There is so much to take into consideration when buying a home it can be a little overwhelming. But according to Debbie Justus-Ferns, divisional manager of Renprop Residential Sales, there are five key points that buyers need to know.
“Purchasing a home is often one of the biggest financial commitments a person will ever make in their lifetime. This means that careful consideration of all the factors that influence the purchase – no matter how overwhelming it may seem – is vitally important,” says Justus-Ferns.
She believes that the following five points are perhaps the most important things buyers need to know about before signing an offer to purchase, which is a legally binding contract:
1. Technical details in the offer to purchase
As an offer to purchase contract is a legal and binding document, there may be some technical terms with which buyers are unfamiliar with or clauses which they don’t understand. “Buyers should clarify any points or technical jargon they are unsure of,” advises Justus-Ferns “as it is too late to make any changes once the contract has been signed. Sometimes buyers only realize after signing the document that a technical phrase or confusing, ambiguous point is disadvantageous for them.”
She says that even though buyers are often very excited about making an offer on a property, they shouldn’t rush into signing the offer to purchase until they are sure of all the points and clauses, which a professional estate agent will discuss and explain to them.
2. The area in which the home is situated
Everyone is familiar with the well-used property mantra: Location Location Location. But what does it mean on a practical level? “It’s not just about buying the smallest or most rundown house in the best neighbourhood you can afford, it’s about more than amenities being close by,” says Justus-Ferns.
School zoning and proximity is a major consideration for most family buyers according to Justus-Ferns, but she says that it’s all very well looking at a home on a Sunday. What buyers really need to know is what the peak-hour week-day traffic is like when they are in a rush to get the kids to school or to get to work. Buyers also need to know what the crime levels in the area are like, any pertinent changes to roads or upgrades for an area that are available and what potential plans are for any open, undeveloped pieces of land nearby.
3. Major faults and disclosure documents
Before rushing in and finding out afterwards that a house has huge defaults that are going to cost a fortune to fix, buyers should ask the estate agent about any disclosures the seller made about defaults they know about. This could be problems with the roof, pool, the plumbing or damp issues, for example.
Justus-Ferns cautions buyers to not rely solely on the disclosure document from the sellers, but advises them to also keep an eye out for potential problems themselves when viewing properties.
She explains that a property is sold ‘as it now lies’ (voetstoots) which means that the seller does not take any responsibility to repair any defects or accept liability otherwise for defects that are obvious on inspection of the property (patent defects) or defects which are hidden (latent defects) unless it is proven in a court of law by the purchaser that the seller knew of such defects and willfully misrepresented the truth to the purchaser.
“Buyers should test the taps and the light switches and keep an eye out for rising damp, flush the toilets and pay attention to other common property problems that are easily visible,” she says.
While the market has shifted from a seller’s market to favour buyers, this does not mean that buyers can get away with putting in cheeky offers. Justus-Ferns says that in the current market many buyers are under the impression that they can put in an offer way below the asking price. “This is not the case,” she says. “Serious buyers should consider sticking close to the asking price if they know it’s in line with what properties in the area are selling for. Otherwise they stand the risk of losing out.”
Justus-Ferns also advises buyers to apply for pre-approved finance so that they know which price range they should be looking in. “It wastes everyone’s time if buyers are looking at houses in a price range they cannot afford or get finance for,” she says.
5. Length of time a home has been on the market
Buyers should find out how long the home they are interested in has been on the market. “Homes that have been sitting on the market for an extended period of time will more than likely be more negotiable on a realistic market related price,” says Justus-Ferns.
In closing, Justus-Ferns suggests that buyers consider viewing a property more than once before making an offer, ideally once during the day and possibly a night viewing too. She also advises buyers to take their time and consider all the points of a property before making an offer to ensure they are selecting the right property to suit their needs, their budget and their future.