Why Home Inspections Are So Important
With so many properties on the market, sellers need to think out the box to help their property stand out from the rest and prevent the price being knocked down. For buyers, who are about to make a significant financial investment, you should know exactly what to expect – both indoors and out – in terms of future repairs and maintenance.
A Seller willing to provide a Home Inspection Certificate (HIC) to prospective buyers will definitely attract the attention of a serious buyer. A HIC removes any doubt about the condition of a property as it is provided by an independent source and gives both parties peace of mind when entering into a sales agreement. Not only can an HIC justify your price, but if there is any repair work to be done, often the cost of most repairs is shown to be a lot less than a buyer would estimate on face value.
Although the ‘Voetstoots’ clause no longer applies and an Offer to Purchase Contract should always include an ‘Immoveable Property Report’ by the Seller – these are not infallible. Remember, your agent is not a structural engineer and can do no more than point out visible defects such as damp or wall cracks that may be problematic. They also have to go on the word of the seller about any defects which is to the ‘best of their knowledge’.
“We highly recommend our buyers or sellers utilise the services of a reputable home inspection company to give them complete peace of mind – transparency is fundamental to protecting your investment and ensuring you are going into a sales transaction with your eyes wide open,” says Trish Kennedy, Sales Director Zest Property Group Mpumalanga.
A HIC provides a totally independent, report as to the condition of every facet of the property including the structure, roof, drainage, water leaks – both incoming and outgoing, pest infestations, walls, windows, doors, visible leaks, water drainage, external walls, pool operations, walkways, stairs and patios.
Often most problems are not obvious to the naked eye and a home inspector can deduce whether a fresh coat of paint could be hiding serious structural problems or if stains on the ceiling indicate a chronic roof leakage problem (or not). The inspector interprets these and other clues, and then presents a professional opinion as to the condition of the property, so that you can avoid unpleasant surprises afterwards. If you would like to utilise this service your Estate Agent can write a clause into the contract that the HIC is part of the ‘condition of sale’.
A HIC is relatively inexpensive in relation to the value of a home. An average three bedroom home inspection costs approximately R3500. If the Home Inspection Report finds problems in the building, it does not necessarily mean that you should not buy it, only that you are made aware of what type or repairs to anticipate. As a seller you may choose to undertake any necessary repairs to ensure you give buyers no reason to walk away. Of course, an inspection will also point out positive aspects of the building, as well as the type of maintenance needed to keep it in good condition.
Ask your estate agent for a recommended service provider in your area, get a quote and take it from there.
Excerpt from Private Property
One piece of legislation amongst a raft of changes to the laws that govern property transactions in South Africa could have a profound effect on the way we buy our houses in the near future.
John Graham, the director of the South African Home Inspection Academy – which equips its students with an all-round knowledge of local building methods and regulations – said that the proposed new Property Practitioner’s Bill will regulate the role of home inspectors by recognising them as a category of property practitioners alongside estate agents.
“The Bill is still in the confidential stage, and hasn’t yet been published for comment, but we expect that it will go to Cabinet in December, after which it will be opened for discussion,” he said.
If it passes, the new law will also define and regulate the role of the estate agent.
The new Bill comes as part of a general shake-up in the legislation affecting property transactions in general – which, following the passing of the Consumer Protection Act, is perhaps overdue.
As Private Property reported when we spoke to John earlier this month, buyers of “second hand” properties still find themselves exposed to various risks since the CPA permits private sellers to include the voetstoots clause – and because the Act “doesn’t apply to intermediaries which are already governed by other national legislation – like estate agents, who are governed by the Estate Agency Affairs Board.” (EAAB)
John said that it would appear that the Minister in the National Department of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu – under whom the EAAB now falls – “Wants to move quickly, and she’s keen to get things done, so we expect that the Bill will be fast-tracked.”
It’s going to become law
He said, too, that it’s very important that she does this.
“When it becomes law, the Bill will define the profession of home inspection – which is a necessary step in the process of regulating the profession, which is itself important because we foresee very rapid growth as consumers become aware of the reasons why they should ask for reports on properties they plan to buy.”
John – who is also the director of HouseCheck Property Inspections, the country’s largest home inspection service – said that growth in the profession will create opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as job-seekers, which is why training and skills development are vital.
“The new rules will place a much heavier onus on estate agents to provide a much deeper level of advice to their clients – and they’re going to need the services of many more trained inspectors to assess and evaluate the properties that come onto their books.”
Although it’s impossible for him to be sure at this stage, John expects that home inspectors will find themselves regulated by the body that will be created to replace the existing EAAB.
He pointed out, though, that no one expects home inspection to become compulsory.
“It will remain a voluntary service – but one that will now be properly regulated.”
And that, he said, can only be a good thing for investors and agents alike.
Excerpt from Private Property
We have all heard the term “voetstoots”, which, to all intents and purposes, means “as is”. To spell it out, when you buy a property you are buying it “warts and all”. This doesn’t of course mean that a seller can fraudulently hide defects from a buyer and then use the voetstoots clause as a defence.
The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) has muddied the waters a little. Many buyers now believe that the voetstoots clause has been replaced and that estate agents are solely responsible for ensuring that the home is in tip-top shape. It’s a little complicated and although, as things stand, an agent can be held liable if it is found that he hasn’t disclosed all the defects in the home, this hasn’t yet been tested in a court of law. Given that estate agents are unlikely to have the skills needed to identify every potential problem in the homes that they sell, it’s highly improbable that a judge is going to hold them liable for something that is, for the best part, completely out of their control.
So where does this leave the buyer? Well, basically in the same position as before the CPA came into effect – reliant on the voetstoots cause.
Many hundreds of properties are sold in South Africa each day and in most cases the buyers and sellers are happy with the outcome. There are of course exceptions and, although there are undoubtedly buyers who believe they have been ripped off by unscrupulous sellers, given the sheer number of transactions concluded, these are far less common than most believe.
That said, it is always recommended that buyers go all out to ensure that they are indeed getting what they are paying for, by engaging a home inspector before signing the sales agreement. While this is going to cost the buyer a bit of extra money, it could end up saving thousands if the inspection reveals defects that are going to be costly to rectify.
It really does make sense
There are buyers (usually those who haven't had their fingers burnt before) who argue that they shouldn’t have to pay for something that may, if the problems are serious enough, lead to them changing their minds about buying the home. While this makes sense to some degree, should defects come to light, having an inspection report does afford a buyer the opportunity to attempt to renegotiate the selling price. It puts the seller in a bit of a spot if he refuses to rethink his price as, according to the voetstoots clause, he will be obliged to divulge the faults revealed in the inspector’s report to future interested parties. Think about it – he can hardly claim ignorance of a particular defect if it is laid out in black and white in the inspector’s report.
Logically, the best decision anyone can make before investing in a home that is not a new build is to have the property inspected to ensure that everything is above board and that the seller isn't trying to pull the wool over their unsuspecting eyes.
Excerpt from Private Property