The process of purchasing your very first home can be an overwhelming experience with the overload of information and procedures you need to familiarise yourself with. With the recent repo rate announcement of keeping interest rates unchanged, the property market remains easily accessible to first-time home buyers.
However, there are some strongly advisable checks you should consider conducting prior to submitting your offer to purchase.
Marius Steyn, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam suggests conducting a home inspection prior to the purchase and adding in a clause that the offer to purchase is subject to stipulated repairs.
“Remember, your insurer is only responsible for damages occurring from the date of registration of your new home at the deeds office, onwards – not for any prior problems. This means you need to have any damages fixed by the seller, as a condition of your offer. Otherwise, these could become big issues down-the-line” he advises.
The outcome of these essential checks should assure you that your property is structurally sound, safe, damage-free and up-to-code. You are fully entitled to include a home inspection clause in your contract which makes your offer conditional on a home inspection being conducted and the property being found to be in a satisfactory state. However, including this clause can sometimes make an offer less desirable for a seller, especially one who knows there are things that require fixing.
Here are five areas of the house to potentially focus on:
- Check the geyser. Have the geyser inspected by a registered plumber to establish the general condition and the adherents to regulatory requirements. The general replacement cost of a standard size geyser amounts to R8 500. When bursting or leaking, it has the potential to damage a room so you will need to be sure that you are getting one in pristine condition.
- Check the roof. Are the tiles cracked? Have the roof inspected by a registered builder to determine the general condition of the roof. The state of a roof and the gutters can indicate a lot about the general maintenance of the home.
- Check the ceiling. Most ceilings have secrets. Look for mould or fresh paint jobs to hide the potential mould or damp.
- Check the garden. If the garden is lush and green, be careful. How much will you need to spend to maintain it? Is it drought-friendly given certain parts of South Africa’s ongoing water issues?
- Check for electrical faults. Electrical faults will be identified with the issuing of the electrical certificate which is the responsibility of the seller. Any repairs or shortcomings identified in this investigation is also the responsibility of the seller.
Steyn advises having a professional inspection and taking a family member or friend along who has experience and knowledge in spotting potential structural problems.
Steyn lists a few insurance considerations for first-time buyers:
- Ensure you get homeowners insurance) which covers the building) and house contents insurance (which will cover the contents within your home) a few days prior to moving in. Your first seven days in a new house are when you are most vulnerable while you figure out security and your possessions in boxes. Make sure that your insurance is already in place. You can also request to have certain security features installed before moving in, especially those that are essential to meet your insurer’s stipulated conditions like burglar bars, an alarm etc.
- Make sure your home contents insurance is adequate and the equivalent to the current replacement value of all your items.
- As the policyholder, you have a duty of care. Should a theft occur, you need to do everything you can to limit the damage so ensure your front door is fixed and secure if it was damaged through forced entry, for example. Additionally, report any items stolen to the police and your insurer. With the approval of your insurer, you have a prescribed time to do a property inventory of everything taken.
Steyn stresses the importance of making sure that all damage is fixed up before you move in, as a condition of your offer.
“Do not purchase a property (home) with damage. Rather include a clause in the purchase contract that seller must repair the specified damage before registration can take place” he concludes.