Avoid a house of horrors – experienced advice is key to sidestepping those unforeseen expenses
Experience is said to be the best teacher, and when it comes to buying property, this cannot be more true. Cape Town resident Nicola Williams bought her home in 2015 and knows what she will do differently when she buys her next one.
“Shortly after I bought the home, there were many electrical problems, even though there was a certificate of electrical compliancy. I did not get my own electrician in to check or give me a second opinion when I moved in, but next time I definitely will.”
Although it appeared the electrical faults were already present when Williams bought the property and so she could have lodged a complaint, she did not check and take photos of the electrical distribution board when she moved in, so had no proof. Next time though, she will be better prepared. Williams and her husband, Bevan, said they would also check under the beds and carpets in future.
“The floors in the property looked great, but when the previous owner moved out, the floors underneath the bed and carpet were rotten.” Not only was this a disappointment, but she also had to fork out additional expenses to replace them with matching floorboards.
“Also, call in a professional to check that any trees in the garden are not damaging your property. I had a tree in the courtyard of which the roots were lifting the paving and going into the foundation of the house. So I had to get it cut down which was sad as I loved that tree.”
When the Stevens family bought their rental property recently, they did not expect to be hit with any unforeseen surprises. But they were – in the form of unexpected legal and transfer fees.
“It was only after our bond had been approved that we received invoices from the two companies advising the transfer fees and legal fees would have to be paid as soon as possible or we would be at risk of losing the entire deal,” says Jenna Stevens.
Another nasty issue was that, during the fumigation of the property, the contractors damaged ceiling tiles, gutters and some fascia boards. “If we had not been staying in the home we were purchasing, we would have only discovered this damage after the home was already in our name.”
The roof of a property is one area many new buyers do not inspect, says John Spencer who, along with his wife, has been investing in property for 31 years. And this inspection is one he recommends.
Other advice he imparts is to always:
- Buy the best paint when repainting.
- Get a second opinion on clearance certificates.
- Ensure the property has an electrical compliance certificate.
Although the couple has not had any terrible experiences over the years, they have picked up some valuable insight. The most important Spencer says, relates to house renovations. “Be careful with building contractors. There are many fly-by-nights out there who will begin a job and not return… I now get three quotes for everything I do, and will never go for the lowest. Most often I go for the highest as I know they will probably do the best job.”
Relocation watch: Drive-by view
Relocating to a new city or neighbourhood is often one of the most stressful parts of moving. But SAProperty.com’s Nelio Mendes says buyers should have a good look at a map of the area, even before buying.
“Using Google Maps, for example, find out where local bus routes, hospitals, retail centres, schools and other amenities are… Then drive around the area at quiet as well as peak times, to gauge who other residents are in the area and how they use their living space.”
Even once you have moved in, Lisa Connellan of Knight Frank Residential says driving around is the quickest way to get to know the local amenities and facilities.
“Start with the ones that are closest to your home and as you meet the people in your new neighbourhood/city, ask questions… Social media is also a powerful tool as many neighbourhoods have Facebook pages, where you ask for recommendations.”
Introductions to the neighbours
Meeting the neighbours is an important part of making a home, and new owners should meet theirs as soon as possible after they move in.
“Your estate agent could introduce you to the neighbours if they have met them or know a little bit about them, otherwise you could just pop a friendly note in their post boxes letting them know you are new to the street,” advises Knight Frank Residential’s Lisa Connellan.
“I think it is important to at least introduce yourself to your neighbours. It is conducive to a happy neighbourhood and promotes a sense of community and security.” Echoing this, Dogon’s Alexa Horne says everyone has a responsibility to be aware of what goes on in their neighbourhoods from a security perspective.
“I wouldn’t want to be meeting my neighbour for the first time in the face of an emergency. Join a WhatsApp group for your address to keep abreast of what is happening while you are at work, and get to know everyone in the street.”
Carol Knopf, Pam Golding Properties agent for Rosebank, Mowbray and Park Estate, holds a meet-and-greet function for residents in her area every 18 months or so, and says it is a “wonderful opportunity for neighbours to get to know each other and to find out about the current state of the property market”.
Settle in with less stress
A seemingly never-ending spread of boxes is synonymous with moving day, but not everything needs to be unpacked the first day. The first rooms to take care of are the bedrooms, advises Nelio Mendes of SAProperty.com.
This ensures the family a comfortable place to sleep after a day of moving, which she says is “vital”. Following this, kitchen items needed for the first night meal should be unpacked and set up. “Plan ahead to order something in, or ask someone to bring a meal at an agreed time so the family can get on with unpacking.”
If the previous owners had pets, Mendes says it is advisable to treat the carpets with flea spray before moving in. Some DIY sprays take only two hours to dry. Psychologists recommend setting up children’s bedrooms first, with some, if not all, their toys and personal belongings so they have a safe place to help them settle into the new home.
Top numbers to store in your cellphone speed dial when moving into your new home:
- Neighbourhood Watch and/or your local security company
- Your neighbour/s
- Local police station
- Good takeaway outlets
- City of Cape Town