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Should we trust the HBF Survey Results?

16/04/19
Posted by: Charlie Thurston
What do you think of the long awaited NHBC and HBF Customer ratings?

As a customer, purchasing a home do you look at these results and base your purchase on the previous year’s results?

As an employee in the housebuilder industry, is it important the customer care ranking your company holds?

Do you even look at them?

Are they even reliable?

When considering their value, I would say the vast difference in sample size plays a huge part. Some developers providing over 8000 samples and receiving 5 stars, others providing as little as 20 and still receiving the 5-star honour. Is that fair way to carry out a survey?

Persimmon have consistently earned 3 out of 5 stars for around 10 years now, and have only just now announced an independent review into its snagging repair and customer care processes. They will be investigating the company’s customer care approach, and snagging and finish processes, speed and consistency of response to defaults.

In addition to this review Persimmon have also announced the ability for home buyers to retain up to 1.5% of property values until the faults are resolved with their new homes. The retained monies being withheld in the buyer’s solicitors accounts and equating for many to an average of £3,600 per home.

However, the question surely has to be why would you wait 10 years before deciding something needs to be done to improve the quality of the houses you’re selling? Has the quality improved at all over the last 10 years?

Since I’ve been a recruiter in the industry, its difficult to get candidate's interested in Persimmon, mainly because they don’t pay the industry standard salary and package but also because candidate's do not want to be associated with Persimmon due to the build quality. Are they operating with the mindset of ‘profit over quality?'

Persimmon’s main customer demographic is one of first time buyers, so are the expectations too high? Especially considering the majority wouldn’t have previously gone through the purchase of a home before.

Do Persimmon therefore really deserve 3 stars due to their customer demographic who might have higher expectations when moving into their first home?

At the opposite end of the spectrum the HBF New Homes Survey for 2019 has awarded Barratt David Wilson Homes their tenth consecutive 5-star rating. In isolation a result of continuously keeping a 5-star rating for a decade is an impressive level of performance and clearly at least on surface value the confidence in the quality of homes that Barratt David Wilson provide to their home buyers.

What makes this result even more impressive (or more problematic for Persimmon!) is in comparing the sample sizes for the HBF 2019 survey shows that both of these major house builders were actually fairly similar, 8487 (Barratt David Wilson) v 8234 (Persimmon).

For Barratt David Wilson to achieve this each year means that over 90% of those surveyed would recommend them to a friend. Or put another way Barratt would have constructed nearly 100,000 new homes and still managed to get a 5-star rating in the HBF survey.

A further issue is that not every single new home is registered with the NHBC, despite being the most popular scheme in place. Equally not every single house builder enters the star rating HBF system. Ultimately meaning that not all house builders are as open to being included in the survey, although it would have been easy for some to decide to not be included, however that is unlikely to be an option for a major house builder, such as Persimmon.

Moving on from the opposite extremes of the major housebuilders of the 16 developers I personally work with eight have stayed steady receiving the same number of stars as in previous years and there is happy news for five of the 16 in that their ratings increased from previous years, with a major achievement and turn around for Bovis Homes who saw their previous two-star rating increase to a four-star rating.

Overall, there are a significant number of questions that can be posed in relation to the NHBC and HBF Survey. In some areas they are very effective in providing an opportunity for homebuyers to provide input and an overall review of the quality of the homes provided by various housebuilders.

For all the positives though after the surface is scratched then are a number of areas the survey begins to fall apart in. One of the biggest issues being related to the sample sizes of each housebuilder where one can have a tiny sample size and still achieve 5 stars.

Ultimately, it is for each individual to decide what level of importance they place on any survey. Obviously, each individual housebuilder will use positive results in their marketing and equally in some cases like Persimmon use it to highlight what they are doing about issues.
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