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IOLProperty - South African Property For Sale
Wednesday Oct 24, 2012

Everything you need to know about buying a property

Back in 2000, at the age of 32, Joe bought his first home. If Joe had been better prepared before jumping into the property market, he would probably be reaping greater benefits now, 12 years later.

Armed with a smallish deposit, Joe found a house he liked and signed an offer to purchase on the day he saw it. The seller immediately accepted the offer, which was only just below the asking price.

Joe had not known much about the extra costs involved, so it came as a shock when he received a hefty bill from the conveyancing attorneys.

When he moved in a few months later, he became aware of defects he should have picked up when viewing the house. Too late, Joe realised that he probably could have negotiated a lower price with the seller. Being under-prepared, he had over-paid.

1. TYPES OF OWNERSHIP

The two kinds of property ownership that you, as a first-time buyer, are most likely to have to choose between are sectional title and freehold title.

  • Sectional title

    A sectional title scheme usually takes the form of a block of flats, a complex of townhouses or cluster homes, made up of a number of residential units within a larger common property. You become the owner of a unit, which, together with your undivided share of the common property, forms your "section". You also may have exclusive use of a part of the common property, such as a parking bay.

    You pay a monthly levy towards shared costs, including maintaining the common property, insurance and security. Your levy is based on your "participation quota", which takes into account the size of your section relative to the other sections.

    You are billed directly for municipal rates and electricity. Water is usually a shared cost, but in some schemes sections have their own water meters.

    Samuel Seeff, chairman of Seeff, says the levy is based on the actual expenses of running the building or complex. "If the running costs are low, the levy on a R1-million unit, for example, can be as low as R500. On the other hand, if the complex has things like elevators, swimming pools and security guards, the levy can go up to R1 500, but can be significantly higher in upmarket and luxury areas," he says.

    The Sectional Titles Act sets out how sectional title schemes must be run. Briefly, you are automatically a member of the body corporate, which consists of all the owners in the scheme. A group of trustees is elected from among the owners at an annual general meeting and represents the body corporate. The trustees are responsible for managing the scheme, although many schemes outsource day-to-day management to a managing agent.

    Johann le Roux, executive director of levy finance company Propell, says the trustees have to ensure that all owners and occupiers comply with two sets of rules: management rules, which deal with administration, meetings and the collection of levies; and conduct rules, which relate to the conduct of owners and occupiers. A rule may be amended only by special or, in the case of management rules, unanimous resolution at a general meeting.

    Apart from your regular monthly levy, the trustees have the authority to implement a special levy to fund an unplanned common expense, without having to hold a general meeting. Le Roux says this would normally happen in an emergency, such as the repair of a burst water pipe, where the trustees would have to act quickly.

    Before buying into a scheme, you need to be satisfied that it is well run and that the rules suit you. It is important to see the last audited financial statement, the current budget and the minutes of the last annual general meeting. This will give you an idea of the state of the scheme's finances and whether you can expect levies to increase and whether a hefty special levy is on the cards. You also need to find out if owners' levies are in arrears.

    It is also important, once an owner, that you become involved, attend meetings and even offer yourself for election as a trustee.

    "The crux is that you become part of a residential community. Owners need to look out for each other in order to ensure not only the smooth running of the scheme, but also to promote a pleasant living environment with increasing property values," Le Roux says.

  • Freehold title

    Individual freehold title ownership generally applies to freestanding houses but also to certain cluster developments. (If you want to buy into a cluster or gated development, it is important to establish which type of ownership applies.) It means you fully own - and are fully responsible for - the property you buy.

    You generally have a greater degree of privacy and freedom than if you were in a sectional title scheme.

    As the owner of a freehold property, you must pay homeowner's insurance, municipal rates and for water, sewerage, refuse removal and electricity.

    Note that freehold cluster developments may be governed by homeowners' associations, which can involve financial obligations and rules.

    2. WHAT CAN YOU AFFORD?

    Aside from budgeting for a deposit and the once-off costs of buying a property, you need to assess your expected monthly expenses, comparing what you are paying as a tenant renting a property with what you would be paying as an owner. You need to take into account your bond repayments, the monthly levy if the property is sectional title, maintenance costs, insurance, rates, water and electricity.

    All the costs rise with inflation, except your bond repayment, which depends on the prevailing interest rate (if you have not fixed your rate).

