To avoid future disappointment, buyers should consider a property inspection before signing on the dotted line…

Property InspectionsFew property buyers are structural, electrical or construction engineers, which means that most people looking at properties for sale would be unable to spot serious structural problems or other common defects such as damp or water damage during an informal walk through.

Defects are generally classified as patent or latent defects. Patent defects are clearly visible to anyone inspecting the property. For example, a leaking roof would be evidenced by water damage to the ceilings and walls. Latent defects are not obvious during an inspection (e.g. a faulty plumbing system).

“Hence, many home buyers rely on estate agents who are bound by the industry code of ethics to do a proper visual inspection and the seller to act in good faith by disclosing any defects,” says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

While the new Consumer Protection Act, once implemented, may affect the application of the “voetstoots” clause in standard sales contracts, the clause currently protects sellers against liability for latent defects that existed at the time of sale.

“If the property was sold ‘voetstoots’ or ‘as is’, the buyer does not have any recourse against the seller if defects are uncovered after the sale, unless the buyer can prove that the seller not only knew about the latent defect, but also deliberately concealed it. In such a case, the buyer could institute a legal process to have the sales contract declared null and void and the seller would have to refund the purchase price,” says Goslett. “Clearly, this is likely to be a costly, drawn out process which may not result in the buyer getting back all the money paid.

“Given this reality, homebuyers should consider a property inspection before concluding the sale, particularly if the home is very old or they have reason to suspect that there may be latent defects,” advises Goslett.

A professional home inspector will inspect the structural soundness of the home, check the plumbing and the geyser, investigate the causes behind patent defects such as damp and cracked walls, and uncover any safety hazards. A full report is then provided, detailing the problems, possible remedies and even the costs involved. Such a report provides the home buyer with an objective assessment of the condition of the home, provides an estimate of repair costs and future maintenance costs to allow the buyer to make an informed decision and eliminates surprises after the sales has been concluded.

“Only use an inspector registered with the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI). These inspectors have the necessary training as well as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance and subscribe to a code of ethics. Also be certain to check that the inspector will do a thorough inspection followed by a detailed report, instead of just a simple ‘checklist’ type of inspection,” suggests Goslett. “If you opt not to have a home inspection done, make sure you work only through a reputable estate agent who will take the time to do a thorough inspection, is experienced enough to spot any defects and will honour the industry’s code of ethics by disclosing all the information he’s aware of to the buyer,” he concludes.

Source: Property At