Although you may have heard it a million times before, it’s true - buying a property is more than likely going to be the biggest investment you ever make. It’s a decision that should never be rushed, and property should never be bought on a whim. It may well appear to be a bit of a minefield out there, but there are ways to safeguard yourself, allowing you to make an informed buying decision.
Most buyers and sellers use estate agents when entering into a property transaction. This stands to reason, given the complexity of the deal, the value of the asset and the emotional elements surrounding the purchase.
While many other countries have separate parties representing the buyer and the seller, a South African agent represents both. In other words, the agent has a duty to protect the buyer’s interests and a duty to protect the seller. Although this may come as a surprise to many, the system works quite well and can actually prove to be beneficial to the buyer as, in theory anyway, the agent is fully acquainted with the property that he is selling and is ideally placed to answer any questions regarding the condition of the home.
Buyers should always ask questions about the property that they are interested in. General questions that should be asked before viewing include: why is the property being sold? How long has the property been on the market? Has the price been reduced and if so why? And how many offers has the seller received?
Once the buyer has viewed the home he needs to up the ante and dig a little deeper to ensure that the property is sound and that there are not any hidden flaws. Follow-up questions could include:
• How old is the roof and are there any leaks?
• Is the general plumbing , such as the pipes and septic tanks etc, in good repair?
• Has the current owner undertaken any major repairs in the last two years and if so, have the problems been fully resolved?
• Is there any structural damage (for example large cracks) anywhere on the property?
• Does the swimming pool leak?
Buyers purchase property based on emotional decisions and although this is perfectly understandable, it is important that they remain as realistic as possible. It doesn’t make financial sense to buy a high-end home in a less than desirable location and great care should be taken to ensure that you are buying something that is going to hold its value both inside and out. For this reason , it is highly recommended that buyers drive around the neighbourhood to get an idea of the general conditions. There are South African homeowners who overcapitalise on their properties. In other words, they build or renovate a home to such an extent that they are going to struggle to sell the property at a profit. Luckily , it is fairly easy to spot these types of homes. If the home in which you are interested is surrounded by rundown properties that have not been well maintained, you could be buying something that you yourself may struggle to sell for a reasonable price later on, particularly if the house in question is selling at a far higher price than anything else in the vicinity.
Ask questions about the neighbourhood in general. This is particularly important if you are new to the area. Ask about local amenities and schools , and enquire where the closest shops and shopping malls are situated.
Don't forget to check on the neighbours. Owners have been known to sell a property because of a breakdown in neighbourly relations. Some people simply like to cause trouble and have no consideration for their neighbours. Although there is obviously no way you can guarantee that you won’t have problems with unruly neighbours in the future, it does help to know who you are living next door to when you first move in.
If you have any doubts whatsoever, delay the buying decision until you find something that will not only grow in value, but will house you and your family happily for years to come.