Why use a home buying checklist to buy a property?

Why use a home buying checklist to buy a property?

At SA Home Loans, we understand that buying a new home is an incredibly exciting prospect. In fact, for many people, owning a property is an absolute dream come true. It’s important, however, not to get so caught up in the excitement of buying a house – or the anxiety of missing out on a sale – that you forget to do adequate research on the property you’re looking to buy. Before putting in an offer to purchase, it’s important to do a proper inspection of a property to identify those issues that may be of real concern for you. This assessment will include an inspection of a property’s buildings, infrastructure and location.

Home inspection terms you should understand

On inspection, certain damage to the building(s) on a property are easily detected, including cracks in walls, loose gutters, broken kitchen cupboards, and leaking taps. These are known as patent defects. The more serious structural defects to a home, such as problems with the foundations, or inadequate water drainage systems, aren’t as obvious to the naked eye and are commonly referred to as latent defects.

While a seller is obligated to inform the real estate agent and a buyer of any latent and patent defects on the property, to protect yourself as a buyer, it is always recommended that you do a proper inspection yourself. Even if you don’t find any glaring issues during your own initial inspection of the building structures, it’s also recommended to appoint a home inspection company to do a comprehensive check on the property before you put in an offer to purchase. The reason for this is something called the ‘voetstoets’ clause.

How to protect yourself as a buyer

To buy something ‘voetstoots’ means to buy it ‘as is’, in whatever condition you may find it. If an agreement of sale of immovable property contains a voetstoots clause, then the seller will be free of any liability for any latent or patent defects you as the buyer may discover after taking occupation of the property.

It’s also important to note, while South African consumers are legally protected by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the CPA does still have its limitations. For example, should you buy a house, only to discover major structural damage upon occupation, you’ll only have means to legal redress under the CPA if the property was purchased from a seller who regularly sells property. This excludes private home sales, where real estate agents weren’t involved. You will also need to be able to prove that the seller and/or real estate agent knew about the damage to the property and intentionally withheld this information from you. If an agreement of a sale includes a ‘voetstoots’ clause, it will be very difficult for you to cancel the sale, as you agreed to buy the property ‘as is’.

At the end of the day, it’s important to know your legal rights as a buyer and to take steps to lower the risk of making a bad investment.

Other things to look out for during a property inspection

Finding out more about the area in which the property is located should also form part of your inspection. This includes crime statistics for the area (from the past year), the property’s proximity to amenities such as schools and hospitals, and whether or not the neighbourhood is designated for future development. It’s also a good idea to find out the prices of similar homes in the area – information you can get from a real estate agent.

When inspecting the actual property, look at house orientation (in South Africa, North-facing homes are better orientated towards maximising on sunlight), the rates and taxes/levies for the area and any title deed restrictions that may be on the property that might hinder your future building and renovation plans.

During a viewing of the building(s) on the property, be sure to check the obvious and not so obvious areas for the following patent defects:

  • Cracks in walls, tiles, cornices, floor boards, cupboard doors, windows etc.
  • Damp and mould in kitchen cupboards, ceilings, window and door frames, skirting boards etc.
  • Electric faults in wall sockets, light switches, electrical boards, light bulb sockets etc.
  • Damage to gutters, windows, built-in appliances and features, door handles etc.

Make a record of all these property defects. You can then specify in the sales agreement that they be repaired before you take occupation. Also be sure to ask the seller and/or real estate agent for a list of known latent and patent defects on the property.

Other paperwork you have a right to ask the estate agent to supply you with includes an electrical certificate, gas certificate (where applicable) and plumbing/water certificate to show the building’s compliance with health and safety regulations.

Download our Home Buyers Checklist

We have created a Home Buyers Checklist to help you remember the various elements to look out for while house hunting. This tool will help you tick off any problems areas you discover during your inspections and rate them according to their severity.

Download our checklist today to help you make an objective decision about your next property purchase.