“When deciding to put your home on the market,” says Lanice Steward, managing director of Knight Frank, “there are certain things you should have in place beforehand.”
There have been certain changes to zoning laws and building regulations and, with more people considering the implications of the Consumer Protection Act; it is advisable for the seller to ensure that all alterations have building plans that have been approved.
“It often happens that certain changes, such as a patio being enclosed, takes place but the owner omits to get plans drawn up and approved for this,” she said. “I would advise anyone who is in this situation to dig out the old plans and, if necessary, get a draughtsman to draw up changes and submit them to Council for approval. The delay in waiting for something to be approved in retrospect is often avoidable and a buyer can lose interest in the home if he has to wait a few months for complications with plans to be sorted out.”
If there is a question as to whether the home is water compliant; before calling in an inspector, check that there are no leaks. The best way to check this is to turn off the water supply to the property and check if the meter is still ticking over. If it does move then there is a leak somewhere and this needs to be fixed, she said. The seller must also ensure that all pool waste water and stormwater is not going into the sewerage system.
If the roof leaks, get it repaired and a get a guarantee from the contractor. Be sure that this guarantee is properly completed, i.e. to the house and not the person owning the house.
If the seller is ordering new gas cylinders for winter, it should be noted that the large, 48kg cylinders are illegal for residential properties. These should be switched out for smaller ones, said Steward.
Any plumber or electrician, who has worked on the house in getting it ready for sale, should give the seller a certificate that his work complies with regulations and the seller should try and get a guarantee for this work if possible.
“Sometimes there are cases where the owner of the home did not know about alterations that had been made to the home, such as a case we came across where a tenant built a braai and a shed at the back of the property. This, however, still needs plans and getting these done post-transfer is complicated. The seller of the property had to get these additions drawn up and passed at Council, at his expense,” she said.
Anyone who has unapproved plans should have these walked through Council and approved as soon as possible, she said. The municipalities might be a bit more lenient now but if left too late it could become problematic.
“It must be remembered that the municipalities can demand that illegal building of any kind be demolished,” she warned.
The most important thing is to disclose fully to the buyer and the agent if there is something amiss, so that problems can be rectified and these must be listed in the sales agreement or the condition report so that a full disclosure is attached to the offer to purchase.
The various steps to getting a home ready for selling are there to protect you, the seller, against claims later and a professional agent will make sure that this is done.
“Essentially,” said Steward, “gone are the days where you could put your house on the market and hide behind the voetstoots clause. It is in the interest of the seller to take time to ensure the house he is selling is fully compliant. Consumers nowadays are far more informed and litigious than in the past.”