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The hidden costs when selling a house in South Africa

The hidden costs of selling a house include bond cancellation, compliance certificates, and more. We ensure you won't be caught off-guard.

House Selling Costs

Article summary

  • The house-selling process incurs a number of legal and administrative costs. For example, the seller will have to pay an attorney to cancel their bond.
  • Home sellers also have to pay rates, levies, and taxes ahead of time to ensure these costs are covered during the home selling process.
  • Sellers have to pay for several compliance certificates that show the home is in working order.
  • The buyer will likely make the sale conditional on repairs being organised and paid for by the seller.

Isn’t the buyer supposed to be the one who pays the money, while the seller provides the goods? Well, a house is not like any other product. It involves banks, lawyers, and various other agents; all participating in a complex process with many legal factors to take into account.

Selling a house may incur a number of costs, including costs you may not have been aware of beforehand. We’re here to ensure you don’t get caught off guard by providing a rundown of the costs.

Keep your eye on the prize. Remember that once the process is over, you could be left with the resources you need to buy a new home.

The hidden costs when selling a house

The buyer and seller both incur various costs during the home selling and buying process, including legal costs. It can be confusing to keep track of who pays for what.

Costs for the seller include:

  1. Bond cancellation.
  2. Rates, taxes, and levies.
  3. Compliance certificates.
  4. Estate agent fees.
  5. Repairs and maintenance.
  6. Moving costs.
  7. Temporary accommodation.

1.  Bond cancellation

Among the legal costs for selling a home in South Africa is the cost of bond cancellation, which is carried out by the bond attorney appointed by the bank.

Some costs attached to the bond cancellation process for sellers include:

  • A penalty fee if you failed to provide 90 days written notice to the bank of your intention to sell the home. This is why you should probably provide notice to your bank before putting your home on the market.
  • A penalty if you are cancelling the bond two years or less into the 20 or 30-year loan period.
  • Homeowners’ and life insurance premiums that would have been debited to the bond account within the next six months (to ensure the insurance remains in place until the home selling process is complete).

When is the bond cancellation process complete? The process can only be completed once the home is sold, as that is the point where the attorney provides your bank with the final figures.

What if the home doesn’t get sold before the 90-day notice period is over? You can simply resubmit the cancellation notice and your notice period will be extended.

2. Rates, taxes, and levies

The property seller will have to pay three to six months’ worth of rates and taxes to the local council, so as to ensure those costs are covered during the home selling process. The seller will need to provide the attorney with a certificate proving that the property is covered for these costs.

Note that if the house is sold and the bond registered to the buyer earlier than expected, the local council will have to refund any excess paid by the seller.

If the home is being sold as part of an estate or sectional title property, the home seller may also be required by the homeowners’ association to pay all levies owed, in advance.

3. Compliance certificates for electrical, gas, etc

The home seller will need to obtain compliance certificates for electricity, gas, and so on by hiring qualified and registered professionals to perform an inspection and ensure everything is in working order.

Compliance certificates required by the home seller include:

  • Electrical: The Electrical Certificate of Compliance (ECOC) ensures that the electrical work done on the property conforms to regulations stipulated by South African National Standards.
  • Electric fence: If you have an electric fence installed, it requires a separate certificate from the Electrical Certificate of Compliance, as it falls under different regulations that apply to electrical machinery.
  • Water installation: This compliance certificate ensures all is in order with the property’s water system, including the water meter and cisterns. It is not the same as a plumbing certificate and doesn’t cover the same elements.
  • Plumbing certificate: This is to certify that the plumbing work complies with all the regulatory installation requirements.
  • Gas: You’ll need the Gas Certificate of Conformity to ensure your gas systems are in working order.
  • Beetle-free: This is to ensure the property is free of wood borer beetles that can damage the structure.

How much will compliance certificates add to the cost? Costs can range from about R400 to R1 000 per certificate, and perhaps more if the inspection reveals faults. It‘s wise to budget for about R5 000 for any repair work required.

4. Estate agent’s commission

If you’ve employed an estate agent, which is advised, you’ll need to pay them a commission. The estate agent is obviously there primarily to assist the seller, even if some of their work may benefit the buyer as well.

Estate agents usually cost about 5 to 7% in commission but are worth every penny when considering their expertise and ability to barter a higher price on your home.

5. Repairs and maintenance

A home inspection will often be required as part of the offer to purchase, and it will be the responsibility of the seller to arrange the inspection and pay for the required repairs.

Arranging a home inspection before even putting your house on the market may seem unnecessary, but it can be of benefit to have your home in tip-top condition as it will improve the home’s value and strengthen your negotiating position.

What is the home seller liable for? You’re not actually required by law to fix defects in the home, but the buyer will probably make it a prerequisite to the sale.

  • The first step will be to fix patent defects, the term for defects that are visible upon casual inspection of the home. For example, broken windows, cracks in the wall, and rotting woodwork.
  • Latent defects are more of an issue for the buyer than the seller. These are defects that only become evident further down the line, such as leaks, faulty geysers, and rusting pipes. The buyer can only claim damages against the seller if they can prove you hid the defects, which is difficult to do.

6. Moving costs

An obvious cost but an easy one to forget about. Money in the budget should be set aside for the cost of paying a moving company. You could try to move everything yourself but you’re in for a lot of stress if you do it that way.

7. Temporary accommodation

The cost of renting an apartment or house for the period between moving out of the old home and into the new one needs to be accounted for in the budget.

When do you get the money for selling your house?

Once the deal is closed, the documents signed, the legal procedures complete, and so on; the equity in your home (that being the portion of the home loan you have already paid off) is paid to you by the transferring attorney, usually by electronic transfer into your bank account. A wire transfer means the funds will usually be in your bank account within 24 to 48 hours.

Of course, the big question is, with such resources now at your disposal, what do you intend to do next? Many people sell their homes so they can use the equity received to fund the purchase of a new home.

If that is your plan, bear in mind that ooba Home Loans, South Africa’s largest home loan comparison service, can help you secure the best deal by submitting your application to multiple banks. You’ll be able to compare the deals offered by the banks and choose the best one.

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