    Interest rates, which are at a 38-year low, are likely to rise at some point in the future, so it is important to factor a higher rate into your budget calculations. For example, if you have a R900 000 home loan, at the current prime rate of nine percent, over 20 years you would be paying R8 097 a month, excluding bank fees. If the rate went up to 12 percent, for example, your home loan repayments would increase to R9 909.

  • Subsidies

    As a first-time buyer, you may have access to a housing subsidy:

    * Government subsidy. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for a government subsidy. In February, the national Budget mentioned an improved subsidy for first-time buyers. The 2012 Budget Review states: "Substantial increases to the finance-linked individual subsidy programme will be introduced ... the subsidy value that households earning between R3 500 and R15 000 per month can access has increased from R54 000 to R83 000 on a maximum property value of R300 000."

    * Employer subsidy. Some employers offer housing subsidies to their employees - usually a fixed amount a month towards your loan repayments.

  • Property as an investment

    Owning a home should be regarded as a long-term proposition. If you buy and sell over shorter periods, you are unlikely to make much out of your property as an investment because of all the costs involved.

    Making a profit on a property in the short term depends on the market and whether you can add value, Seeff says. "In the period 2005 to 2007, it often happened that properties were bought and sold at a profit only one year later. Given the current market, however, this is not easily achievable. The transactions we currently see as profitable all entail adding value to the property - for example, purchasing an old house and renovating it."

    On the appreciation of property over the long term, Bill Rawson, founder of Rawson Properties, says: "In any economy subject to inflation, labour and material costs will rise year after year. New housing will therefore be more expensive next year and the year after that in perpetuity, provided that the basic demographics of the area do not change.

    "The latest First National Bank (FNB) figures indicate that, in cash terms, South African residential property has risen 220 percent since 2000. That's a pretty good growth rate."

  • Comparing prices

    When looking at property prices in a particular area, don't simply compare the asking prices in advertisements. What a seller asks and what he or she actually gets can be two very different things.

    At present, the market favours the buyer. "In the current market," Seeff says, "we see properties selling for between 85 and 95 percent of the asking price."

    On gauging value, Rawson says it is essential to do your research. "Carefully check out the sales prices achieved in the area you favour and talk to estate agents. Be prepared to pay higher for something that really pleases you rather than lose it."

    3. FINDING A HOME

    Decisions on the type of property you buy and the area in which it is situated should be made with a long-term view in mind. Two additional issues you need to consider are:

    * Existing or new. You can buy either an existing home or a new (off-plan) home from a developer that, more likely than not, has not been built yet. An off-plan home is likely to be more expensive than an existing home of the same size.

    The Absa website offers the following advice for off-plan buyers: "Ensure you are dealing with a reputable developer who has a proven track record (investigate the developer's credentials before making a commitment to buy). Also, establish whether the developer is using the services of a reputable builder."

    * Repossessed homes. A way of getting into the property market cheaply is to buy a repossessed home from a bank. "Distressed" properties, where the owner is unable to pay back the loan, are first put up on auction, and only as a final step are they repossessed. It is not easy for first-time buyers to buy on auction because of the high upfront costs, but repossessed homes should be considered. The banks have lists of such properties on their websites.

    Rawson says distressed homes offer great opportunities right now - but you must know what you are doing. "You may have to spend an extra 20 percent or more on renovation. You may have to evict a stubborn tenant and you are unlikely to see all the problems in a property which has, perhaps, been neglected. Once these risks are accepted, the low price of distressed properties can make them brilliant buys with huge value-increasing potential."

  • Using an estate agent

    Experienced estate agents have a thorough knowledge of their area and will line up appropriate properties for you to view. The agent will facilitate the sale and should be on hand to deal with hitches in the transfer-of-ownership process. Agents must be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and have a valid fidelity fund certificate, and they are bound by a code of conduct. You have recourse to the board if you believe an agent has acted unethically.

  • Thoroughly inspect the property

    Among things to look for are:

    * Structural integrity. Adrian Goslett, chief executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, warns that certain "fixer-uppers" can be a nightmare if the structural integrity has failed.

    "Structural cracks, which are deep and appear on both sides of the wall, can indicate that the foundation has failed or that there is severe structural damage. Buyers should look out for heavy filler work on the walls, diagonal cracks running from the corners of windows or door frames and deformation along roof lines. If in doubt, ask a structural engineer to inspect the property," he says.

