A leading estate agency principal has called for mandatory home inspections in order to protect the large number of first time home buyers in South Africa. Chas Everitt MD, Berry Everitt, says that new entrants to the property market are usually novices when it comes to assessing the condition of a property. Everitt, writing in his company newsletter, says that a mandatory home inspection by an independent, properly qualified person could be a very beneficial, and simple, consumer protection measure.
“Such an inspection, not to be confused with the appraisal made by a bank to assess whether the property has sufficient value to secure the mortgage, would have many advantages,” says Everitt
“These would include giving homebuyers peace of mind that someone who really knows what they are doing is checking the property from top to bottom, so that they are not going to end up having to make expensive repairs to correct hidden defects. This would be especially useful for first-time buyers on a tight budget.”
A compulsory home inspection would also:
- Protect home sellers from accusation of non-disclosure.
- Improve the security of banks by eliminating financial stress caused by unforeseen repairs -which are major causes of mortgage defaults.
- It would be beneficial to estate agents who would also be shielded from accusations of non-disclosure.
John Graham, CEO of HouseCheck, a leading South African home inspection company, has commented on Everitt’s call for compulsory home inspections, saying that while Everitt’s call is “welcome”, the issue is not clear-cut.
Graham points out home inspections are not mandatory, even in the United States, where 80 per cent of second hand houses are inspected by independent home inspectors when the house is sold. Graham says a compulsory process is problematic because buyers usually pay for the home inspection and free market principles apply. He says a home inspection report provides maximum protection for home buyers when the inspection forms part of the offer process so that the buyer is able to make informed decisions.
Graham also explains that it would be impractical to make home inspections compulsory before the home inspection industry in South Africa is regulated and before accredited home inspectors become widely available to service the needs of South African home buyers – “who number more than 20 000 every month”.
He says that in the US and elsewhere, the training and accreditation of home inspectors is regulated.
To assist the move towards a regulated environment in South Africa, Graham has written an in-depth home inspector’s course which is specific to the South African building environment. This training material has now been made available to the public through the South African Home Inspection Training Academy (www.sahita.co.za ). The CEO of SAHITA, Lorraine Mocheko says a process is now underway for the SAHITA training course to become accredited by the relevant South African bodies. Mocheko has held preliminary discussions with the NHBRC and the Estate Agency Affairs Board regarding the regulation of home inspectors.
“Accreditation is a vital first step in order to grow the home inspection industry in South Africa”, says Mocheko. She adds that, apart from protecting vulnerable home buyers, the home inspection industry also has the potential to become a significant job creator in South Africa.
Mocheko reckons that as the demand for home inspection grows, this industry could become a significant job creator. “In the US the home inspection industry has a number of big players, but also a great many ‘one-man’ inspector businesses.”
Apart from appropriate training, the cost barrier to enter the industry is fairly low. “All that is required is knowledge, physical fitness, good ethics and a basic inspection kit consisting of a ladder, moisture meter, camera and an internet-linked computer.”
Graham said that in an effort to assist South African first-time home buyers, HouseCheck had published a 40-page Home Buyers Guide “which aims to give home buyers a better understanding of the role of estate agents, banks and the legal process”. Graham said this guide was available as a free download from www.housecheck.co.za .