Buying? Don’t alter the property until the transfer goes through

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

You’ll lose out financially if the deal falls through. You should however spend the time before the transfer takes place to plan ahead.

You buy a new home and although the property hasn't legally been transferred into your name, you start renovating because surely after the sales agreement has been signed, the banks have agreed to grant a bond and the necessary paperwork has been lodged at the deeds office, nothing can go wrong and the sale will go through as planned.

Unfortunately, things can and often do go awry and although it may not be an everyday occurrence, there have been instances where a sale has been cancelled days before transfer should have taken place. Ordinarily this isn't a problem. Yes, the parties may feel aggrieved, but there's no financial loss unless the buyer has made improvements or begun renovating the home.

On the face of it, this is the perfect time to start making the home your own. The property is vacant and given that occupational rent is often lower than the actual bond repayment, it seems like the ideal time to fix up the home to the new owner’s standards and taste. In these instances, the buyer often doesn't move into the home immediately but uses the opportunity to re-paint, re-tile or completely re-model the home. And the best part is that these often noisy and messy alterations can go ahead without disrupting their everyday lives.

The bad news is that buyers generally have no way of recouping their losses should the sale fall through. In fact, many sales agreements note that the property must be returned to the owner in its original state should something go wrong and the sale falls through.

What buyers can and should do is use the period before transfer takes place to plan ahead. Inspect the property thoroughly and use the convenience of having an empty home at their disposal to work out what needs to be done and then start shopping around for ideas. Purchasing decisions for items like tiles and bathroom accessories should never be rushed – again, use this time wisely to ensure you buy exactly what you're looking for. Measure for curtaining and blinds, but hold off on placing the order until transfer takes place.

If you're planning to install a new kitchen use this time to call on companies to design something perfect for the space available and even if it means that you delay moving in by a few weeks, only allow the work to commence once transfer has taken place. The same goes for other major alterations, so don't start knocking down walls or splashing out on plans for a new granny flat until the property is legally registered in your name.

Buying a home is exciting and although you may be itching put your personal stamp on your brand-new property, remember it's not actually yours until the deeds office says it is. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security simply because everything seems to be going smoothly. As the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns once said, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.

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