    Your estate agent should be able to refer you to a structural engineer, or you can find a list of competent engineers on the Joint Structural Division website (www.jsd.co.za). Expect to pay from R2 000 to around R4 000 for an inspection and report.

    * Leaking roof or water damage. "Having water in places it shouldn't be is never a good thing for a home. Water damage or rising damp can be costly to repair," Goslett says. "Look for areas in the home where the paint is scaling or bubbling, as these are usually indications that there is damp in the walls or ceilings. If you are unsure, you can get a plumber to check the property."

  • Are the building plans legal?

    Goslett advises that you inquire at the local municipality to ascertain whether the buildings on the property are legal and built to the required standards.

    4. YOUR DEPOSIT

    You improve your chances of obtaining a home loan from a bank - and are more likely to get it at a better rate - if you can put down a deposit, and the bigger it is the better, because you will owe less. And a seller may also be more inclined to accept your offer if you can put down a decent deposit.

    The banks differ on what they offer, but with an easing in lending criteria, loans of 100 percent of the selling price are available, as are loans of more than 100 percent to cover your additional costs, such as transfer costs and bond registration fees. All loans are subject to what you can afford and your credit profile (see below).

    Note that you may pay a slightly higher interest rate on a loan of more than 80 percent because of a relatively higher risk to the bank.

    * Absa. Absa encourages you to put down a deposit but provides loans of up to 100 percent of the property value. It provides home loans of up to 110 percent to its Affordable Housing clients who earn below R15 000 a month, subject to conditions.

    * FNB. For all loans up to R2 million, FNB will consider a maximum loan of 100 percent.

    * Nedbank. On loans of up to R1.5 million, non-Nedbank clients qualify for a maximum loan of 90 percent and Nedbank clients qualify for a maximum loan of 100 percent, subject to the loan amount applied for and your risk rating.

    * Standard Bank. Of loans of up to R1.5 million Standard Bank offers a maximum loan of 100 percent. The bank also offers loans of 104 percent to first-time buyers who buy a property valued at R1 million or less, if you approach the bank directly and do not go through a bond originator.

    5. GETTING A HOME LOAN

    Your home loan (also known as a mortgage bond, mortgage or bond) is bonded to your property and is registered, together with your title deed documents, at the Deeds Office. It is a secured loan, and the security is the property itself, so if you get into arrears with your repayments, the bank has the right to sell your home to recoup its money.

    The National Credit Act (NCA), which took effect in June 2007, tightened the conditions for getting a loan and shifted more responsibility onto the banks to ensure that the people to whom they grant loans can afford to pay them off.

    Before the NCA, when you applied for a home loan, banks simply looked at your income. The rule of thumb was that your repayments should not exceed 30 percent of your gross income (your total household income before deductions and tax). Now you must provide detailed information about your income and expenditure, and full details of any debts you have.

    Banks will look at your day-to-day expenses. They will also do a credit check. If you are relatively free of debt and/or if they regard you as a low credit risk, you could qualify for a bigger loan or get a better rate on your loan.

    You must provide the following:

    * Identity document;

    * Salary slip;

    * Bank statements for the three months prior to the loan application;

    * Proof of your residential address, as required by the Financial Intelligence Centre Act; and

    * Full details of your household expenses - joint expenses and joint income if you are married.

  • Credit check

    The bank will check your credit information, which is held by the four major credit bureaus: Compuscan, Experian, Transunion and XDS. Each bureau has a credit record on you (to which you have access - you can request one free report a year) containing details about your loans, credit cards, and bank and store accounts, showing how much credit you are using and the total credit available to you.

    Your record will also show if have any adverse listings or judgments against you. A judgment remains on your record for five years.

    Your payment profile is part of your credit record that only credit providers can access and it reflects what type of credit customer you are. For example, you could be recorded as a "slow payer", even though you have not actually missed any payments.

    Banks look mainly at how you are paying off your credit, but your credit extension limits are also taken into account.

  • Interest rate and charges

    The NCA also introduced maximum interest rates and initiation fees on home loans.

    * Interest rate. The maximum interest rate you can be charged is the repo rate (currently 5.5 percent) multiplied by 2.2 plus five percentage points (17.1 percent a year at current rates). However, most people qualify for a loan at around the bank prime rate (currently nine percent). People regarded as very low risk (high earners with low debt and a good credit record) may get one percentage point below prime, while those seen as high risk may be charged up to six percentage points above prime, or 15 percent.

    * Bond initiation fee and monthly service fee. The NCA sets the maximum initiation fee at R1 000 plus 10 percent of the amount of the loan over R10 000, capped at R5 000 excluding VAT. The bank will also charge a monthly service fee of no more than R50, excluding VAT (see "Bank charges on home loans", below).

    * Property evaluation fee. This is included in the initiation fee. The bank sends a property valuer, who verifies that the value of the property provides sufficient security against the loan. Note that the valuer does not necessarily inspect the structural condition of the building, and the bank cannot be held liable for any structural defects.

  • Pre-approval

    You can formally apply for a home loan only once your offer to purchase has been accepted by the seller. However, while searching for a home you can obtain pre-approval for a loan of a certain amount from a bank or through a bond originator. This will narrow down your range of properties to view and should strengthen your position as a buyer.

    Note that pre-approval does not guarantee you a loan. And although banks may do a thorough assessment before granting a pre-approved amount, this may differ from the final amount granted.

    Praven Subbramoney, head of pricing, product, marketing and customer experience, FNB Home Loans, says: "The pre-approved amount is highly dependent on the information declared upfront by the customer. Very often, customers tend to omit expenses, which will affect their affordability and, by implication, the loan amount they are approved for. Eventually, when a customer does sign an offer to purchase and more comprehensive information is provided by the customer or sourced on behalf of the customer, the expenses are adjusted and the loan amount is revised accordingly. This can unfortunately lead to discrepancies between pre-approval and final loan amounts."

  • Term of loan

    The standard term for first-time buyers is 20 years. However, when homes became less affordable to first-time buyers, the banks began offering 25- and 30-year home loans.

    On a longer repayment period, you don't pay a great deal less a month, but you pay far more in interest overall. For example, assuming a nine-percent rate, on a R900 000 loan your monthly repayments will be R8 097 over 20 years and R7 241 (a difference of only R856) over 30 years. Over 20 years the total interest paid will amount to R1 043 408; over 30 years, it will be R1 706 977, a hefty R663 569 more.

    If a longer-term loan is your only option, it is advisable to restructure it at a later stage, reducing the term, when you are able to afford higher repayments.

  • Types of loans

    The banks offer various types of home loans. The main features are:

    * Variable loan. This gives you access to excess capital you have paid into the home loan account to use for other purposes.

    * Fixed-rate versus variable-rate loan. On a standard loan, your interest rate varies in line with the prevailing prime rate. On a fixed-rate loan, your rate is fixed for a certain period.

    With interest rates at a 38-year low, having a fixed-rate bond is an attractive proposition, Goslett says. Generally, the fixed rate is between 1.5 and two percentage points above the prime rate, he says. This means the fixed rate will provide a buffer if there is a sharp hike before the contract term is over. "However, given the current economic conditions," he says, "it is highly unlikely that the interest rate will increase dramatically over the next five years, and it is more likely to stay fairly steady or increase marginally."

    Fixed-rate agreements are generally for a period of between two and five years. You may incur a penalty if you cancel the agreement early.

  • Bank or bond originator?

    You can either apply directly to a bank for a home loan or you can use a bond originator. Bond originators can save you a lot of trouble and time by gathering your documentation and approaching the banks on your behalf, with a view to getting you a favourable rate. They will disclose to you all offers from all the lenders they have approached.

    Note that not all originators approach all lenders. Also note that the deal may not necessarily be better than if you approach the banks yourself.

    Bond originators earn commission from the lenders, so there is no cost to you. Unlike financial advisers, they have no obligation to disclose their commission to you.

    If your offer to purchase is subject to your obtaining a bond, the seller may prefer that you go through a bond originator to expedite the sale.

    6. THE OFFER TO PURCHASE

    Once you have found a property you want to buy, you submit an offer to the seller, through the estate agent, in an offer to purchase.

    It's important to note that the offer to purchase, usually a standard document, once signed by both the buyer and the seller, becomes a binding contract that sets out the terms of the sale. The document may contain clauses that do not suit you, and you may want to amend it or add conditions. It is therefore vital that you read and understand the document thoroughly before signing it, and that the estate agent, who may be anxious to secure the sale, does not pressurise you into signing something you do not fully understand. You also have the right to take a copy of the offer to purchase to a lawyer to check it over before you sign it.

