Dream home or house of horrors?

15 Feb 2012

Are you about to buy a house? Be sure it’s a dream home rather than a house of horrors. Before you sign a purchase agreement or any disclosure documents, ask yourself: 

According to Eric Bell of Inspect-a-Home, disclosure documents ask buyers to sign off on a number of key areas, including roofing, geyser condition, wiring, and damp.

Do I have to sign?

Many new property owners are told that they must sign disclosure documents stating that the property is in good working order before a sale can be completed. 

While some estate agents might insist that disclosure documents are compulsory, this is simply not the case. By law, you are not required to sign these documents. 

If you do, and you end up with a house which needs unexpected repair work, you will have no recourse with the estate agent. 

It looks good so it is good, right?

Can you truly estimate the condition of a property through a surface evaluation? Can the seller? The answer is ‘no’. 

According to Eric Bell of Inspect-a-Home, disclosure documents ask buyers to sign off on a number of key areas, including roofing, geyser condition, wiring, and damp. 

Unless you are a structural engineer or qualified building inspector, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to identify latent property defects. 

Disclosure documents can be misleading and ambiguous. For example, a newly painted house is not necessarily a sound house – surface impressions may mask underlying problems that only arise months after a purchase has been made. 

By signing disclosure documents, you sign away your right to damage claims, making any required repairs your problem. 

What should I do?

Ask an expert. You inspect your car before purchasing it, why not your house? 

In the US, not only do the seller and the buyer use separate realtors, investing in the services of a reputable building inspector is standard practice when buying a property. 

In South Africa, some estate agents might push buyers to sign documents before or without an inspection in order to secure a quick sale and the resulting commission. 

Inspecting the property you want before buying it is a must and Inspect-a-Homehas the following tips for homebuyers: 

  • Inspections must take place beforeany sales agreement is signed.
  • Inspections should be undertaken by an accredited inspector.
  • Inspections should include a comprehensive report on the interior and exterior of the property.
  • There are currently a number of cases about property defects in court. These can be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating. Avoid them by being clear about the condition of the property you are buying.
  • Despite what some estate agents might assume, inspections do not kill sales. In fact, they might ensure a smoother sale for both the seller and the buyer.

It is important to make an informed decision about your property purchase to ensure you get your dream house.

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