Unfortunately, it can be difficult when unscrupulous sellers use tricks to hide defects. Here are the 10 most common seller tricks, and how you can recognise each one of the issues.
A home may be the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. So it makes sense to do everything possible to ensure you’re making a sound investment.
Painting over problem areas.
Fresh paint itself is not a sign of dishonesty, but it can be used to cover water stains, mould and more. Many honest sellers use paint to update or freshen up walls. Take note if many areas were recently painted and mention that to the home inspector. You can also ask the seller for before-and-after photos.
Choosing to remain in the dark about potential problems are seller tricks.
By law, a seller cannot be held liable for problems he or she didn’t know about. Thus, a seller trick is not to allow home inspections to be performed when it’s time to sell. Another seller trick is not to agree to a reasonable inspection contingency time period. Some will even tell potential buyers they don’t want to know what the home inspection reveals. This is all the more reason to get a thorough home inspection. It’s a small price to pay to ensure you’re making a sound investment.
Wise sellers have their property Move In Certified!
You will probably be selling your house with the “Voetstoots Clause” in the Offer to Purchase. But, if you think you are fully protected against any comebacks for latent defects you are wrong!
Under the law, you have a duty to disclose the defects on the property that you are aware of. Your agent may also point out defects that need to be corrected.
If you don’t disclose those defects you may be liable to pay for the correction of the defects after the property has been sold.
As a home seller, you should have your home “Move-in Certified”! Move-in certified homes sell better, faster and for higher prices!
Besides being a great marketing tool, the seller’s home inspection report is also the “Seller’s Disclosure”. This safeguards you against any later legal action that the buyer may want to bring against you for both latent and patent defects!
Do the wise thing, have your home inspected before you sell it!
Home sellers should prepare for the likelihood of a home inspection in advance. Moreover, getting ready your house ready for a home inspection helps to prevent delays and can prevent surprises. Also, a seller doesn’t need a home inspector breaking fixtures or cause damage because the seller was ill-prepared.
In South Africa, the seller is required by law to providefull disclosure of the condition of the property. However, the buyer usually pays for his or her home inspection.
Whether you’ve decided to produce a seller’s home inspection report for buyers or expecting the buyer’s home inspector to show up for a buyers inspection, the best thing is to be well prepared.
1) Clean the house and swimming pool
You should always try to create a good first impression. Notably, clean homes and pools are an indication of how you maintain the house and property.
Don’t underestimate the importance of making a good impression. Don’t make the mistake of thinking inspectors see past stuff.
2)The Inspector will be on time
You can expect the home inspector to be on time. Therefore, if an inspector makes an appointment with you for 9:30 am, have the house ready for inspection at 9 am.
Be careful with the voetstoots clause! You are not protected from defects by the Consumer Protection Act with the voetstoots clause in an Offer To Purchase unless you are buying from a developer or builder. All the offer’s to purchase I have come across of all from estate agents and lawyers have the voetstoots clause. You can have the estate agent remove the clause but your offer will most likely be rejected!
In certain instances of concealed defects, you have recourse to the law. A legal determination will need to be made as to whether a defect was deliberately concealed or not. This will determine who is liable for costs. This can be expensive!
But you can reduce the risk with the Voetstoots clause if you make yourself aware and do the following:
Voetstoots and Patent and Latent Defects
A patent defect is clearly visible upon inspection. This may include items such as a crack in a wall or window, chipped plasterwork etc. The offer to purchase should clearly state who is responsible for repair or replacement.
A cursory inspection does not easily pick up a latent defect, e.g. a faulty geyser, a damp area concealed behind furniture or fresh paint, or a leaking roof.
Common law states that the seller is responsible for all latent defects for a period of three years from the date of sale.
The seller should supply all warranties and documentation of repairs and maintenance on the transfer of the property. Make sure that you are aware of all patent defects!
The seller and the voetstoots clause
Sellers stipulate that the property is for sale ‘as is’ (“Voetstoots”) in the belief that they can avoid expensive repairs. However, the seller remains responsible for any deliberately concealed latent flaw or defect.
The difficulty arises in that the burden of proof lies with you, the buyer, as to whether the seller knew, or ought to have known of the latent defects. This also determines whether you can cancel the contract, or claim some repayment from the seller.
You and the voetstoots clause
The offer to purchase document or seller’s disclosure should contain all detected faults. The fault records must also state which party will be responsible for repairs.
You can insist on certain guarantees, e.g. under ‘Special Conditions’. For instance, you can stipulate that; “The Seller warrants that the swimming pool on the property is not leaking at the date of signature hereof by him”.
The estate agent (property practitioner) and the voetstoots clause
An important document is the “Seller’s Property Disclosure” which should form part of the offer to purchase. Sellers should disclose problems in the house to the best of their belief and knowledge. However, what the seller “believes” and what is actually true often diverges a lot!
The estate agent is a facilitator and not a party to the contract. Therefore, you can only prosecute an estate agent in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. This applies if the agents ‘supply’ of service was in contravention of the CPA.
If you are unhappy with the service given by the estate agent or estate company, or you suspect that they have violated either the law or the code of conduct governing the industry, it is always better to try and resolve the problem with them first. If you are still not happy you can approach the Estate Agency Affairs Board. The property practitioner’s ombudsman still has to be appointed as required by the Property Practitioners Act.
Protection against the voetstoots clause
With a home inspection report by THE HOME DETECTIVE, you get an accurate, comprehensive description of the true condition of the home you intend to purchase. You, the buyer, the seller, the estate agent and conveyancers can thus be a party to a fair deal.
The cost of the inspection is normally for your account.
When home hunting, most home buyers tend to be so excited that they give no thought to a closer inspection. Before you know you have signed the agreement and the property is yours. But what about all those defects you didn’t see during your first or even second visit.
Although it’s the law that home sellers have to disclose defects, it’s amazing what a coat of paint will hide. You will only start noticing problems six months down the line – when it’s too late for recourse.
Buyers who only complain of defects some months after the transfer has taken place occasionally exasperate sellers and Estate Agents.