Don’t give carte blanche in home deals

It ‘s always good advice never to sign a carte blanche in business dealings – and that also holds true for property consumers signing offers to purchase or sales agreements.

Martin Schultheiss, CEO of the Harcourts Africa real estate group, cautions sellers and buyers never to allow themselves to be persuaded to sign agreements that include blank spaces, no matter what assurances are being given.

“Offers to purchase become legally binding documents once signed by both seller and buyer and any claims that incorrect information was filled in a blank space after signing are very difficult to prove,” he says.

“This leaves the consumer with two expensive options: he can spend a lot of time and money to contest the agreement, with poor prospects of winning his case, or he can knuckle down to the conditions set out in the agreement, which will quite likely also hurt his pocket.”

For instance, he says, a seller could find himself paying costs usually borne by buyers, such as transfer duty and bond registration costs, simply because he initialled blank spaces on the sales agreement in the belief that they would be correctly filled in at a later date.

“Similarly, sellers can become stranded in their sold property if the clause specifying the amount of time a buyer has to sell his own property is left blank. In effect, this would mean that the buyer can take as long as it suits him to sell his existing property, while the seller just has to put up with mounting holding costs and the inconvenience of time delays in buying his own next property.”

Schultheiss further cautions that consumers should be diligent in crossing out any clauses that have no relevance to their transaction and check carefully that the rest of the document has been correctly completed.

“For instance, if the municipal address of the property is incorrect, the Deeds Office will refuse to register transfer of ownership until the matter is rectified. This will delay the process and may greatly inconvenience both the seller and the buyer. The seller may find that the proceeds of the sale are delayed while the buyer may find that his relocation plans are scrambled because of delayed occupation.”

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