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Who pays lawyer fees when selling a house in South Africa?

Typically the purchaser pays the transfer fees charged by the conveyancing attorneys attending to the transfer of the property into the purchaser’s name.  Therefore, other than bond cancellation fees that the seller will pay if the seller has a bond that has to be cancelled, lawyer fees are paid by the buyer.

The legal fees are usually the following:

  • Transfer fees on the house sale to the conveyancing attorney (who handles the transfer of property from the seller into the buyer’s name) – these are usually paid by the purchaser even though the seller chooses the transfer attorney.
  • Bond cancellation fees – if the seller has a bond to cancel over the home being sold, then the seller will pay these costs
  • Bond registration attorney – if the purchaser needs a home loan and a bond to be registered over the house being bought, then the purchaser will pay the fees to the attorney that registers the bond in the buyer’s name. Usually the bond registration attorney is appointed by the bank that is providing the home loan.

From the seller’s perspective, unless they have a bond that needs to be cancelled, the only thing the home seller needs to do is appoint the conveyancing attorney. The buyer pays the fee.

However, the seller does have other costs to concern themselves with, such as payments to the municipalities to bring rates up-to-date and to pay in advance to obtain a rates clearance certificate, plus the cost of compliance certificates, for example, electrical and electrical fence compliance certificates.

Purchasers should remember that transfer fees and transfer duties are different.  Transfer fees are paid to the conveyancing attorney for their services.  The transfer fee will be payable to SARS.  If you buy from a developer, there may be VAT and not transfer fees.  You can calculate transfer fees using a transfer costs calculator.

Bond cancellation attorneys for the seller and bond registration attorneys for the purchaser are appointed by the banks concerned, and paid by the seller for cancellation and the buyer for registration.

But as far as attorney fees are concerned for the transfer of the property, the buyer pays.

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