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The cost of selling a house in South Africa

Source: Ooba

Selling a house for a profit can boost your finances, but the sales process incurs costs along the way. We lay out the costs so you won't be caught off guard.

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, but 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, or whatever else you intend to do.

The house-selling costs you may not be aware of:

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:

  • Bond cancellation

  • Rates, taxes, and levies

  • Compliance certificates

  • Estate agent fees

  • Repairs and maintenance

Here we lay out these home seller costs in more detail, so that you won’t be caught off guard.

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 canceling 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 is 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 as selling a home privately introduces a number of challenges; 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 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, as opposed to having latent defects revealed during an inspection requested by the buyer.

When do you get the money when 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.

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