UPDATE: Covid-19’s property woes subside: Sellers and agents will start seeing proceeds under level 4

Physical show days shift to virtual viewings for buyers

The opening of the Deeds Office means homeowners who sold their homes before lockdown will be able to now receive the proceeds as those deals are processed, estate agents say.

Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV
Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

You can’t visit a new home you want to buy yet, but in level 4 of the lockdown, some property sales may now start being processed.

The opening of the Deeds Office under level 4 means homeowners who sold their homes shortly before the lockdown will be able to now receive the proceeds as those transactions are processed, estate agents say.

Update: New regulations published on Thursday night, 07 May 2020, also allow you to move house between now and Sunday, 7 June.

“This is particularly important for distressed sellers who, in the prevailing economic recession remain indebted and under significant economic pressure from creditors,” Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group, says.

This will also mean estate agents who work largely on a commission-based income, will get paid.

Bryan Biehler, managing director and co-owner of Huizemark, says electronic or digital copies of the original hand-signed signatures will be accepted to get the sales process moving under lockdown. 

Estate agents are not able to take you to view a new home physically, but the practice of showing houses to prospective buyers is shifting from physical show days to digital show houses. 

“Our stats, pulled three weeks into lockdown, show that 52 virtual showhouses took place, with 101 listings, 36 bond applications, 127 appointments scheduled with clients after lock-down and 45 sales,” Biehler says.  

MC du Toit, chief executive of digital property group, BidX1 South Africa, says his company has seen an uptake in buyer interest and activity, including more cash buyers, with more people viewing properties online and even purchasing unseen. 

If you were due to move but were unable to do so due to the lockdown, you will not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until you can take occupation.
Trafalgar MD Andrew Schaefer 

Du Toit says overseas buyers are also bidding on South African properties for sale online and he believes online auctions will now be the most effective method of sale for any property.

Processing delays  

You may be wondering if the processing of your property sale may be delayed.

Conveyancers are back at work to process transfers, but Biehler says all properties currently awaiting registration of transfer in the Deeds Office are likely to be delayed for a minimum of a further six to eight weeks and this may entail having to get extensions on rates clearance certificates. 

“Sellers may find they need to reapply for the clearance certificates, which could take a further two to three weeks and there would be a further rental occupation fee due by the sellers for this extended period,” he says. 

Tenant evictions

Golding says orders to evict tenants may be granted by the courts under level 4 regulations and each case would be determined on its own merits. However, these orders would be suspended and not executed during lockdown level 4. 

Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar, says when it comes to tenants who had been given notice to move because they were already defaulting on their rent, landlords may now be obliged to let them stay on at least until the end of the lockdown period.

“However, if they again don’t pay rent, it is important that the landlord or rental agent keeps reporting this to the credit bureaux and continues to follow the correct legal procedures so that the eviction process can begin promptly after the state of disaster is lifted,” he says.

Schaefer says for tenants who were due to move but were unable to do so due to the lockdown, they will not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until they can take occupation, because these circumstances were beyond their control. 

“The landlord or agent will not be able to let the property to someone else during lockdown, even if it is unoccupied,” he warns. 

Financial arrangements for tenants

Schaefer advises that if quality tenants who have previously always paid rent lose their income due to the lockdown, the landlord could ask them to sign a waiver allowing their deposit to be used as rent instead of it having to be held in trust.

“It would be best if this agreement were drawn up by a professional rental agent and it should also contain a provision that the deposit is to be reinstated, perhaps in instalments, by a certain date, and that the landlord will be able to take legal action if the tenant reneges on this arrangement,” he adds. 

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