Some of the questions to ask before buying a home.

Before making an offer on a house, you want to be absolutely sure that it’s “the one.” But with so many options out there, how do you find your perfect match.

  1. Why is the owner selling?

  2. Is there anything you should know about the area, such as informal settlements for example.

  3. Exactly what is included in the sale? Don't assume that the exquisite chandelier will be staying - insist that everything being removed is documented in the sales agreement.  Establish what fixtures and fittings are covered by this question before making an offer on a house.

  4. When did the property go up for sale? Overpriced homes tend to stay on the market for longer than realistically priced homes.

  5. How long have the present owners lived there?

  6. Ask the estate agent what offers have been submitted so far and find out what the status of those offers is.

  7. Has the property repeatedly changed ownership over a relatively short period of time? This is a particularly important question and there are usually very good reasons why a property will change hands more frequently than the norm.

  8. How did the agent decide on the asking price? Buyers should ask for a comparative market analysis to see how the agent and seller determined the price.

  9. What is the minimum price the seller will accept? 

  10. When do the sellers have to move out? Again, this is tremendously important and should be documented along with a stipulated sum of occupational rent if the buyer is planning to move in before transfer takes place.

  11. How old are the appliances and major systems?  Again, understanding the anticipated lifespan of essential systems and appliances, such as the air conditioner, geyser, washer, dryer, and stove, can help you anticipate major repair or replacement expenses. If these items are already at the end of their lifespan or near it, ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, which can help cover the replacement costs in certain instances.  Ask as many questions as possible, as future maintenance of the property will affect your budget. 

  12. Have any renovations been made to the property? If the answer is yes and the work has been completed, have the plans been updated?

  13. Are plans available for the property? It is highly recommended that buyers insist on a clause in the sales agreement in which the seller warrants that municipal plans are in order.

  14. Have any of the rooms been refurbished recently and if so, why?

  15. How old is the roof? Let’s face it: roofs are necessary and expensive. If a home’s roof is at the end of its lifespan and you wind up having to replace it shortly after move-in, you’ll be shelling out thousands of Rands.  If the roof has existing damage, your lender may require that it be repaired in order to approve your loan. In other words, if the listing description doesn’t list the roof’s age, make sure to find out as soon as possible to avoid a costly headache later.

  16. How old is the property?

  17. Can you move the furniture to look underneath?

  18. What are the neighbours like?  Getting the true feel of a neighborhood can be difficult before moving in, but this aspect shouldn’t be overlooked. Ask the estate agent what the neighbors are like. Noisy or quiet? If its a pet-friendly place, are there many barking dogs around?  Are the existing neighbours friendly or more likely to keep to themselves?

  19. What is the neighbourhood like?  You can always change a house and fix things you don’t like, but the neighborhood is there to stay. It’s important that you like the environs you’ll be living in for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.  Its good to know about key information such as community amenities, crime stats, school ratings, and how busy the traffic is where you’ll be living.

  20. Is there traffic/aircraft noise at certain times of the day?

  21. Will the sellers agree to a home inspection? If not, why? A home inspection is not mandatory at this stage, but it is always wise to hire a home inspector before signing a sales agreement. Sellers who object could be doing so because they are aware of major flaws in the home. They will also be aware that if the flaw is serious, it could affect the asking price.

  22. What are the total approximate costs of purchasing the property for the buyer?  What can you expect to pay?

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).