All those in Favour of Home Inspections say Aye

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

It's really strange, but it often seems that people take far more care when buying a used car than when buying a new or used property. Think about it... how many of us would buy a car without first carefully checking out what is under the bonnet? And it doesn't stop there. Many insist on a roadworthiness inspection, or at least on getting the all-clear from their own mechanic.

Many of us readily admit that homes are bought on emotion. "I walked through the front door and just fell in love," is a common sentiment and, while perhaps more prevalent amongst women, these intense feelings are not restricted to the fairer sex.

There is no logical explanation as to why anyone would part with an enormous sum of money without first checking that what is on offer is in good condition. While home inspectors admit that the number of home inspections conducted by professionals is on the rise, they are, according to several sources, still not considered by the majority of buyers to be an essential part of the property purchase process in South Africa.

The big question is, should home inspections become compulsory in an effort to safeguard buyers and, if so, who should carry the costs?

At this stage it appears that buyers are usually the ones who foot the bill. However, Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, not only believes that home inspections should become part and parcel of the buying and selling process, but that the onus for payment shouldn't be laid squarely at the buyer's feet. He notes that home inspections carry a number of advantages to all players in the property industry.

  • It gives home sellers the knowledge that they won't have to deal with any accusations of non-disclosure.

  • It would give the banks more security, in that it would, in large measure, remove buyer dissatisfaction with the condition of a property and / or problems with covering the high cost of repairing unforeseen or unknown problems, which are major causes of mortgage defaults.

  • It would be beneficial to estate agents in that it would prevent the problems that can easily arise from seller non-disclosure and buyers' later discovery of defects they feel the agent should have told them about.

"Compulsory home inspection as a prerequisite for the transfer of a property - on the same basis as the requirement for an electrical certificate of compliance, say, or a beetle certificate - would also have the advantage of being a preventative measure rather than the doubtful, and notoriously hard to access, curative options available in terms of the Consumer Protection Act or through the National Home Builders' Registration Council (NHBRC)."

Cost is always going to be a factor and while a home inspection may well save the buyer thousands in the long run, the short term costs may put this out of the financial reach of many new buyers.

"House inspections currently cost anywhere between R3 500 and R6 000, which is not affordable for most first-time buyers, especially if they are struggling to put together a cash deposit in order to secure a home loan. Similarly, it is unlikely that a property owner who is selling because of financial distress will be able to pay this.

"But there are other options. What about the banks being willing to add the cost of inspection to a home loan, for example, the way they sometimes also allow transfer duty and bond registration costs to be included? Perhaps the NHBRC could use some of the millions of rands in levies paid by registered builders to subsidise home inspections on behalf of buyers who only use those registered builders? Or perhaps the government could fund a home inspection for anyone who is the recipient of a State housing loan or subsidy?

"There are sure to be other solutions too, but whatever is decided, it needs to be implemented fast and efficiently to improve consumer confidence in the property market and help boost homeownership," says Everitt.

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