Snagging v defects: what’s the difference – and why should you care?

Our 2018 review revealed that more than 9 out of 10 buyers of new homes experience issues with snagging or defects when they first move in. But what’s the difference between a snag and a defect, and what does any distinction mean to homebuyers?


What is snagging?

“Snagging” developed as a slang expression in the construction industry to describe the inspection process necessary to list and fix minor defects or omissions in building works for the developer (or building contractor) to remedy.

Snagging is not a legal term and there are no legally binding mechanisms to enforce actions around snagging. While developers should inspect your home and look to find and rectify issues prior to a certificate of completion being issued, often the onus is on the new owner to inspect the property and report minor snags and defects to the developer themselves.

Naturally, then, snags are more likely to be visible defects that non-technical people can see and report. But what about any potential problems that you can’t see?


Defects – patent and latent

A snag might also be described as a patent defect – a defect that’s visible and needs some form of remedy. For example, a patent defect might be a crack in the internal plasterwork. On the other hand, a latent defect may not be easily detectable, even if looking under the kitchen sink! A latent defect might be a problem with the foundations that leads to serious cracks in a wall from structural movement over time. As a homeowner, you can’t be expected to know something like this may happen.

So in a general sense, “snagging” refers to more minor, easily spotted issues while the term “defects” can be used to describe underlying structural issues that may be harder to spot and only become apparent over longer periods of time.


What does this mean for the new homebuyer?


  1. Report snagging issues to your developer

While it may be incumbent on the developer to provide a new home in move-in condition, you should inspect it anyway as contractors and trades people will have been working hard to get it ready for you. Equip yourself with a snagging list, such as this one from LABC Warranty, and identify any snags (patent defects) you see. Don’t delay doing this. If you don’t have a clear view of surfaces or areas because build materials have been left behind, insist they are removed and then check those areas again.

Initial snagging issues will need to be put right by your developer. During the first two years of moving into your new home, you are covered by a defects insurance period which makes the developer responsible for putting right any snags or faults you report.


  1. “Run-in” your new home

During the first six months especially, you should be aware that your home needs help to adjust to its new role – remember, no-one has lived there before!

All new homes need “running in” – that is, they need help to “adapt” to everyday use: people coming in and out, heating going on and off and the condensation from baths and lots of hot showers. Building materials will react to all of this activity, potentially leading to shrinking of timber and plaster, cracking, water staining and undesirable effects of condensation. Keeping your home ventilated and not switching the heating from high to low will help reduce the chances of such issues arising.

These issues, as well as everyday scuffs and bangs, are not normally considered snags or defects, and are unlikely to be covered by defects insurance. Thankfully, most of the impacts are relatively minor and can be rectified with a little DIY.


  1. Structural defects – tackling hidden or previously unseen problems

Under a typical 10-year warranty for a new home, should any structural defects come to light you are covered for a further eight years following the initial two (making 10 years in total). Typically more serious than snags, these underlying faults (latent defects) will have been more difficult (if not impossible) to spot during any checks for snags and the running-in period.

If you encounter a problem during this time, you should contact your warranty provider who will assess your claim. Think of a structural defects claim as any other insurance claim – if it’s shown that there is a structural issue with your home, your warranty provider should be able to organise all necessary repairs for you.

It is worth remembering that warranty providers typically arrange for inspections of new homes during their construction. Structural defect claims can be costly and disruptive, so the best way to avoid them is to ensure new homes are built to good standards in the first place.


Keep your warranty cover handbook safe

When you move into your new home you should be given a copy of your new home warranty handbook or documents. Just as you would any insurance cover, keep the documents in a safe place. In the vast majority of cases you will not need it, but it is there to protect you while you enjoy making your new house a lovely place to call home.