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Your Money: PUT THE BITE ON BUILDERS; EXCLUSIVE MONEY INVESTIGATION WE SHOW YOU HOW TO SAVE pounds 34K ON A BRAND NEW HOME.

Byline: BY GRAHAM HISCOTT DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR

THE housing market is in the doldrums - prompting yesterday's drastic government measures designed to kickstart it.

As ministers unveiled their plans, a Your Money investigation unveiled the scale of the crisis.

We found desperate developers falling over themselves to offload new-builds - offering discounts of up to 20 per cent.

With the average home costing pounds 172,415 that equals a saving of more than pounds 34,000.

So these storm clouds do have a silver lining for those able to get a mortgage - or lucky enough to be cash buyers.

And insiders say builders offer even better discounts - of up to 30 per cent - the closer you get to completion.

To discover how much you could get we visited four different developments.

Pretending to be firsttime buyers, we asked the price of a two or three-bed property. Then, trying our luck, we asked if they could reduce the price even further.

In every case the agent either offered money off immediately or did so after asking their boss.

It included a Persimmon development in Northampton where we asked about a two-bed terraced house on offer for pounds 149,950.

The agent at first offered to slash the reservation fee from pounds 500 to just pounds 99 and the minimum deposit from 10 per cent to five per cent.

But when we told them our maximum budget was pounds 127,000 they agreed without much hesitation - saving us pounds 22,950 At another site in Northampton, owned by Bryant Homes, we offered pounds 105,000 for a pounds 135,000 apartment.

Eager sales staff said if we reserved that weekend they would go that low, but we'd have to exchange in four weeks.

So by asking one question we saved ourselves pounds 30,000.

In Plymouth we went to another Persimmon development where two-bed flats were advertised at pounds 139,995.

This time posing as a cash buyer, we asked what sort of discount they could offer - and were offered pounds 15,000 off.

Kate Faulkner, author of several Which? property guides, says we've uncovered a trend.

"If you have the money - and can get a mortgage - the coming months are one of the best times to buy a new home," she said.

"But don't forget that it's not just good deals they offer.

"These new homes are typically A-rated for energy efficiency and therefore should have lower utility bills than a equivalent secondhand home."

Housebuilders are rolling out ever more tempting incentives to attract reluctant buyers worried about interest rates and the slowing market.

Offers to part-exchange your old property, pay the stamp duty and cover the deposit are commonplace.

But it's the cash discounts that could prove really lucrative.

Developers are reluctant to talk openly about reducing prices for fear it will further depress the market.

But insiders say that with building sites full of unsold homes, now is the time to negotiate hard.

Even before the credit squeeze it was usual for housebuilders to offer a little bit extra to clinch a deal.

But the rapid slowdown in the market has forced developers to pull

out all the stops. Many will pay your legal fees, and throw in free carpets, curtains and kitchen appliances for good measure.

Others will go as far as allowing you to pay a chunk of the purchase price immediately and the rest at a later date.

Some will even cover your mortgage for the first one or two years.

And the longer developers are stuck with empty homes the better the potential savings.

Rules say council tax is payable six months after a home is finished - whether it is sold or not.

Many builders are not taking the chance and mothballing half-completed homes instead.

Steve Turner, spokesman for the Home Builders Federation, said: "People need to speak to their local builder and see what they're willing to offer.

"Builders are in the business of building houses to sell. If they're not sold then it's costing them money."

He advised buyers looking at secondhand houses to consider new builds.

"Remember there's no chain to worry about and you get a blank canvas to make the home your own," he said.

David Ritchie, chief executive of Bovis Homes, said its average discount was seven or eight per cent with prices on some plots down even more.

He says: "There are opportunities for people who have got good deposits to buy houses at a great price."

Bovis is among those hit hard by the slump in the housing market. Last week it announced an 80 per cent drop in profits and slashed its dividend to shareholders.

But it's not just new homes where buyers with the funds in place can bag themselves a bargain.

The mortgage famine and a slump in consumer confidence has hit the market for secondhand homes too.

Sellers with properties proving hard to shift are slashing prices.

The website www.property snake.co.uk lists thousands of homes of all kinds with up to 50 per cent off.

In our countrywide survey (right) we show how prices have been knocked down by up to a third.

But remember it's not such a good deal if you have to cut the price of your own home as well.

GET YOUR TEETH INTO A GREAT DEAL

WHICH?'S Kate Faulkner has this advice...

Try to be a cash buyer.

If you can't, ask if they'll part exchange properties.

Take along a copy of your mortgage agreement.

Ask which plots they have deals on. You'll often get the best price for properties in "difficult" places.

Beware of gimmicks. Developers sometimes offer to pay the stamp duty but this is just one or three per cent, you should be getting 20 per cent off a new build.

If they offer "free" appliances, ask for the cash instead.

Sound keen, but let them know there are other sites you're looking at.

Advertised at pounds 140k

We saved pounds 15K

Two-bedroom apartment in Plymouth

Advertised at pounds 149k

We saved pounds 23K

Two-bedroom terrace in Northampton

Advertised at pounds 135K

We saved pounds 30K

One-bedroom flat in Northampton

Bargains around the country

Wales Three-bed, Trecynon, Rhondda. Was on for: (April 08)

pounds 92,950 Now on for: pounds 63,950

Down: 31%

Agent: Darlows

Two-bed apartment, Cardiff.

Was: (January 08) pounds 239,950

Now pounds 169,950

Down: 29%

Agent: Allen & Harris South Four-bed house, Horsham, Sussex.

Was: (February 08) pounds 299,950

Now: Offers in excess of pounds 200,000

Down: 33%

Agent: Connells

North West Three-bed terrace, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.

Was: pounds 139,950

Now: pounds 99,950

Down: 28%

Agent: Buy-the-house Three-bed house, Blackpool.

Was: pounds 169,950

Now: pounds 124,950

Down: 26%

Agent: Oystons

East Anglia Two-bed mobile home, Brentwood, Essex.

Was: (May 08) pounds 120,000

Now: pounds 80,000 to pounds 90,000

Down: 33%

Agent Haart Scotland One-bed flat, Hotspur Street, Glasgow.

Was: pounds 127,995 (fixed)

Now: pounds 98,000

(offers well in excess) Saving: up to 23%

Agent: Allen & Harris

Two-bed flat, Castlebank Place, Glasgow.

Was: pounds 220,000

Now: pounds 169,000

("offers well in excess") Saving: up to 23%

Agent: Allen & Harris

North East Four-bed house, Hebburn, South Shields.

Was: pounds 239,950

Now: pounds 210,000

Saving: 12%

Agent: Moody & Co Three-bed bungalow, Hemingbrough, North Yorkshire

Was: pounds 274,950

Now: pounds 244,950

Saving: 11%

Agent: Neville E Townend
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 3, 2008
Words:1241
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