    According to Goslett, the more specific the offer to purchase is, the better. If all aspects of the sale have been covered, he says, there will be very little room for either the buyer or seller to contest anything later.

    Apart from the offer amount, the most important aspects of the offer to purchase are:

    * Conditional or "subject to" clauses. You can make the contract conditional on certain events or actions. If you are taking out a home loan, you must make sure that the contract is subject to your being granted a loan. It is common to set a time period on this clause - it can vary from seven to 60 days.

    * 72-hour clause. A 72-hour clause, often included, allows the seller to look for an alternative buyer even after accepting your offer, if the offer is subject to conditions such as the approval of a home loan. If the seller accepts another offer, you will have 72 hours to fulfil the conditions.

    * Fixtures and fittings. Most offers to purchase state that the property is sold with its fixtures and fittings. These are items that are permanently attached to the property and include built-in cupboards and light fittings. However, sellers and buyers may disagree on what is permanent, so if there is a fixture you want included in the sale, you should identify it. Similarly, the seller may identify an item he or she would like to remove from the property.

    * Voetstoots clause. Offer-to-purchase agreements include a voetstoots clause, which means you agree to buy the property "as is", with its latent defects (see "Dealing with defects", below).

    * Occupation and possession. The dates of occupation and possession are usually included in the offer to purchase. Ideally, the date you take occupation should be the same as the date of possession (when the property is transferred into your name). If you move into the home before it officially becomes yours, you will be charged occupational rent for the interim period until the date of transfer. Similarly, if the seller has not moved out by the date of possession, you can charge him or her occupational rent. The rate, which must be included in the offer to purchase, is usually set at a market-related rental.

    * Repairs or renovations. If you want the seller to repair defects or finish any renovations before you take possession, you should make this a condition in the offer to purchase.

    All amendments to the contract must be signed by you the buyer, the seller and the estate agent. Once the offer to purchase has been accepted by the seller, and both buyer and seller have signed it, it becomes the sale agreement or "deed of sale". If not accepted by the seller by a certain deadline, the document becomes null and void.

    If you renege on the deal after the seller has accepted your offer and signed it, the seller can sue you for damages, including the estate agent's commission.

    For an example of a standard offer-to-purchase document and what it entails, you can download one free of charge at www.freelegaldocs.co.za

  • Cooling-off period

    You are entitled to a cooling-off period of five working days if the property you are buying is selling for R250 000 or less. According to the Land Alienation Act of 1981, during this period you have the right to withdraw your offer to purchase without incurring any penalties. Under the new Consumer Protection Act (CPA), you may have the right to a five-day cooling-off period regardless of the selling price under certain conditions (see "The CPA and buying property", below).

  • The seller's obligations

    * The seller must provide you, the buyer, with an electrical compliance certificate. This certificate, paid for by the seller, is issued by a registered contractor and verifies that the property's electrical installations are in order.

    * You can also request an entomologist (beetle) certificate, which states that the property is free of certain pests, such as wood-borer beetle. For older houses in coastal areas, it is customary to include this requirement in the offer to purchase.

    * You can also request a plumber's certificate, which verifies that the property's water installations are in order. This is a compulsory requirement for the City of Cape Town.

    * The seller must have moved out by your occupation date, preferably leaving the home in an acceptable condition for you to move in. On leaving the property in an acceptable condition, Seeff says: "In law there is no such obligation on the seller, but it can be negotiated by the parties and made a term of the offer to purchase."

    7. DEALING WITH DEFECTS

    There are two types of defects: ones that are clearly visible on a normal inspection of the property (patent defects) and underlying ones that cannot be ascertained on a normal inspection and that the seller may or may not know about (latent defects).

    Defects the seller knows about must be disclosed to you before you sign the offer to purchase. In reality though, it can be difficult to prove whether a seller knew of a defect or not, or that he or she deliberately misled you.

    The voetstoots clause in the sale agreement protects the seller from being liable for latent defects.

    But the CPA puts an onus on the agent to ensure that the seller discloses defects (see "The CPA and buying property"). Many agents now compile detailed disclosure reports to be incorporated in sale agreements, so that there can be no dispute later.

