Get the low-down on your new home from the seller

While you’re looking at homes for sale, it’s usually a bit uncomfortable to have a seller hovering nearby and listening in on your observations. But once you’ve actually signed an offer to purchase, you may feel quite differently.

“Most buyers of newly-built homes are aware that they should not sign off on the property until they have had time to check that all fittings and finishes are in line with specifications and that any building defects have been attended to,” says Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of SA’s biggest mortgage originator, BetterLife Home Loans.

“Generally, there will also be someone available from the developer or builder to show them how everything works in their new homes, while any new equipment or appliance will usually come with a manual.”

But those who buy an existing home usually acquire it on an “as is” basis – and often have to go through several weeks of trial and error before they are really familiar with their new property, he says.

“They can easily avoid this, however, by asking their agent to arrange a hand-over meeting with the seller before they move in.

“Such a meeting gives you the opportunity to find out how to operate the alarm system, for example, or the pool and borehole pumps, or the timer for an irrigation system. You’ll be able to ask where the outside plug is for the lawnmower or the manual switch for the garage door.”

Other essentials to ask about, Rademeyer says, are the location of the electrical distribution board and the mains shutoff switch, as well as the water meter and the shutoff valve for the main water supply.

“And most sellers will be more than happy to give you ‘the official tour’ – especially if you make it very clear that you do not intend using the meeting as an opportunity to find fault or try to re-open price negotiations.

“If they have lived in the area for a few years, the chances are that they will also be a great source of information about the nearest and best grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants, plus the local police station, post office, banks, buses, and schools.

“Ask, and they will probably also be able to tell you the fastest, least congested way to get from your new home to work and your children’s school so won’t be late on your first day.”

He says it is possible, of course, that your sellers may not be available for a handover meeting “In that case you can ask them to leave behind any system operating manuals and any guarantees that are still in place on things like gate motors, geysers, and waterproofing, as well as the names and telephone numbers of local plumbers, electricians, and other service companies they, have found reliable and reasonably priced in the past.

“If your agent can hand all these over along with the keys to your new home, they will still help you to settle in faster – and could also save you a lot of time and money in the future,” concludes Rademeyer.