Consumer Champion inspires HouseCheck

I have just spent a very inspiring hour with South African retail legend Raymond Ackerman discussing HouseCheck and its campaign to champion the rights of the consumer/home buyer. Mr Ackerman told me how, many years ago, he had been rescued from making a bad buying decision with his first home in Johannesburg by a bank inspector who took the time to check the property and found that the house timbers were riddled with pests.

Raymond Ackerman built the giant, R60-billion a year, Pick n Pay business from small beginnings over a 40-year career starting in the 1960s, by championing the rights of the South African consumer.

I went to see this 81-year-old business giant to get his ideas on how HouseCheck can similarly champion the rights of SA consumers/home buyers, who are often left vulnerable and unprotected as a result of gaps in the Consumer Protection Act and because estate agents and attorneys usually try and get a voetstoots (“as is”) clause included in the sale agreement.

HouseCheck’s concern is that in the absence of the counter-balancing and factual information, which a home inspection report provides, voetstoots leaves the buyer at a distinct potential disadvantage to the seller. This disadvantage usually only becomes apparent if problems in the house are discovered once the sale has gone through and the buyer has already moved into the new house.

Mr Ackerman pointed out to me during our chat that any successful business should be built on a strong moral foundation – and a good business should always put the rights of the customer first. He suggested that HouseCheck should approach industry leaders in the banks and major estate agencies and ask these leaders to endorse publicly the concept of home inspections as a mechanism for greater transparency. Such an endorsement would be a correct and moral stance for real estate and banking industry leaders to take in order to protect their customers by enhancing transparency in the sales process.

Mr Ackerman also recommended to me that HouseCheck should continue with its “grassroots” outreach as HouseCheck company policy. HouseCheck will continue to contact and work with estate agents to assist the real estate industry’s move towards greater transparency and accountability.

HouseCheck has also committed itself to help, wherever practical, home buyers who have bought a home and who feel cheated after discovering that the house has problems. HouseCheck will document these problems in a detailed inspection report and also advise such consumers on how they can best obtain justice – either via negotiation with the seller and agent, via the Consumer Protection Tribunal or, in extreme cases, through the courts.

In cases of financial hardship HouseCheck will consider doing these post-sale inspections for buyers at a discount, or in deserving cases, for free.

Thank you Mr Ackerman for graciously making your time available and for inspiring me and HouseCheck to fight for the rights of South African consumers/home buyers to get a fair and transparent deal when making what is often the biggest financial deal of their lives.
John Graham CEO HouseCheck. 083 3109 766 or john@housecheck.co.za  www.housecheck.co.za

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