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'Some so-called tradesmen should be truly ashamed of themselves' - Steve's snagging headache bodes badly for buyers

The big view on Ireland's  property market


Long lists of grief: Snag List Steve says 300 messed up items in a new house is not unusual and a new cause for consternation among some buyers

Long lists of grief: Snag List Steve says 300 messed up items in a new house is not unusual and a new cause for consternation among some buyers

Long lists of grief: Snag List Steve says 300 messed up items in a new house is not unusual and a new cause for consternation among some buyers

Snag List Steve is not a happy snagger. Steve Guerin spent decades in professional building in Ireland and the UK, but for the last fifteen or so he has been a poacher turned gamekeeper - assuming the mantle of Ireland's snag meister.

It's his job to ensure that new homes are finished properly for their buyers - his clients. Steve travels all around Ireland with his big clipboard and craftsman's nous, ferreting out faults with a well honed biro point.

But today Steve is finding himself increasingly at odds with builders, many of whom he says are finishing homes badly again.

Worse, some are now refusing to complete their "make good" lists. To cap it all, Snag List Steve has just been banned from an entire development, marking, he claims, a new all time low for snaggery.

His crime? Finding too many bad finishes and bodged jobs on behalf of his clients in that scheme. "They agreed that every fault I highlighted was justified, they just didn't want me around," he says.

Steve typically flags internal doors that won't close, tiles encrusted with filthy hardened grout, showers left without enclosure doors, floor tiles cut so badly they expose the floor beneath, improper toilet plumbing, unevenly fitted electrical sockets and radiators installed to trap washing machines.

Steve's lists are usually comprehensive. But now they are longer than ever. And he has the photos on his website for all to see - a sort of rogues' gallery of iffy wall socket line ups and tiling tomfoolery. He estimates snags are up by 100pc in finished homes, some of which have been constructed by well known firms with big reputations.

"Typically I'd have maybe 100 or 150 things that needed putting right in your average new house. But these days my lists are going up to 280 items, sometimes 300. Some so-called tradesmen should be truly ashamed of themselves," he sniffs.

So the hacks are back according to Steve, whose construction know-how saw him fulfil the role of a DIY 'agony uncle' for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent for many years.

During the Celtic Tiger the bane of the new home buyer was atrocious home finishing - to the degree that it was common to employ your own tradesmen right after you moved in, just to put right the bedlam left by those who were contracted to provide you with a finished home in the first place.

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These were dark days for homebuyers when any monkey who could swing a wrench could call himself a plumber and any spanner who could wave a brush was deemed a house painter.

I've had personal experience of this. A well known building firm, still constructing new schemes today, completed mine back in the year 2000. The finishing was atrocious and the excuses by the site foreman were pure comedy. Or would have been, were I not staking half a lifetime's mortgage payments for sub-standard workmanship.

Left minus one of my kitchen unit doors, I was told: "You didn't ask for a door for that unit." Neither had I asked for a door for any of them. Like all the other buyers in my scheme, I assumed the kitchen we bought came with all doors supplied, as shown in the show house. I was right, of course. He was chancing his arm. I got my door, but only after a struggle.

The attic hatch, made of white chipboard, was gashed three inches wide and the said chips were showing. I asked that it be replaced. The foreman told us by way of justification: "It's called chipboard for a reason."

Completed by an architect, my snag list was handed numerous times to the foreman, only for him to claim he had "lost it." It turned up again and again, thrust to the back of the boxroom wardrobe.

When we finally moved in, we became subject to burglaries by our builders. With us it was steel sink plugs that went missing. But one new resident on our row came home from work early to find the builders removing his perfect shower floor pan, in an attempt to replace it with a cracked version they had standing by - after being told to take it out of someone else's house. Wielding spare keys, construction's bad tooth fairies slipped in and out of our homes with regularity to pilfer what we'd already paid for, in order to replace broken versions flagged by buyers elsewhere in the scheme.

Eventually the builders simply refused to fix any more of our issues. They gave us the standard closure of the day: "If you're not happy, give the house back to us. We've buyers queuing up for them." And we knew they did. It was the standard goodbye given to thousands who wanted a properly finished home for their hundreds of thousands. Buyers had to wait 18 months between deposit paid and moving in, so prices had gone up more than 20pc. Neither I nor my neighbours could afford to buy the same house again.

All across Ireland, they had us over the very same barrel. We were left with wonky lights, crookedly hung doors and skirts that didn't meet. But thankfully we weren't among the poor souls forced to walk away from their homes - closed down by local authorities as fire hazards because regulation fire retardant functions had been omitted. Or those whose walls crumbled to pyrite.

Last week we learned that new home construction for 2018 hit 18,000, the first substantial annual tally since the crash. At the same time, reports also abound about the new labour shortage being experienced in home construction.

Snag List Steve believes the new skills shortage has brought back the bodgers. "It's crazy really. You wouldn't take home a new car if the door didn't close or if it had a great big scratch down it, yet we'll spend hundreds of thousands on a badly finished home and put up with it."

In response to shambolic construction in the Tiger years, The Building Control Amendment Act 2013 at least (and unfairly) made architects responsible for big ticket faults like structural issues and fire proofing. But it is unlikely to hold any sway when it comes to crooked sockets or scuffed doors. Indeed, without some form of new legislation to enforce the small stuff, more home buyers will be exploited - having their pockets picked once again by the artless bodger.

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