WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK | IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

When you go from the dream of buying a new home to the reality of househunting, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We’ve sought out advice from trusted local estate agents that goes beyond the standard “location, location, location” and delve into the nitty gritty details of buying a house.

Voetstoots clause

Commonly used in South Africa, the voetstoots clause indicates that buyers are purchasing the property “as it stands”. It  covers any defects that are visible to the eye, so the onus is on buyers to inspect the property to satisfy themselves that they’re happy with its condition. “Take the opportunity of viewing a property thoroughly,” advises Caron Leslie, RE/MAX. “For example, a water or plumbing compliance certificate doesn’t cover each and every tap and toilet; it checks for water leaks.”

“The voetstoots clause is still applicable for sales between private entities (homeowner to homeowner), but is not applicable if you purchase from a developer,” says Pierre Nel, Pam Golding Properties. “Latent defects are excluded from the voetstoots clause, for example a leaking roof, which you can’t see.” He stresses the importance of requesting a defects disclosure. “Most agencies will supply buyers with a defects disclosure form and add it as an annexure to the sale agreement.” However, it’s still a case of buyer beware and it’s up to you to check even the smaller details for yourself. “Ask about the water pressure,” suggests Chris Cilliers, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty. “Open taps, flush toilets, etc. You have the absolute right to do this.”

Home inspection

While compliance certificates for electrical, water, gas, beetle and electric fence are required and done by the seller, a full home inspection is not currently mandatory and, if commissioned, is paid for by the buyer. These are advisable if there are any signs of structural defects, or a partial inspection may be requested. “Roofs are expensive items and not covered by the standard inspections required before transfer.If you have any reservations about the condition of the roof, ask for a roof inspection,” says Chris. “It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, particularly in the case of thatch or slate roofs.”

Plans, deeds & municipal regulations

Check that any additions to the property have been passed by the council, otherwise that becomes your responsibility as the new owner. “Ask if the property and all structures are compliant with the local authority and get a copy of the stamped municipal building plans if possible,” advises Pierre. The title deeds will show if there are any servitudes on the property. “If you want to extend or build on in the future, this is important to know,” he says. Chris advises to check if older properties are listed or fall under municipal heritage regulations, which would affect your ability to make any structural changes. “If there are empty plots nearby, enquire from council if there’s an application for development which may affect the future value of the property,” she says. Also ask if there are height restrictions in the area; you might want to build a second storey, or make sure that neighbours can’t build up and block your view.

Fixtures & fittings

“Don’t make assumptions about what comes with the house and ensure that all items are recorded in the offer to purchase,” Chris says. “For example, in the Western Cape where it’s not compulsory to leave a free-standing stove, buyers from other provinces might assume that the cooker will stay, while sellers may intend to remove it. Officially it’s not a fixture and this can be a very expensive oversight if it’s not clarified upfront.” She also advises to check on key decor items such as light fittings, bathroom mirrors, outdoor pot plants, blinds and curtains.

Neighbourhood

Check out the direct neighbourhood at different times of day for noise and parking issues such as busy restaurants or nightclubs, neighbours with constantly barking dogs, or schools causing traffic congestion at drop-off time. “Get up early in the morning and travel to work from the area where you want to purchase to get a feel for the traffic, as you will travel this route daily,” advises Pierre. Security goes beyond the property itself. “Ask about crime in the area and recent break-ins,” says Caron. “Check if there’s an active local neighbourhood watch and a street WhatsApp group.” Another vital lifestyle question for many is internet connectivity. “Ask if there’s fi bre in the area, or planned to install,” says Pierre. “Cellular coverage is also a good question, as some areas have low coverage or none with some networks.” One last piece of advice from Chris, “Don’t assume, don’t leave anything to chance, and ensure that all arrangements are reduced to writing and included in the offer to purchase (OTP).”

Purchasing in a Secure Complex:

• Review all the guideline documents relating to the estate and the code of conduct of the estate or complex.
• Ask if the complex is pet-friendly and the rules regarding pets.
• Ask for a copy of the architectural guidelines, especially if you have future alterations in mind.
• Ask if the estate is in good financial standing.
• If purchasing a newly built home, ask for all engineers’ certificates, NHBRC certificate, and roof certificates.

Pierre Nel, Pam Golding Properties

More Questions to Ask:

• Why is the owner selling?
• How long have they owned the property?
• Are there waiting lists at the local schools?
• Are there water storage tanks underground, is there a wellpoint and is it registered as the law requires?
• Waterwise gardens – what is planted in the garden and what level of maintenance is required?

Chris Cilliers, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty