Buying a house, especially if you are a first-time buyer, is both nerve-wracking and extremely expensive. Once you’ve added to the purchase price, transfer duty, legal fees and the cost of relocating (moving, curtains, schooling etc) the total cost of buying a new home can be huge.
John Graham, of HouseCheck says that most home buyers get so caught up in the pressure of negotiating the price of the home, finding money for the deposit and getting a bond, that they don’t even stop to think about the wisdom of getting a home inspection.
Besides, paying for the home inspection is usually an extra cost for the buyer, not the seller. While skipping the home inspection may be tempting, home buyers may later be very sorry if they don’t commission a home inspection to show what’s going on below the surface of the house – before finally committing to buying the house.
Graham says distraught home buyers often contact him – after they have bought the house, moved in and only then found problems. He says that at this point for most practical purposes it is too late to sort out the problem.
It remains a sad fact that most buyers in South Africa don’t bother with a home inspection – very different from overseas where up to 80% of house sales are only concluded after a thorough home inspection.
Graham says there are a number of reasons why South African buyers usually don’t worry about a home inspection:
• Most buyers are not even aware of home inspection services. Home inspection is a relatively new and unknown service in South Africa.
• Very few estate agents recommend a home inspection – unless asked specifically by the buyer. The ethics of this is questionable, especially if the agent wants the buyer to sign an offer containing a voetstoots clause – but that’s another story.
• Buyers are often financially stretched and the prospect of saving the home inspection fee is tempting.
• The estate agent and the seller usually assures the buyer that the property is basically sound and the buyer after a quick walk-through the house agrees. The house looks well-maintained – how much could possibly be wrong with it?
An average home inspection report will cost the buyer between R2000-4000, depending on size, but the peace of mind and potential monetary savings are invaluable. A dangerously installed geyser; a leaking roof (hard to detect in the dry season); drainage and damp issues, electrical and plumbing concerns – a good home inspector will pick up on all of these and raise a “red flag”.
Graham advises home buyers:
• Be sure that your estate agent writes into your offer to purchase that the deal is contingent on you being satisfied with the results of a home inspection, which is to be done within 7 days of acceptance of your offer.
• Set aside a few thousand rand to pay for the inspection. The actual fee will depend on the size of the structure. HouseCheck charges a per room rate; other home inspectors charge a per square meter rate.
• Ask friends and family members for a recommendation for a reputable home inspector and get a quote before or as soon as your offer is accepted. Be sure to get a sample report from the home inspector so that you get a fair idea of the quality of the service.
Home inspections cost a bit, but they could end up saving you thousands of Rands in repairs. When it comes to the home-buying process you can’t afford to skip this important step.