As a first-time homeowner, the process of obtaining your very first home can be overwhelming with all the information and processes you need to familiarise yourself with. The recent repo rate announcement kept interest rates unchanged, keeping the property market accessible to first-time home buyers.

If you’ve found your dream home, then there are some strongly advisable checks you should consider conducting, prior to putting in an offer to purchase. Marius Steyn, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam – SA’s leading short-term insurer – suggest conducting a home inspection prior to purchase, then putting in a clause that an offer to purchase is subject to stipulated repairs.

“Remember, your insurer is only responsible for damages occurring from the date of registration of your new home at the deeds office, onwards – not for any prior problems. This means you need to have any damages fixed by the seller, as a condition of your offer. Otherwise, these could become big issues down-the-line.”

So, what essential checks should first-time buyer conduct? You need to know your property is structurally sound, safe, damage-free, and up-to-code. Remember, you are fully entitled to include a home inspection clause in your contract, which makes your offer conditional on a home inspection being conducted and the property is found to be in a satisfactory state.

However, it’s worth noting that including this clause can sometimes make an offer less desirable for a seller – especially one who knows some things need fixing!

Here are five areas of the home to potentially focus on: 

Check the geyser: Have the geyser inspected by a registered plumber in order to establish the general condition and the adherents to regulatory requirements. The general replacement cost of a standard size geyser amounts to R 8 500. When bursting or leaking it has the potential to wreck a room, so you need to be sure you’re getting one in tip-top condition.

Check the roof: Are the tiles cracked? Has the roof inspected by a registered builder to determine the general condition of the roof? The state of a roof and gutters can indicate a lot about the general maintenance of the home as a whole.

Check the ceiling: Most ceilings have secrets. Look especially hard for mould, or maybe fresh paint jobs to hide said mould or damp.

Check the garden: If this is lush and green, be careful. How much will you need to spend to maintain it? Is it drought-friendly given certain parts of SA’s ongoing water issues?

Check for electrical faults: Electrical faults will be identified with the issuing of the electrical certificate, which is the responsibility of the seller. Any repairs or shortcomings identified in this investigation would also be the responsibility of the seller.

Steyn advises having a professional inspection and taking a family member or friend along, who has experience and knowledge in spotting potential structural problems.

A few insurance considerations from Steyn for first-time buyers:

Make sure you get homeowners’ insurance (this covers the building) and house contents insurance, this covers the contents within¬†your home a few days PRIOR to moving in.

Your first seven days in a new house are when you’re most vulnerable because you’re usually still figuring out security and all your things are in boxes.

So, make sure your insurance is already in place. You can also request to have certain security features installed before moving in – especially those that are essential to meet your insurer’s stipulated conditions – like burglar bars, an alarm, etc.

Make sure your home contents insurance is adequate and the equivalent to the current replacement value of all your items.

Remember you have a duty of care as the policyholder. Should a theft occur, you need to do everything you can to limit the damage – to ensure your front door is fixed and secure if it was damaged through the forced entry, for example?

Additionally, report any items stolen to the police and your insurer. With the approval of your insurer, you do have a prescribed time to do a proper inventory of everything taken.

Steyn stresses the importance of making sure that all damage is fixed up before you move in, as a condition of your offer. “Do not purchase a property (home) with damage. Rather include a clause in the purchase contract that the seller must repair the specified damage before registration can take place.”

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