Ques­tions to ask es­tate agents and sell­ers when buy­ing a house

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

We started off think­ing we needed more bed­rooms, would go dou­ble storey and add out­side of­fices, the whole nine yards. Then we be­gan to think sen­si­bly. The chil­dren have their own lives, with vis­its to mom and dad drop­ping on their agenda. At the end of the day, what is re­ally more im­por­tant – en­joy­ing your­selves or pre­sent­ing a face to the world that you can’t re­ally af­ford?

I know there are many who need to ex­pand their homes to cater for grow­ing fam­i­lies, but my ap­peal to you is to know when to stop.

We have de­cided to do the al­ter­ations that are go­ing to bring mean­ing and fun to our lives.

The builders ar­rived this morn­ing – just as in Cape Town, much later than promised. The first ques­tion was “Sorry, we for­got our hose pipe, can we bor­row yours?” But it didn’t re­ally mat­ter be­cause we are build­ing gar­den walls, one to form a laun­dry hang­ing area to stop our dar­ling puppy from eat­ing the wash­ing, an­other to form a veg­etable gar­den, safe from self­same puppy.

If you are think­ing of mov­ing, here are a few tips from my reg­u­lar cor­re­spon­dent, John of House Check, to help you with your pur­chase.

Ques­tions for buy­ers to ask es­tate agents

South Africans spend some­where north of R500 mil­lion a month on es­tate agents’ com­mis­sions. If you are a home buyer then fol­low th­ese tips to make sure you ask the right ques­tions and get your money’s worth:

Ask how long the house has been on the mar­ket. If it’s more than six months, you need to find out why it isn’t sell­ing.

Ask whether the price is ne­go­tiable. This helps if you are on a tight bud­get, but it is also a ques­tion which could high­light po­ten­tial prob­lems. If the seller is quick to meet your de­mands and ac­cept a lower price, can you hear alarm bells?

Ask how long the pre­vi­ous own­ers have lived there. If they’ve been there for sev­eral years, chances are they have been rel­a­tively happy, which is al­ways a good sign.

Ask if they know of any dam­age to the prop­erty. They must give you a straight an­swer. Be bold.

Ask if they rec­om­mend a home in­spec­tion. If the agent hes­i­tates then you should won­der whether the seller has some­thing to hide. Al­ways in­sist on a home in­spec­tion (usu­ally paid for by the buyer) as a con­di­tion of sale.

Ask them to ex­plain the voet­stoots clause and how you can pro­tect your­self if prob­lems sur­face later. If the agent has asked you to sign an of­fer doc­u­ment with a voet­stoots clause with­out coun­selling you on the im­pli­ca­tions for you as the buyer, then you should sus­pect that the agent is not act­ing in your best in­ter­ests. In­sist on us­ing a home in­spec­tion clause (which pro­tects the buyer) to bal­ance the pro­tec­tion which a voet­stoots clause af­fords the seller.

Ask if any ma­jor ad­di­tions or al­ter­ations been con­ducted and if there are ap­proved plans avail­able. Make sure you know of any work that has re­cently been un­der­taken. Also en­sure that the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ap­proved plans for all al­ter­ations and ad­di­tions.

Ask how much the mu­nic­i­pal rates, and util­ity bills in the area, are. If you can, try to get an ex­act fig­ure. As an ex­pense, rates and util­i­ties bills may seem small at first in com­par­i­son to the prop­erty, but they are re­cur­ring and you have to make sure you can af­ford them.

Ask if you can talk to the seller. If the seller re­fuses to talk to you be­fore the trans­ac­tion, then maybe

they've got some­thing to hide. Ques­tions and an­swers I have run out of space and I have so many in­ter­est­ing and rel­e­vant ques­tions pend­ing. I have at­tempted to re­ply to many of you di­rectly, but un­til I am fi­nally set­tled, time does not al­low for this.

In the months ahead my plan is to set a day aside to try and re­spond to you all in­di­vid­u­ally on a vol­un­tary ba­sis as I re­ally be­lieve in the value of sort­ing out the pit­falls in build­ing, hid­den around the next cor­ner.

Please keep your ques­tions or com­ments com­ing to don@ma­cal­is­ter.co.za or SMS only to 082 446 3859.

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