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How to buy a home – legalese 101

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How much do you really know about the home buying process? Sure, house hunting is fun and playing with online calculators does give you an idea of how much house you can afford. But what should you know before you even sign an offer to purchase?

Our friends at MC van der Berg Attorneys have kindly allowed us to republish their MC Purchasers Guide to help educate new and seasoned buyers on the legal ins and outs of home buying.

1 Terminology

The list of terminology below will help you to find your way through the labyrinth of legalese.

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  • Attorney – A person who has been admitted by the High Court and practises law.
  • Conveyancer – An attorney who has passed an additional exam, who specialises in property law and who has been admitted by the High Court.
  • Transferring attorney – The firm of attorneys, more specifically, the conveyancer, who is responsible for the transfer of the property from the seller to the purchaser. The transferring attorney plays a pivotal role in the successful completion of the transfer process.
  • Bond attorney – The firm of attorneys that is responsible for the registration of the purchaser’s bond. This firm needs to be on the registration panel of the particular bank to which the purchaser has applied for a bond.

Registration terms

A green lawn goes a long way to giving would-be buyers a good first impression of your home.

  • Registration – An administrative act that takes place in the deeds office. On this date the transaction is finalised, i.e. the property is transferred, the purchaser’s bond is registered and the seller’s existing bond (if any) is cancelled.
  • Transfer – An action (registration) that occurs on a specific date in the deeds office. This action happens simultaneously with the bond registration and the bond cancellation.
  • Bond registration – An action that occurs on a specific date in the deeds office. On this day the purchaser’s bond is registered. This action happens simultaneously with transfer and bond cancellation.

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  • Offer to purchase – A written offer made to the seller which sets out all the conditions on which the purchaser wants to purchase the property.
  • Deed of sale – The offer to purchase becomes the deed of sale once it has been accepted by the seller in writing.
  • Guarantee – A document in terms of which the purchaser’s bank promises to pay the purchase amount to either the seller’s bond account or the transferring attorney’s trust account on an unspecified future date when registration occurs.

Next time: Before you make an offer; rules of the game; and understanding how the Consumer Protection Act applies to residential transactions

¶ Contact MC van der Berg Attorneys on +27 (0)12 660 6000, email info@mcvdberg.co.za or visit their website




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  • barbara erasmus 2nd June 2016

    so much needed information thank you. our house is paid, is it wise to get the bond cancelled and get the deed? my husband is retired and the cost is high, why is that?

    • David A Steynberg 2nd June 2016

      Hi Barbara,
      Let’s look into that for you. 🙂
      Will be in touch