by Charlie Esson-Figee, founder of Studio at No. 11. Studio at No. 11 is a boutique interior design studio based in Rotterdam.

Are you thinking about buying a new-build property? You may be offered the option of buying a house “off-plan”. It’s the usual way new developments work, especially for inner city new-builds.

What does buying off-plan mean?

Buying your home “off-plan” means purchasing a property before construction is complete and, in some cases, before building work has even started. It’s buying based purely on plans, which can sound risky, but there are actually some surprising benefits.

As well as options for personalisation, there will be no onward chain, and less work to do when you move in when buying off-plan. And whilst you can’t view the final property before buying, most reputable developers should be able to give you a handover date and when you can expect the building to be ready. Most will offer viewings at show homes that are very similar to the home you’re interested in, so that you can get a feel for the space. At the very least, developers will provide you with a pack of computer-generated visuals and detailed floor plans to give you a clear understanding of what you’re buying, along with their in-house team and list of the suppliers involved and (at least in the Netherlands) a project liaison to support you on your journey.

Part of the developer’s plans involve designing, specifying and selling the majority of the apartments or houses “off-plan”, well before they even start building. It’s an exciting process and with these purchases, you can usually add some customisation into the build. However, as with any house purchase, it comes with its own unique challenges, and therefore you should gain a full understanding of the pros and cons to buying off-plan, before diving in.

Here’s 5 things to be aware of when buying a new build property

1. Know what and where you’re buying

When exploring new developments, get to know the area – especially if you’re not that familiar with it already. Next, make sure to find out about the future plans for the area – you could be snapping up a deal ahead of the curve in the area, or be buying in one of multiple planned skyscrapers – and the next one could block that beautiful view! So take the time to do your research and know what you are buying.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Research online: Look for information about the neighbourhood’s demographics, schools, and amenities. Websites like Funda can be helpful.
  • Visit the area: If possible, visit the area during different times of the day and week to get a feel for the neighbourhood’s atmosphere and any potential drawbacks.
  • Check local government websites: Check the websites of local government or city planning departments for information about future developments, and infrastructure projects in the area.
  • Speak with local realtors: Real estate agents often have insights into upcoming developments and can provide information about the growth potential of the area.
  • Check city planning documents: Look for city planning documents that outline upcoming skyscraper projects. Start by visiting the official website of the Municipality of the city you live in. Municipal websites often provide a lot of information on city planning, development projects, and zoning regulations. These documents may detail the height, location, and timeline of these developments. Look for a section or department related to planning, urban development, or city planning on the municipality’s website. It may be called something like “Stadsontwikkeling” or “Ruimtelijke Ordening” in Dutch.
  • Speak with other developers: If possible, reach out to the developers of planned projects. They might provide information about their projects and how they could impact the area.
Little C development, Coolhaven, Rotterdam. Photo from

2. Budget for items not included by the developer or builder

When a developer constructs a new property, they usually include basic fixtures and features like bathrooms and kitchens as part of the standard build. These are functional but may not necessarily meet your specific preferences, requirements or taste. In my experience, your initial budget can increase by between 10-30% once you start upgrading basic items to suit your needs. Watch out for these extra costs, and budget sensibly for more.

3. When selecting features, consider resale value

One of the benefits of buying a new construction home is choosing your own upgrades and features. However, when choosing which features you want to include, consider how they will affect the future value of your new home. Your kitchen is one of the best places to add upgrades, as most will consider it the centre of any home. Taking a “casco” option, and taking it out of the specification of the build, getting a little budget back and doing it yourself, will often be a much lower cost than asking the developer or selected supplier to add or customise what was intended. Making these decisions early and planning ahead is a lot easier than during the building process.

4. Don’t assume you can’t negotiate with the builder / developer

There are often more possibilities than you might initially imagine when it comes to altering the internal layout or lighting design, for example. While builders may prefer that you stick with their standardised apartment design, believe me, it’s truly worthwhile to ask for adjustments early on. It’s your home after all! Don’t underestimate your ability to negotiate with the builder or developer.

5. It is never too early to ask an interior designer to get involved

It’s never too soon to ask a professional interior designer to get involved in your project (especially as we may have a waiting list). Interior designers play a crucial role in assisting with initial steps and important choices about the layout, and can suggest changes or upgrades, to ensure the long-term value of your property. Making these decisions early on and proactively with a professional planning your interior layout during the construction phase makes everything easier further down the line and ultimately, means you can plan the work from the moment the key is handed over, and so also the date you move in.

If you are planning to purchase a new build and would like to discuss your interior design needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Studio at No.11 offers creative direction and guidance with new build choices as well as a full interior design service.

Get in touch to discuss how we could work together.

Loft apartment by Studio At No. 11