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Why you should insist on viewing the title deed before buying

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When buying a property you will need to factor in the costs of a conveyancing attorney since you will need to have the title deed transferred into your name. This is often an aspect pushed aside by excited buyers – a case of “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there”. It’s easy to get side-tracked when in the throes of the dream home property search or while getting preapproval from your bank; but there are reasons why you should guard against only thinking of the title deed when the time comes for you to pay a conveyancer.

Here’s how much that transfer is going to cost you

The title deed acts as proof of ownership in terms of the Deeds Registries Act 47 of 1937, with each property required to have its own separate deed. The document contains all the necessary details and important information about the property such as a comprehensive description and exact size.

Regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, says that the title deed also provides vital insight into to a property’s history, registered owner and previous owners, the purchase price paid by the current owner and some other elements of information, such as the rules and restrictions surrounding the property.

According to Greyvensteins, attorneys notaries and conveyancers, the chief consequence of not viewing the title deed before signing an offer to purchase is the fact that you will not have any knowledge of any restrictive conditions the document contains.

Common restrictive conditions include the following:

  • No building or other structure may be erected within the servitude area.
  • No large-rooted trees may be planted within the servitude area.
  • The erf is subject to servitude for transformer purposes.
  • The erf is subject to servitude for municipal purposes.

In essence the restrictive conditions could limit what you are able to do on your property – thinking of opening a guest house or building a garden flat for your parents once they’ve retired? The title deed to your dream property may reveal that these are not feasible future possibilities and your search should continue to find the right property.

The practicalities of viewing the title deedX marks the spot.resize

If the home you are looking to buy is fully paid off and owned by the seller the seller should be in possession of the original title deed. While in cases where a bond is registered on a property the bank will keep the title deed until the home loan is paid off. In this case the bank that holds the bond over the property will have the original title deed in its possession, however, the homeowner or agent marketing the home should have a copy for you to view.

Alternatively, you can access the information directly by obtaining a copy from your local deeds office. There are several deeds offices throughout the country, each handling a particular area of jurisdiction. A copy of each title deed is held in a Deeds Registry at the deeds office within the closest proximity to where the property is located. The Deeds Registry is open to any member of the public who requires access to information. However, each enquiry will come at a nominal cost.

Goslett says that most real estate professionals will have access to deeds information through a computer-linked facility at their office called Deedsweb, which is the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s official site for the supply of deeds registration information. Every Deeds Registry is connected to the network which contains all title deeds registered as far back as 1980.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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