The process of transferring a property

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

How long does it take to buy a house?

On average, the process takes around three months from the date of sale until the property is registered in the new owner’s name. However, certain external aspects can delay the process such as waiting for a stipulated condition in the contract to be fulfilled or obtaining a rates clearance certificate.


Here’s why it takes so long::

  1. Once a seller has accepted an offer to purchase, the buyer must produce proof that that her bond application has been successful.

  2. The seller must then appoint a transfer attorney, who is also sometimes called a conveyancing attorney.

  3. The transfer attorney will apply for:

    • Cancellation figures on the seller’s bond – one to 30 days, depending on the bank.

    • Rates, lights, water and refuse removal clearance figures from the local authority, as well as levy figures from the body corporate or home owners’ authority – 10 to 21 days. The local authority will require copies of the buyer and seller’s identity documents, and also a copy of the most recent rates and consumption accounts. Without these, the process can take up to eight weeks.

  4. Once the attorney has these documents, she will prepare the transfer papers.

  5. The transfer attorney requests guarantees from the buyer’s bond attorney (who is appointed by the bonding bank) and supplies a draft deed of transfer to prepare the buyer’s bond documents.

  6. The buyer and seller then sign the transfer papers at the transfer attorney’s office.* Both parties must supply:*

    • Their original identity documents for FICA purposes.

    • Their income tax numbers. Without these, and in the event that the parties’ personal income taxes are not up-to-date, the SA Revenue Service will cancel the sale.

  7. At this stage, the buyer is obliged to pay the transfer duty, as well as the transfer attorney’s fees and expenses.

  8. On receipt of guarantees from the bond attorney, the transfer attorney forwards the papers to the cancellation attorney at the bank that holds the seller’s bond.

  9. The cancellation attorney sends the property’s original title deed to the transfer attorney.

  10. The seller’s bank prepares and signs the consent to cancellation papers – eight to 14 days.

  11. The transfer attorney pays the transfer fee electronically to the SA Revenue Service and awaits a receipt – 14 to 35 days.

  12. The transfer attorney pays the final rates and utility amounts to the local authority and body corporate or home owners’ authority.

  13. The transfer attorney draws up new deed of transfer papers.

  14. The transfer attorney collects all outstanding documents, including the electrical compliance certificate that the seller is obliged to provide.

  15. The documents are processed by the Deeds Office – 10 to 15 days, provided that there are no errors and the paperwork does not have to be re-submitted.

  16. The transfer, new bond and cancellation of the existing bond are registered simultaneously.

  17. The bond attorney advises the bank once registration has happened, and the guarantees are paid over to the transfer attorney.

  18. On receipt of these funds, the transfer attorney finalises her accounts and pays the proceeds to the seller and the commission to the agent, refunding any credit that is due to the seller within 12 months.

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