Offers to purchase should never be rushed
Property buyers should never allow themselves to be hurried into signing an offer to purchase, even if they’re very keen to buy a particular property.

That’s the advice of Dr Willie Marais, national president of the Institute of Estate Agents (IEASA), who says it is vital that buyers read every clause in an offer to purchase and make sure they understand them all before putting pen to paper.

“Buyers should be very wary of any agent or seller who tries to persuade them to quickly sign an offer before they lose out to a competing purchaser or the property is withdrawn from the market.

“This applies especially to first-time buyers who, it appears, are often also told that if they change their minds after they sign an offer they can simply make use of the ‘cooling-off clause’ to withdraw from the deal.”

The unfortunate truth, Marais says, is that with little experience of property transactions, they may not know enough to properly secure their right to “cool off”, or how to exercise it if they do have second thoughts.

All buyers should be aware that it is a requirement of the estate agents’ Code of Conduct for an agent to identify and explain the “material” clauses of any offer to purchase, to the homebuyer as well as the seller.

These include those clauses dealing with:

* The purchase price of the property and its method of payment;

* The occupation date and any occupational interest payable;

* The specific contractual obligations of the seller or buyer – such as the procurement of an Electrical Certificate of Compliance;

* Any conditions such as the buyer’s ability to secure a home loan or need to first sell another property;

* The amount of sales commission and when it is payable;

* The condition of the property (“voetstoots”);

* The date when risk in the property will pass to the buyer; and

* Any special conditions added to the agreement by either party.

“However, given the history of property ownership in South Africa, reputable agents accept that they have an even greater responsibility to protect buyers, especially when it comes to offers to purchase, and they will take the time to go through the whole document and explain anything that is unclear.

“Indeed, those agents who can’t or won’t do this should be given a wide berth by buyers – no matter how appealing the property or ‘urgent’ the sale.”

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