Only the legal homeowner can sign the offer to purchase
Is the seller you are buying from really the legal owner of the home? It’s imperative buyers clarify this before signing an offer to purchase, according to Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of bond originator, BetterLife.
“This may sound peculiar but we have heard of several instances, for example, in which a bogus owner ‘sold’ stands to unsuspecting buyers, took the deposits on these sales and then just disappeared,” he says. “Then when it comes to built property, it quite often happens that elderly parents who have moved to a retirement home will leave the sale of the family home to an adult child, or that an owner who has been transferred across the country will ask a friend to handle the sale.”
If the homeowner’s friend or the elderly couple’s child accepts the offer and signs, it can lead to delays in the transfer of the property at best, or, at worst, the cancellation of the transaction. This can happen when the real owners decide to make a counter-offer or simply change their minds about selling.
“It would be terrible if you had spent months finding just the right new home and several weeks more excitedly waiting to move in only to learn that you could not take transfer because the real owners had decided to keep the property after all, says Rademeyer, noting that these buyers could miss out on acquiring another property at a good price while waiting for the legal tangle to be cleared and your deposit to be refunded. “And you might even have to incur the additional costs of renting accommodation while you go back to the search for a new home.”
South African law does not stipulate that the seller of an “immovable” property such as a house, flat or piece of land must be the actual owner; but it does, however, stipulate that the registered owner is the only person legally entitled to sign off on the transfer of the property to a buyer.
“Homebuyers can, however, avoid such potentially costly mix-ups by dealing only with properly qualified and experienced estate agents, who will establish who actually owns a property before drawing up a sales agreement,” says Rademeyer.