10 Things to Look at when Buying a Home

10 Things to Look at when Buying a Home

It matters little, whether you are selling or buying, the process is inherently stressful.

The best way to mitigate your risks and greatly reduce your stress is getting the right team around you, so it goes without saying make sure you have the best agent, which is key to a successful and as stress-free experience, as possible.

Then I would suggest that you need to pay attention to the points below might help ensure you don’t get any costly surprises. [Please remember this is not a complete list but it contains many of the main culprits.

Ultimately, an information only article, is no replacement for knowledge and experience of a professional who has thoroughly familiarised themselves with your situation.]


When buying a home, the plans are vital. It is not enough to be given a roll of plans and feel assured that you as the buyer are safe.

I would suggest making sure that approved plans are provided, as a suspensive condition of the sale, well ahead of lodgement. Once you have the plans, I would suggest getting in a plans specialist to confirm that the home has been built and is being used, in accordance with the plans.

It may well be that there are deviations, but you as the buyer need to know with surety what these discrepancies are and their implications for you, as the future owner.

It is also important that spaces in the home are used for the use provided on the plan, failing which this could be a problem. An example may be a garage, which is on plan as such, which was converted into a bedroom.

There may be problems like servitudes, sewer drained which have roofs over them, etc. A prevalent problem is also parts of the building or improvements being built within a building line established in the title deed.


A home’s title deed is so much more than a legal certificate of ownership. It may contain mention of servitudes or conditions which will affect your right to use and enjoy your property. An example of this may be a condition which imposes building lines.

Up to a short few years ago, the municipality did not check the title deed when approving plans. This meant that improvements may have been built with approval over building lines created in the title deed. In this case, the owner will need to apply for removal of the restrictions on the title deed to make the improvements legal.

This is relatively costly and can take a few months to finalise.


If the home has been recently built you will need an NHBRC certificate and if you are buying from the seller who still has time on the certificate you will need the certificate would you have a problem in the period covered by the certificate.


It may be that getting a roofing contractor in to check the roof may not be a bad idea.

It is not uncommon for problems like leaks to be unseen due to recent painting but be easy to spot in the roof. Its also maybe not a bad idea t know the state of the roof. It may also be that the roof may suffer some structural issues like having the beams to far apart, which can result in the roof bowing.


Although plumbing certificate is not required (outside of Cape Town), it may be a good idea to consider retaining a plumber to cast an eye over your potential dream home. This is especially a good idea to check the state geysers and make sure that the municipal water meter has not been bypassed.

It may also be wise to consider the position of the home and the likely impact of stormwater entering onto the property.


Can be expensive to fix and we are living in a time when many pools are green, due to the drought or the owners not wanting to shoulder the costs of keeping a pool blue, especially in winter, or maybe the costs of the pool’s maintenance are not a priority.

The reasons aside, a green or covered pool could be hiding a problem like cracks, leaks, or another costly defect. I would suggest a contractual term that the pool be cleaned prior to lodgement to get a good idea of what state the pool is in and maybe ask the pool company to check the salination unit (in salt pools), the pump and the filter.


Solar panels are not cheap and if you are going to be paying a premium for a home which has them, it may be prudent to check that they were properly installed, in good working condition, their present efficiency and likely lifespan.


If there are any indigenous cycads present on the property, you shall need the required permits from the existing owner.


A borehole is very convenient, but it is important to know some things about your borehole. These things are: Is this borehole legal, what is its yield, is the water brackish, etc.


Crime is a part of the South African reality but it is always important to request a detailed history of crime directly affecting the home. It may very well be that the home or the area suffers from rampant crime. Irrespective, making sure there is adequate disclosure is important for both sellers and buyers.

Nuisance is often not disclosed by sellers but in my opinion, it should be. A seller may have subjected to bad neighbours, raucous parties, the incessant barking of dogs, the list goes on. There is no perfect home but buyers need to know what they are buying.


If you are buying, it important for you to make sure you have as much information as possible to make an informed decision before making an offer. Fo the seller making a comprehensive declaration means that a buyer will not easily be able to hold you liable on the basis of non-disclosure.

Clinton Begley is a fulltime professional real estate agent, associated with Open Realty in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He has an impressive sales record and providing frank advice, based on in-depth research. He has been an active estate agent since 2002 and in addition to writing the old board exam (CEA), he also holds the Professional Practitioner: Real Estate & Master Practitioner: Real Estate professional designations. Clinton is also an admitted attorney (1999), notary (2001), and conveyancer (2002); although he no longer practices law since 2014 and is now on the non-practicing roll. 

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