Tips for sectional title property buyers

The demand for sectional title homes in the Cape Town area is increasing, and the CBD is proving to be particularly popular among buyers due to the convenience and accessibility of location, says David Rebe, chief executive of Sandak-Lewin Property Trust.

He says that sectional title living has grown in popularity over the last decade for various reasons including heightened security concerns, increasing maintenance costs of private homes and Capetonians opting to live close to their places of work.

Rebe offers some tips for prospective buyers looking for sectional title properties.

- Meet with one or more banks or mortgage originators to obtain pre-approval on a bond before you begin the actual house hunting. Before meeting with the banks ensure that your credit record is in good condition, and that any outstanding debt is accounted for. This will determine the value of the bond that you qualify for and will give you an advantage over potential buyers who don’t yet have loan approval.

- Buying the smallest home in a popular block in a good area rather than the biggest on a less popular or favoured street will reap big rewards when you choose to sell the property. This is because often the smallest property in the neighbourhood sells for a better price than in a less popular area, as its value is increased by the price of the neighbouring properties. Buying in areas with a history of strong tenant demand is an indication that the area is popular and it shouldn’t be a struggle to let it or sell when the time comes.

- Buyers of sectional title property are entitled to copies of the scheme’s financial statements. It is crucial to ensure that the financials of the sectional title scheme are not showing signs of discrepancy or debt. Analyse the financial statements of the body corporate carefully to ensure that the building is well managed and financially stable. This will reveal how healthy the savings balance is, the number of creditors looming and whether you are about to buy a share of debt already incurred.

- Investigate whether the building is being run correctly. The success or failure of sectional title schemes depends to a large extent on the body corporate trustees and their managing agent. It’s important to research the body corporate and managing agents to establish whether they are running the property properly.

- The body corporate and managing agent are jointly responsible for administrative and financial systems and are in charge of the physical management of the scheme. The managing agent provides the body corporate with regular financial and management information, helps with decision making, payment of body corporate accounts and managing maintenance and repair projects.

- Have the property surveyed to establish the condition of the building and if there are any structural problems that may cause trouble in the future. Should problems with the property be discovered before the sale is finalised, you will have a powerful reason for negotiating the price down or asking the seller to fix the problems. If the problems are not identified before the property is sold, some of these problems, and essentially costs, can become your problem.

- Familiarise yourself with the body corporate conduct rules. Management rules will include information on administration, accounting, insurance, election of trustees and levies systems. Conduct rules apply to the day-to-day conduct of owners and occupiers, such as keeping of pets, the number of occupants allowed in unit, parking, waste disposal, washing lines and appearance of the building. These rules include information on whether owners and tenants are allowed to sublet for short term periods.

“Buying a property is a long-term investment, and the initial research into a property must be conducted before making a decision, as it will ensure that the sectional title scheme you are buying into will ultimately be a good investment in the long run,” says Rebe.

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