BUYING GUIDE STEP 8 - INSPECTING YOUR PROSPECTIVE HOME


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As a buyer, you are entitled to know exactly what you are getting. Don't take for granted what you see. Even your most professional and diligent agent can get things wrong. Inspecting your possible future home is an important part of the process.

Perform the Inspection Yourself
Using a Professional Service
Electrical Compliance Certificates
Beetle Infestations
Electrical Fencing Certificates

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PERFORMING THE INSPECTION YOURSELF                                                                                          Top
 
Most buyers are quite happy inspecting their potential home themselves and if the house is relatively new, this does not pose a problem at all. Where a home is quite old, there might however just be problem beginning to creep in that a prospective buyer must look for.
 
Buying a house is probably one of the largest investments you’ll ever make. It is very important that you properly inspect any house you consider purchasing so that you know the exact condition of the property. By doing this you will not be surprised by costly repairs found to be necessary after you’ve purchased the property.
 
Take the time to look around properly and do not be embarrassed in opening all cupboards, peeking under the sink or asking a myriad of questions. Do the inspection systematically using the Inspection Checklist we have provided and you should be fine.
 
If you feel you just do not have enough knowledge, why not bring a friend or acquaintance along that can help. It is your right to ensure you are getting what you pay for

property network green lineUSING AN PROFESSIONAL SERVICE                                                                                                   Top
 
An professional inspection is an opportunity to have an expert look closely at the property you are considering purchasing and getting both an oral and written opinion as to its condition. Professional inspectors will inspect the property and present you with a detailed report of their findings.

Comprehensive inspections will take 2 to 4 hours. The price of an inspection depends on the size of the property but is usually in the region of R2000 – R5000.
This is quite a new practice in South Africa but is being used by more and more buyers insisting on a proper investigation as part of the deal. A costsly exercise though if you do not end up taking the property.

In certain cases, a professional inspection is payable by the seller and forms part of the conditions of contract. Remember though, that you have to demand an inspection when you present your offer. It must be written in as a contingency; if you do not approve the inspection report, then you don't buy.

Do remember that sellers might be a little hesitant about accepting an offer, subject to you first getting an inspection and then being happy with the report, as this opens a loophole for the buyer to walk out for the smallers of reasons. It is best to ensure your agent words the contract clearly so that withdrawal is only allowed for instance for roof leaks, foundational problems or other serious matters.


For your own safety make sure the report will be done by a business registered with SASHI (South African Society of Home Inspections). Why not also go along with the inspector during inspection. This gives you a chance to ask questions about the property and get answers that are not biased. In addition, the oral comments are typically more revealing and detailed than what you will find on the written report. Once the inspection is complete, review the inspection report carefully.

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ELECTRICAL INSPECTION                                                                                                               Top
 
The issue of an Electrical Compliance Certificate, with effect from from 1 May 2009, is covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act No 85 of 1993 which is administered by the Department of Labour. Initially established for workplace safety but has been extended to residential dwellings.
 
In short, before a home is marketed or sold, a complete inspection of all electrical installations is required by law. In terms of this act, property owners are ultimately liable to ensure that ECCs are obtained, that they are legal and that they have been issued by an appropriately qualified electrician. The Electrical Installation Regulations specify that any owner, user or lessor of a building with an electrical installation should be in possession of a valid ECC. 

To obtain an ECC, the electrical installation of a property should be tested to determine whether it is safe and complies with the current regulations.  The ECC assures a consumer or homebuyer that the electrical installations on a property or work performed on those installations, comply with the current regulations and that the required technical standards have been verified by an appropriately qualified and registered electrical worker.

All homebuyers are entitled to a valid ECC.  The certificate is an important part of the property transaction process.  Failure to ensure that a valid ECC is available could compromise the safety of individuals and property and could result in unexpected and costly electrical repairs as well as severe insurance implications.