    By taking the initiative, you, the buyer, can avoid a lot of trouble and expense later. Thoroughly inspect the property. If you suspect latent defects, or even if you don't, hire a qualified professional to do an inspection and submit a report.

    8. RISK COVER

    * Homeowner's insurance. If you take out a home loan, you are required to have homeowner's insurance, which covers the property and the permanent structures on it. This differs from householder's insurance, which covers your home contents.

    The bank providing you with the home loan will probably encourage you to take out homeowner's insurance with its affiliated insurer. You are entitled to take out insurance with an external insurer of your choice, but if you do, some banks, although not exceeding the NCA limit of R57, will charge a higher monthly bond administration fee.

    On sectional title properties, the body corporate is responsible for insurance on the property as a whole. The homeowner's insurance is included in your levy.

    * Life assurance. This is normally, though not always, required to cover the loan in the event of your death. If you have an existing life policy you can cede it to the bank for the duration of the loan, or you can take out a separate home loan protection policy.

    9. ONCE-OFF COSTS

    Apart from the agreed purchase price, you must pay property transfer, bond initiation and bond registration costs, as well as some lesser costs (see "Table: once-off fixed costs"; link at the end of this article).

    * Transfer duty. On a property of more than R600 000, you have to pay a tax (transfer duty) based on the purchase price. You do not pay transfer duty if you buy from a registered VAT vendor and the sale is part of the seller's business activities - for example, if you buy from a developer or at an auction - but you pay VAT, which you don't otherwise. You are still liable for conveyancing and bond registration fees.

    * Conveyancing fees, which are charged by the transfer attorney.

    * Bond initiation fee (see "Bank charges on home loans", below).

    * Bond registration fees, which are charged by the bond attorney. Sometimes banks, as a special offer to attract clients, will reduce or waive your liability for these fees.

    * Deeds Office transfer and bond registration levies, charged by the Deeds Office.

    * Pro rata municipal rates and clearance certificate. A variable cost. Most municipalities require between four and six months' rates paid upfront. You must also pay for a rates clearance certificate.

    * Sectional title insurance certificate. On a sectional title property, you may have to provide the bank with a certificate showing that the property is insured. The policy is issued to the body corporate and the certificate will cost you about R500.

    * Sectional title levy clearance certificate. You need to get this from the trustees to show that the seller's levies have been paid up to a certain date. There is normally a fee for the certificate.

    * Occupational rent. Another variable cost. If you move in before the transfer date, you will be charged at the rate stipulated in the offer to purchase.

    10. THE LEGAL PROCESS

    If you are buying an existing home with a bond from a seller who has a bond, three sets of attorneys are involved, although a single attorney may carry out more than one function:

    1. Transfer attorney (appointed by the seller, although this can be negotiated): arranges transfer of the property into the buyer's name through the Deeds Office; pays pro rata rates to the municipality and obtains a rates clearance certificate; pays transfer duty; arranges for the payment of occupational rent;

    2. Bond attorney (normally appointed by your bank, but again open to negotiation): registers your bond through the Deeds Office; and

    3. Cancellation attorney (appointed by the seller's bank): cancels the seller's bond.

    The Deeds Office - there is one in each province - holds the following documents:

    * A full description of the property;

    * The current deed of sale on the property;

    * Full details of the current owner; and

    * Full details of the bond on the property.

    When a property is sold, a new deed of sale is required. Ownership is transferred to the buyer, the current home loan on the property is cancelled, with the amount owing on the bond deducted from proceeds of the sale, and the new owner's bond is registered with the property.

    The municipality will require a pro rata amount for rates, which may include charges for water and sewerage. It will then issue a rates clearance certificate.

  • Step-by-step

    The process is as follows (the information has been condensed from that on the Standard Bank website):

    Step 1. Your signed offer to purchase is accepted and signed by the seller, and the document becomes a binding "deed of sale".

    Step 2. If a deposit is required, it should be paid into an interest-bearing trust account, preferably that of the transfer attorney. Do not pay your deposit to any other party, such as the seller, or directly to the agent. Make sure you find out your interest rate and what protection is offered and that you get a receipt.

    Step 3. Apply directly to your bank or through a bond originator for a bond. They will need a copy of the offer to purchase and all the documents listed in point 5, and will then do a credit assessment and a property valuation.

    Step 4. On approval, the bank sends you a grant quotation notifying you that the bond has been approved. If you are using a bond originator, the bank will notify the bond originator directly. You have five days to accept the bank's offer, once you receive it.

