Users guide to buying a property
- Buyers should be aware that a signed Offer to Purchase or Sales Agreement constitutes a legally binding document once accepted by the seller. The "cooling off" clause is only applicable to properties below R250 000.
- You are free to add clauses to the contract stipulating that certain faults must be fixed. You should also add a list (as an addendum) of movable items that the seller has agreed to include in the sale eg. swimming pool equipment, TV aerials, stove, light fittings etc.
- Make sure all verbal agreements are included in the agreement.
- Blank spaces must be completed and deletions initialed by all parties and witnesses.
- Avoid clauses in which parties undertake to agree on issues at a later date.
Buyers should exercise their right to carry out an inspection of the property, from top to bottom, front to back. Professional inspection/evaluation fees are for the account of the buyer.
Plans and Alterations
Buyers should check that all building plans, including alterations and extensions, have been approved by the council, and where applicable, by the Home Owner’s Association.
The Receiver of Revenue receives copies of all applications for property transfers and will check that all outstanding taxes are paid up before transfer will be allowed to proceed.
What to look for
- Ensure the building is structurally sound and that there are no cracks in the walls, ceilings or floors - ask if there are any defects in the property that are not visible, the seller has a legal obligation to tell you.
- Look carefully for damp spots and moisture that are indications of rising damp and possibly water leakage.
- Lift all loose carpets over tiles and other flooring to ascertain a complete picture of wear and tear.
- Check the swimming pool for cracks if the pool water is foggy or dirty, also ascertain if the pool pump is working.
- Check all automated gates and doors are working.
- Ask for approved building plans –check whether there are any illegal structures that have not been approved as penalities could be severe from local authorities.
- Confirm which fixtures and fittings are sold with the property, this should be included in the Offer to Purchase.
- For Sectional Title units, request audited financials –check that the Body Corporate is well-run and solvent.
- Where Home Owner’s Associations (HOA) are concerned, obtain financial statements to check on its financial status and management. Ask for the HOA rules to ascertain the rules and policies applicable to owners and residents i.r.o. the development.
- Consult a property specialist if you have any doubts, before signing any documents.
- If you are buying vacant land, check with the owner/HOA what the building time is i.e. how long you have before you have to start and complete a dwelling –this is normally a contractual requirement in most developments.
- Ask about the state of electrical wiring, the owner must supply you with current and valid Electrical Certificate of Compliance.
Where deposits are required, these monies should only be paid into the conveyancing attorneys’ Trust Account or the Estate Agencies Trust Account, they will account for the funds and must issue receipt. Ask to get the interest on your money while it remains in the trust account.
If the purchase is financed, make sure to include, or that a clause is included, that makes the sales agreement subject to you obtaining the necessary mortgage bond from a bank within a certain time.
Remember that the estate agent is normally appointed by the seller and has a legal obligation to represent the interests of the seller in the first instance. This means that you should decide for yourself what offer to make and what counter offer to accept. Do your homework, find out how much similar properties in the estate sold for and how long they were on the market for.