An ECC remains valid, and becomes transferable upon the sale of the property, if there are no alterations or additions to the electrical installation.  The certificate should be retained by the purchaser to hand to the next purchaser when the property is again sold.  If any alterations were made, a new ECC would have to be issued for the additional alteration after a re-inspection of the electrical installations by an accredited person in terms of the Act.

It is however common practice for the seller to obtain a new ECC even where no alterations or additions to the existing electrical installations have been effected since the issue of a previous certificate. Buyers should insist on this or at the very least, a certificate no older than six months.

Ensure your Offer to Purchase includes the necessary clause to accommodate this. Also ensure that any repairs costs necessary for compliance are for the seller’s account.
 
Additional notes for the purchaser:
  • An electrical inspection is not done to check that things work. It is done to ensure the reasonable safety of the installation.
  • Many complaints/disputes can be avoided if a more detailed Offer to Purchase is completed.
  • An important point to note is that, unless specified elsewhere in the Sale Agreement, fixed appliances, anything off a plug top, extension cord or that plugs in, falls under the “voetstoets” clause and is not covered by the Electrical Compliance Certificate.
  • Pool lamps and other lamps and light bulbs are not covered.
  • A contractor cannot be held responsible for any nuisance tripping which may occur once a faulty earth leakage unit has been replaced or a new one installed or when circuits are restored onto the earth leakage system.
  • In order to prevent unnecessary problems, ensure that the process of obtaining a ECC is completed before commencing any alterations to the property.
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BEETLE INFESTATIONS                                                                                                                      Top
 
Most home purchase agreements do not have clauses that deal with borer beetle purely because 1) We do not have broad use of timber construction and, 2)  we do not have major problems in South Africa and particularly in the Port Elizabeth region. They are however more common in the Western Cape and in KwaZulu Natal.
 
After the agreement is ratified, a borer beetle inspection is arranged. Before the closing can occur, the sellers must be able to produce papers signed by a licensed exterminator stating that the house is free of infestation and that any beetle damage has been repaired.
 
There are however certain suburbs and areas that are prone to borer beetle and your agent will be able to advise you on this. The banks too generally have areas tagged in which they will insist on a borer beetle inspection being done. If your intended home of course has major timber structural elements then it will be worth your while to insist.
 
Additionally, most beetle certificates only guarantee that the premises are free from certain types of beetle (e.g. oxypleuris beetle), but exclude other common infestations such as furniture beetle. It is sometimes wise for the Purchaser to insist on a certificate guaranteeing the absence of all beetles.
 
Sectional Title Units
 
Beetle certificates are usually not required where the property is a Sectional Title unit. In many sectional title properties, the section consists of the inside of the unit up to the middle of the containing walls, floors and ceilings.
 
Beetles infest the wood in a building especially the roof trusses. The unit, which the owner is responsible for, therefore excludes the roof trusses and the body corporate is responsible for beetle damage. But remember, the owner is a member of the body corporate, and is therefore responsible for a portion of the body corporate's expenses anyway!
 
Some sectional title properties include the roof space in the unit and it would therefore be wise to consider a beetle certificate for such units in areas where wood beetles are a problem. Check who is responsible for the roof space before signing!
 
General
 
Before you sign an agreement to buy or sell a home, you should read the borer beetle clause and be sure that you understand it. Who selects the exterminator and pays for the inspection? If bugs are found, who pays for the treatment? Are the sellers obligated to repair any damage and have they placed a limit of the amount they will spend on those repairs? If treatment is required, the buyers may want a chance to discuss the options with the pest control company, especially if someone in the family is sensitive to the chemicals used to control the termites. Ask about the exterminator's guarantees or service contract options.


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ELECTRICAL FENCING INSTALLATIONS                                                                                                    Top
 
Fairly recent legislation now requires a seller to provide a certificate of compliance for electrical fence installations as well. These fall under the same set of laws as normal electrical certificates and only registerd service providers may issue the certificates.


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