Do your homework well before buying property

Have you ever bought a property without inspecting it for defects?

Have you ever bought a property without inspecting it for defects?

The excitement of buying your dream home can lead to some nasty shocks later.

After a lengthy search, we often fall in love with our perfect house and neglect to investigate what lies beneath the surface.

Experts say sellers can get away with a myriad of defects by hiding behind the voetstoots clause which is incorporated into all property sale agreements.

Though the law states that estate agents are obliged to inform a buyer of any known defects, unscrupulous agents choose not to hear about faults and are therefore under no pressure to inform a potential buyer.

Heather Briggs of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys property department cautions property buyers to watch the "voetstoots" clause when buying a property and to make sure they inspect it before signing anything.

She says this aptly-named clause is contained in most sale agreements and basically states that the seller does not take any responsibility for any patent (visible) or latent (invisible) defects on the property.

"It is therefore, appropriate that a proper inspection is done prior to signing the sale agreement so that the parties can either agree that the seller will attend to the repairs or agree to a reduced purchase price," says Briggs.

Property experts provide some key elements that you should investigate thoroughly before you even consider signing the offer to purchase.

They say taking the time to get to the bottom of these questions will leave you empowered before you make your final offer:

l Geyser/water pressure - turn on the taps and ask the agent to find out for you how old the geyser is.

l Rugs - are they masking something underneath? Ask the agent if you can lift them and investigate the flooring.

l Damp - is there any obvious evidence? if so, ask for a damp certificate.

l Leakage - rainy days are best for house hunting, particularly if you are looking at older houses, but regardless, ask your agent to find out about this.

l Electrical compliance certificate - it is compulsory for this to be issued.

l What fixtures are included in the sale and what are not (Kreepy Crawly, satellite dish, stove etc).

l Home warranty certificate (this is issued after a professional evaluation of the property prior to purchase). Be advised that there is normally a cost attached to this.

l Cracks in walls could be an indication of a problem with the foundations or land subsidence.

Experts say if you ask these questions, the estate agent is compelled to research all these issues on your behalf in order to provide you peace of mind regarding their new purchase.

After all, buying a house is perhaps the greatest investment that most people will ever make. Be sure that there are no hidden problems to cause you misery and unexpected costs down the line.

So, when looking for your ideal property, experts say you must make sure that you do your homework - rather be safe than sorry.