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Are you a first-time homebuyer taking advantage of the low interest rate setting? Remember to have a professional inspection done before you put in an offer


Buying your first home is an exciting life event. Who doesn’t just want to sign on the dotted line and move into their dream home? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. The process requires a lot of admin and careful consideration before you finally take ownership of your property, and it can be overwhelming if you are a novice. So, before you rush to sign a sales agreement, be sensible and make a checklist of important points to consider. Santam’s Marius Steyn suggests conducting a home inspection before you buy, and adding a clause that an offer to purchase is subject to stipulated repairs if needed. “Remember, your insurer is only responsible for damages occurring from the date of registration of your new home at the deeds office, onwards – not for any prior problems,” he says. “This means you need to have any damages fixed by the seller as a condition of your offer. Otherwise these could become big issues down the line.”

So, what essential checks should a first-time buyer conduct?

You need to know your property is structurally sound, safe, damage-free and all-round up to scratch. Remember, you are fully entitled to include a home-inspection clause in your contract, which makes your offer conditional on this inspection and the property being found to be in a satisfactory state. It’s worth noting, however, that including this clause can sometimes make an offer less desirable for a seller, especially one who knows there are things that need fixing!

Focus areas

Have a professional inspection done to check the following five areas of the house you are considering buying, Steyn suggests. Also take along someone who has experience of identifying potential structural problems.

1. The geyser: Have all the geysers inspected by a registered plumber to establish their general condition and whether they meet the regulatory requirements. The replacement cost of a standard-size geyser is about R8 500. A leak or a burst could cause extensive damage, so you need to be sure the geysers are in good condition.

2. The roof: Are the tiles cracked? Have the roof inspected by a registered builder to determine its condition. The state of a roof and gutters can indicate a lot about the general maintenance of the house.

3. The ceiling: Most ceilings have secrets. Look for mould in particular, or a fresh paint job intended to hide mould or damp.

4. The garden: A lush garden is beautiful, but consider how much water it would need to maintain that greenery. Is the garden drought-friendly, given the water scarcity in parts of South Africa?

5. Electrical systems: It is the responsibility of the seller to have a licensed electrician do an inspection and issue a certificate of compliance for the electrical installation; the seller is responsible for repairing any faults that are identified. Still, the best way to protect yourself is to have an inspection done by an independent qualified professional.

Get the right insurance

Steyn has important advice for first-time homebuyers: a few days before you move in, ensure you get homeowner’s insurance, which covers the building, as well as home contents insurance, which covers your furniture and other household goods. Your first seven days in a new house are when you’re most vulnerable, because you’re usually still figuring out security and your belongings may still be packed in boxes. So make sure your insurance is already in place. You can also request to have certain security features installed before moving in – especially those essential to meet your insurer’s stipulated conditions, like burglar bars, an alarm and other precautions.

Make sure your home contents insurance is adequate and equivalent to the current replacement value of all your household goods and belongings. Also remember you have a duty of care as the policyholder. Should a break-in occur, you need to do everything you can to limit the damage, so ensure your front door is fixed and secure if it was damaged through forced entry, for example. Additionally, report any items stolen to the police and your insurer. With the approval of your insurer you do have a prescribed time to do a proper inventory of everything taken. Steyn stresses the importance of making sure that all damage is fixed before you move in as a condition of your offer. “Do not purchase a property with damage,” he says. “Rather include a clause in the purchase contract that compels the seller to repair any specified damage before registration takes place.”

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