Beware of buying a property sight unseen

MAIN IMAGE: Martin Bester, CEO of Peerless Property Management

Staff Writer

Purchasing a property is challenging enough, but even more so if you find yourself in a position of not being able to view a property yourself before buying. It is here where the property practitioner has a major role to play and to act as the eyes of the potential buyer.

Martin Bester, CEO of newly opened property management company in Gqeberha, Peerless Property Management, shares his experience and advice regarding purchasing a property sight unseen.

“As a first option, you may wish to consider renting before buying. Renting allows you to familiarize yourself with an area before making the ultimate decision to buy. However, there are instances where this might not be an option and, in this case, there are ways to view a suburb remotely.”

“There are several tools available to the prospective buyer, such as Google Earth, Google Street View etc., that allow you to view an area without physically travelling there, and many listing sites offer valuable information about an area’s sales trends and amenities. There are other sites and forums available with information such as crime stats, traffic trends, community programs etc., that provide information on a particular area,” says Bester, who holds the designation of Master Practitioner Real Estate and has over 20 years of experience in the property sector.

“Using these tools, but not actually visiting an area in person before making a decision, is not ideal but if one is left with little choice then at least you have been able to get some insights on the bigger picture,” Bester says.

Once the remote homework has been done and you have selected the area that you wish to settle in, you can start searching for properties available within your price range.

Bester cautions that whilst property advertisements include photographs and details of the property, these can be misleading, outdated, or biased – they are, after all, aimed to sell and so will often focus on the good and neglect to reflect and possible flaws or cosmetic and design issues.

“Sales agents and or sellers are doing just that, selling, so the advert should not be only thing a potential buyer relies on. At the very least look at the images and details provided by several different agents for comparative purposes.”

“There are professional companies that undertake unbiased property inspections, but these do attract a cost, so this might not be a viable option if you have several properties to compare. However, if you have settled on a particular property, and are ready to sign on the dotted line, consider this option – it may save you money, time, and disappointment down the line,” advises Bester.

He advises that another option is to suggest, by means of a suspensive, or even resolutive, condition in the offer to purchase, that the transferring attorney retain, in trust, a portion of the sales proceeds for a period of time after the date of occupation, so that you can perform a proper inspection of the property, test all the installations (such as locks, windows, doors, plumbing and electrical) and look out for patent or latent defects not immediately visible or declared in the property condition report. You can then, after negotiation with the seller, have certain issues remedied from the proceeds of the retainer. Moreover, if the seller is confident about the condition of the property, then agreeing to this condition should not be an issue.

He concludes that once the sale of a property is finalised, it is difficult, time-consuming, and costly, to backtrack, and often the issues, if any, found during the 30-day retention period are, relatively, minor to the overall transaction.

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