why wouldn’t you?
The quality in volume new housebuilding has deteriorated over many years: a) The NHBC should do its job properly ensuring a high standard; b) An independent clerk of works should be employed by the developer if the NHBC does not carry out its role in ensuring quality; c) Ensure better training of site operatives, a root and branch overhaul of training; and d) Developers should use Local Authority Building Control officers rather than the NHBC or other private providers.
Some of the workmanship I see today on new-build sites today is diabolical, which means on-site supervision is also lacking. When working for George Wimpey in the mid-1970s, we had up to eight snagging lists.
That said there are still very good housebuilders out there, mostly SMEs – they can’t afford a bad reputation. They don’t need a QC to fix it – just call me or anyone who worked in the industry when we almost got it right.
Persimmon should start speaking to staff that have left the company and ask the reason why.
At a time when real money retention-holding is under scrutiny, especially as it refers to the depths of the supply chain, I’m not sure how this aligns with the initiatives in the wider construction industry or what this means for the warranty that I understand is the buyer’s traditional protection.
It may also give the impression that snaggings are inevitable and enduring, notwithstanding the trend toward greater modular and offsite fabrication.
But won’t customer retentions lead to an increase in house prices since housebuilders could simply add the snagging retention on top?
Subcontractors do the same thing when they price. If the retention is 5%, they just add 5% to their tender price. If they end up getting the retention, it becomes a bonus.
Housebuilders could do exactly the same. Homebuyers would find themselves holding back “their” own cash.
Am I the only one seeing the irony? This all makes sense, so where is the logic for looking to eliminate retentions on commercial projects where the issues can be much greater, not least due to the fact commercial buildings are more complex and often non-repetitious?
Decent contractors should not fear properly managed retentions and the cost of delayed receipt of the money is relatively small (and is inevitably included in the pricing).
As a clerk of works, I think that the principal contractor should not be paid anything until the property is signed off as fit for purpose with no outstanding snagging items, not just within the premises but externally too.
This should include drainage surveys, road surfaces, footpaths and landscaping.
This procedure is being adopted more and more, ensuring that the developers design the buildings and construct them properly, allowing new homeowners to access their individual homes without having to negotiate the building site.
Already our industry wastes money because of our over-reliance on snagging. This amounts to us trying to inspect quality into the finished product. But getting a small proportion of these failure costs into the boardroom may be the first step towards building homes right the first time.
A 1.5% retention [as a percentage of the cost of the home] is probably not high enough to incentivise the necessary investment in training and supervision.