As the saying goes - the early bird catches the worm - and arming yourself with as much information as possible to get the best deal when making one of the biggest investments of your life is, in fact, catching the worm. One can get lost in the utopia of finding the house your dreams and securing finance without actually paying attention to the unpleasant surprises during the process of buying a house.
The most important thing to be aware of when you buy a house is whether it's purchased “voetstoets”. This means that the house is bought as is – with the patent (visible) defects and latent (not so visible) defects becoming the buyer’s concern once the house is transferred. It is advised that when you view the house ensure that you go through it with a fine-tooth-comb to see that everything is in working order and preferably with a professional who has a keen eye in spotting latent defects.
Secondly, to provide assurances for the buyer, the law dictates that certifications like; electric compliance, gas compliance, plumbing, electrical fence (where there is an electric fence) and beetle-free (usually provided in coastal areas depending on agreement between seller and buyer) certificates should be submitted by the seller. These certificates need to be signed off by a registered or certified contractor who is authorized to issue them in order for them to be valid.
Thirdly, in order for the transfer to legally take place, the seller needs to obtain a clearance certificate from the municipality to verify that rates are paid in full and are up-to-date.
Furthermore, in order for SARS to issue the transfer duty, or exemption receipt, both the seller and the buyer need to show that their tax affairs are in order.
The seller will be responsible for all costs incurred when obtaining the necessary certificates, repairs that need to be carried out to acquire such certificates as well as the selling agent’s commission. The buyer on the other hand will be liable for the transfer duty and legal fees thereof.
Moreover, often buyers and sellers contend over fixtures. It is important that fixtures, that can be removed, such as the pool pump, geyser blanket, etc are stipulated in the sale document as included or excluded in the sale to eliminate confusion.
The contract of sale ought to instruct, by agreement of both parties, that should there be any points of dispute before or after the registration of transfer, the matter shall be referred for arbitration or determination. If such clause is omitted, the parties should try to resolve the dispute between them prior to applying to the courts for a resolution.
Lastly, remember that once you have all the facts that humans still err. Being rigid and unyielding may make the process of sale harder, drawn out and expensive. Be flexible, within reason, if the cost and effort of fixing something small will not amount to an exorbitant fee take ownership of it and enjoy the house of your dreams.