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Get a home inspection before you buy

Nov 2, 2020

Get a home inspection before you buySo you’ve finally found your dream home and are ready to put in an offer. Before you dive in, be sure that you conduct a home inspection.

This is according to Marius Steyn, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam. Steyn suggests including a clause in your offer that it is subject to stipulated repairs being carried out.

“Your insurer is only responsible for damages that occur after the date of registration of your new home at the deeds office, not for any prior problems. This means you need to have any issues addressed by the seller, as a condition of your offer. Otherwise, these could become big issues down-the-line.”

You need to know your property is structurally sound, safe, damage free and up to code. Remember, you are fully entitled to include a home inspection clause in your contract, which makes your offer conditional on a home inspection being conducted and the property being found to be in a satisfactory state.

However, it’s worth noting that including this clause can sometimes make an offer less desirable for a seller – especially one who knows there are things that need fixing!

Here are five areas of the home to potentially focus on:

  1. The geyser. Have the geyser inspected by a registered plumber in order to establish the general condition and its adherence to regulatory requirements. The general replacement cost of a standard-sized geyser is around R 8 500. If it bursts or leaks,it has the potential to wreck a room, so you need to be sure you’re getting one in tip-top condition.
  2. The roof. Are the tiles cracked? Have the roof inspected by a registered builder to determine its general condition. The state of a roof and gutters can indicate a lot about the general maintenance of the home as a whole.
  3. The ceiling. Most ceilings are hiding secrets. Look especially carefully for mould, or maybe fresh paint jobs to hide said mould or damp.
  4. The garden. If this is lush and green, be careful. How much will you need to spend to maintain it? Is it drought friendly, given ongoing water issues in certain parts of SA?
  5. Electrical wiring. It is the responsibility of the seller to get an electrical clearance certificate, so any electrical issues should be identified during this process, and the seller would be obliged to rectify these.

Steyn advises getting a professional to do a home inspection and also taking a family member or friend along, who has experience and knowledge in spotting potential structural problems.

First-time buyers should note a few insurance considerations:

  1. Make sure you get homeowners insurance (this covers the building) and house contents insurance (this cover the contents within your home) a few days prior to moving in. Your first seven days in a new house are when you’re most vulnerable, because you’re usually still figuring out security and all your things are in boxes. So make sure your insurance is already in place. You can also request to have certain security features installed before moving in – especially those that are essential to meet your insurer’s stipulated conditions, such as burglar bars, an alarm, etc.
  2. Make sure your home contents insurance is adequate and fully covers the current replacement value of all your items.
  3. Remember you have a duty of care as the policyholder. Should a theft occur, you need to do everything you can to limit the damage, so ensure your front door is fixed and secure if it was damaged through forced entry, for example. Additionally, report any items stolen to the police and your insurer. With the approval of your insurer you do have a prescribed time to do a proper inventory of everything taken.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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