    Step 5. The bank appoints an attorney to register your bond and the seller appoints a transfer attorney. The title deed and bond cancellation figures are requested from the seller's bank. A rates clearance certificate is requested from the municipality.

    Step 6. The transfer and bond attorneys require you to sign the documents at their offices. You must pay in full the transfer and bond registration fees and the pro rata municipal rates. Payments to the Deeds Office and municipality are handled by the attorneys.

    Step 7. After the transfer, bond registration and bond cancellation documents have been signed by buyer and/or seller and the costs paid, the documents are prepared by the respective attorneys for lodging with the Deeds Office.

    Step 8. The documents are lodged at the Deeds Office by arrangement with all the attorneys. The Deeds Office takes two to three weeks to check the documents before they are ready for registration.

    Step 9. Your bond is registered and the property transferred into your name. The seller's bond is cancelled and settled. Funds are paid to the relevant parties, with your bank paying over the bond amount.

    Allow about three to four months for the registration of your bond and transfer of ownership.

    Delays could be caused by, among other things: you or the seller not providing all the necessary information or bank details; a hold-up in the transfer attorney obtaining a rates clearance certificate; a delay in you paying your deposit or your transfer and/or bond costs; and you or the seller delaying signing the transfer and/or bond documents.

    BANK CHARGES ON HOME LOANS

    * Absa. Absa's initiation fee is 10 percent of the value of the loan to a maximum of R5 700, including VAT. If you apply for a further advance (say, for renovations) no further fee applies. The monthly fee is R34.20 for MyHome home loans and R57 for all other home loans. Customers with a new Value Bundle current account qualify for cash back of up to R20 a month on their Absa home loan account.

    * First National Bank (FNB). FNB's initiation fee is a flat R5 700, including VAT, on all home loans. The monthly administration fee is R57.

    * Nedbank. The initiation fee for all first-time home loans is R5 700, including VAT. Nedbank's monthly service fee is R47 for a client with Nedbank homeowner's insurance and R57 for a client with external insurance.

    * Standard Bank. The initiation fee on all home loans is R5 700, including VAT. The monthly administration fee is R51, including VAT.

    THE CPA AND BUYING PROPERTY

    The Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which came into effect in April 2011, has wide implications for the property industry in terms both of improved rights for consumers buying property and more onerous demands on estate agents, developers and sellers.

    Two aspects that affect you as a buyer relate to the cooling-off period and the voetstoots clause.

    Says Bill Rawson of Rawson Properties: "There have been several high-level conferences on [the CPA], one of which, addressed by senior Estate Agency Affairs Board managers, indicated that it will change the whole way in which property is marketed, will make the voetstoots clause redundant and will put estate agents as part of the supply chain. Others have said that there will be little change and that the Code of Conduct to which all estate agents sign agreement, if observed, covers the full spectrum of the CPA. Only court cases (in the next few years) will clarify matters."

  • Cooling-off period

    The CPA may allow you a cooling-off period when you buy any property directly marketed to you by an estate agent, Claire McGee, an attorney with Shepstone & Wylie, says, regardless of its price. Direct marketing is when an agent approaches you directly, rather than you responding to an advertisement.

    McGee says that, in the case of direct marketing, the Act gives you the right to cancel the sale within five working days of taking occupation of the property.

    This would mean having to reverse the property transfer and claw back the entailed costs, which could involve protracted litigation. However, you may be more successful in claiming a cooling-off period of five days within signing the offer to purchase, as is currently the case with properties of less than R250 000.

  • Voetstoots clause

    Jaco Rademeyer of Jaco Rademeyer Estates in Port Elizabeth, who has an LLB focusing on contract law, is of the view that the CPA does not cover the deed of sale between the seller and buyer, as this is a once-off transaction and is not conducted in the stipulated "ordinary course of business". Therefore, he says, the voetstoots clause, which eliminates the seller's liability for latent defects, is excluded from the Act.

    "You, the buyer, may contest latent defects, but the burden of proof is on you to show that the seller knew of, or intentionally concealed the defect, which makes it an extremely difficult case to win."

    Nevertheless, Rademeyer says, the CPA makes it impossible for developers and estate agents to rely on the voetstoots clause to exclude their liability for defects.

    Martin Hesse
    Personal Finance magazine

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