House hunting is an exciting time. Chances are you have a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for and will know when you’ve finally found “the one”. From the moment you step through the doorway a feeling creeps up on you, unbidden, and it can be a powerful driving force behind your purchasing decision.
Much like grocery shopping on an empty stomach however, it’s a bad idea to make an offer while enveloped in such an emotion. Especially if this entails rushing your decision because the property is in high demand.
Ian Teague, an attorney with Cape Town based legal firm Gunstons Attorneys can attest to the problems encountered by those who rush into property purchases before doing their homework.
Check the background upfront
According to a recent report issued by the firm, a buyer took a liking to a show house in the central southern suburbs of the Cape peninsula. Homes in the area are in high demand at the moment. So, presumably concerned that the house would be snapped up by someone else, the buyer made an offer before carrying out a thorough background check.
The seller accepted the offer and a Deed of Sale was concluded. Only then did the buyer proceed to look into the property in detail. Both buyer and seller had originally assumed that a small section of the property, enclosed by a fence, formed part of the property. However, when the title deeds were examined, this was found not to be the case.
“Enquiries revealed that this portion of the plot had indeed been ‘transferred’ to a neighbour as part of a land swap prior to the current owner buying it, but this had never been registered with the Deeds Office. Accordingly, the swap was not yet effective,” explains Teague.
Teague adds that the seller offered to legalise the transfer after the buyer bought the property. Unfortunately, by this time, the buyer had become wary and concerned that other issues could come to the fore. The buyer moved to have the deal cancelled, despite having paid the full fees pertaining to the purchase. Unsurprisingly, the seller sought to resist the cancellation.
Notes Teague: “This is not a case in which the seller was able to invoke the voetstoots clause though the seller tried to do so – which could have resulted in lengthy and costly litigation.”
In the future Teague says there may also be ramifications for estate agents in such cases as, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) agents are considered a member of the “supply chain” and are expected to know their product thoroughly.
Although this is not a case of a house defect as such, it illustrates the importance of doing your homework when considering a property purchase. In addition to vetting all the paperwork, a professional home inspection should also be carried out.
Typically, home inspection agents perform a thorough, unbiased inspection of a property within a few hours, following which a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand report listing all latent and patent defects, is issued. Such reports provide peace of mind for all parties involved as everyone knows exactly what they are getting involved with straight off the bat. Importantly, such reports are based on national building regulation requirements and can be used in court if necessary.