Property buyers' rights and the questions to ask

A buyer of property has rights and is legally protected by the Estate Agency Affairs Board, says Lanice Steward of Knight Frank Residential SA.

When purchasing a property, apart from the more technical aspects of the property, you are entitled to spend as much time viewing the home, said Steward. If various visits are warranted, perhaps at different times of the day or week, then the seller and agent should be accommodating in allocating enough time for the buyer to walk through the home without being rushed. The buyer should not feel embarrassed about asking for additional time to view the house, she said.

In addition to time, the agent should have completed an in-depth listing sheet, which should adequately have answered all the questions regarding the condition of the property, e.g. have there been leaks or has there been any structural change or damage anywhere. This document should form part of the agreement of sale, so that if any dispute should arise, the buyer has documentation which will form part of his Consumer Protection case, if it comes to that, said Steward.

If the buyer is at all concerned about any construction defect, they should call a professional in to check this and allay any concerns or be accurate in their reporting of what could be wrong.

On the more technical side, she said, the buyer should ensure that he knows what the current rates and taxes account amounts are and if buying in a sectional title or HOA run estate, that the financial records are showing a healthy financial situation, as well as no or little chance of a large special levy having to be raised anytime in the near future.

The buyer should check and understand the zoning of the property and in certain areas, the zoning of the neighbours' because there is a possibility with the Council's high density policies, that a property could be zoned for apartments whereas they were once only single or double storey homes.

There are little things that people forget to do, such as flush the toilets to ensure they are working properly, or open taps to check the water pressure. Open cupboard doors to make sure the hinges work, open and close the garage door, etc. and do not feel embarrassed to be pedantic, said Steward.

"You are entering into a financial agreement with a bank for a large sum of money and for up to 25 years, so you should take as much care and time as possible in deciding what to buy. Buyers should take as much care and time in making a decision as they would in deciding what car or cell phone to buy. Many people spend days poring over technical specifications of these pieces of equipment and compare models, and this is often much more time that is spent on making a decision to purchase home," said Steward.

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