Ensure minor home alternations are approved or face delays when selling

Homeowners considering selling their properties could be in for lengthy delays and costly transfers if their houses are not in order prior to placing them on the market.

Seemingly insignificant or minor alterations which were not submitted to the local council for approval can be major stumbling blocks in the successful and smooth sales of properties.

For instance, do you remember adding on the laundry room when all four of your sons started playing rugby? Do you remember putting up that wooden cabin in the back yard? Or do you remember adding on the sundeck, so that you could enjoy a leisurely summer afternoon?

These memories could come back to haunt you when selling your house – especially if plans for the alterations were not approved by the municipality.

Lin Muir of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, Durban North, warned that homeowners should not be fooled into thinking their local council’s town planning departments were inefficient.

“Experience has shown that municipalities are well aware of which houses are on the market,” she said. “They will either check your records of their own accord, or, when the conveyancer applies for the rates clearance certificate, they will send an inspector to see that all is in order.”

“What this effectively means is that your transfer cannot be registered on time because while you are in the frenzy of moving, you will be trying to get plans drawn, submitted and approved.”

Another costly consideration is that if there is a “mora” clause in your agreement of sale you could find your purchase price diminishing daily by the stated interest rate.

For example; on a R1.5 million house where transfer is delayed for three months and the penalty or mora clause states 12% interest, this would equate to around R60 000 plus the cost of an architect and builder. This cost could escalate further where occupational rental exists.

Common examples of problems include:

  • All extensions carried out without approval from the local authorities
  • Boundary and retaining walls
  • Buildings encroaching building lines or boundaries
  • Sundecks
  • Awnings
  • Sub-standard and/or unsafe structures
  • Plumbing in wooden huts

“It is important to note that additions or alterations carried out by the previous owners are also the responsibility of the current owners,” said Muir.

She said the best way to avoid nasty surprises would be to contact the town planning department of your local municipality before putting your house on the market in order to confirm that the plans they hold in their offices correspond to the buildings on your property.

“If there are discrepancies these can be sorted out before the point where the conveyancer is informed and there is insufficient time to rectify problems prior to the due date of the property transfer,” said Muir.

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