You are about to buy a property, how exciting! Maybe this is your first property transaction, or maybe you have already been around the block. The estate agent drops a 30-page document on the desk and says, “don’t fear the long contract, it’s all standard; we use this every day”. You scan through the first page and think, what language is this? It looks like English, but what is an “erection of a permanent nature”? Sounds painful.

In a property transaction, the conveyancing attorney should act as a neutral party, helping the buyer and seller without favouring either. But the contract is signed before the conveyancing attorney is appointed, and by then the rights and obligations of the parties have been agreed. Who was looking out for you in possibly your biggest financial commitment?

Here are our top tips for things you should look out for in the agreement to give you peace of mind:

 

  • Include all the conditions of the sale that you require, even if you must write it in by hand. This can range from making the agreement subject to the bank granting you a loan, to the seller repairing a leak that is causing water damage.

  • Make sure that your deposit is refundable and that it will be invested for your benefit. Though penalty clauses (non-refundable deposit clauses) and rouwkoop clauses (a type of exit clause in terms of which you buy your way out of the contract) is a topic all on its own, they are often incorrectly combined in sales agreements. If the agreement contains a rouwkoop clause, make sure it stands on its own.

  • Must you pay occupational rent if you move in before the transfer takes place, is the rental amount reasonable, and does the contract even explain what that means? You might have to vacate another property by a certain date. If the agreement allows you to take occupation before the date of transfer, you can rest assured knowing that you won’t get stranded if the transaction is delayed.

  • Do your due diligence, a bit of PI work to determine if the property has approved building plans and a valid occupancy certificate can save you lots of headaches in the future.

  • Scrutinise the final statement of account that you receive from the conveyancer. Are you liable for all those costs? Like all attorneys, conveyancers are mere mortals and sometimes make mistakes.

  • Hire us to help you navigate the transaction. Sometimes all you need is a trusty sidekick.