Get property-buying basics right
DESPITE ongoing media publicity about property law and regular discussion on these matters at a range of seminars and training sessions, many South African homebuyers and sellers remain ignorant of the basic legalities of property transactions, says Lanice Steward, managing director of Anne Porter Knight Frank.
“It has become necessary to insist that agents give clients a short rundown on the legalities surrounding property transactions. First-time homebuyers, in particular, tend to have absolutely no idea how property is bought and sold and how to go about getting bonds.
“When the deal looks as if it will go through, one of the most common mistakes is lack of appreciation that signed contracts are legally binding.
“If a better offer or prospect comes up, buyers cannot simply change their minds. Some young buyers have heard about the ‘cooling off ’ clause and think it applies across the board. In fact it applies only to properties valued at under R250 000.”
Another common first-time buyer mistake is to underestimate the costs of transfer duties, attor ney’s fees and deeds office costs.
She says some clients are scared of documentation and try to avoid putting matters in writing until the 11th hour.
“This can be disastrous when submitting offers, because apart from the fact that written offers put agents in a far stronger position to negotiate, it is illegal to make such offers verbally.
“Inexperienced buyers often show a marked reluctance to invade a homeowner’s privacy. As a result they fail to inspect homes carefully and never fully appreciate the partially latent defects and flaws. Good agents will insist on faults being listed in writing, but nothing can replace a hands-on inspection.
“When buying a property always ask for the home plans. It is essential to see these. Once you have them, hold onto them. Some years ago a fire at the deeds office destroyed several hundred plot plans, leaving owners who did not have copies with no option but to have them redrawn by professionals.”
And if you are planning to buy a property using a trust, a close corporation or a company as the holding vehicle, you should take note that this vehicle must have a tax number and the taxes must be fully paid up.