How to buy a home off-plan

Placing your trust in a developer to deliver the home of your dreams when all you’ve seen are artists’ impressions, requires a leap of faith.

However, there are many benefits to buying off-plan, particularly from a developer with an established track record.

Clifford Oosthuizen, MD of Westbrook Property Developments, believes the most important thing property owners should consider when buying off-plan is the overall quality of lifestyle that can be expected once transfer has taken place: “choosing to buy into an estate should be about more than just the bricks and mortar.”

There are several positives to buying off-plan. These include:

•No one has owned the home before you.

•Buying off-plan is often less expensive than similar homes in the same area.

•As occupation can take up to 6 months, this could give you room to save ahead of the move and also plan everything around the move better.

•Purchasing in the first phase is usually cheaper than residences sold in the next phases

•No transfer duties, but the developer would charge VAT on the transaction but its already included in the selling price.

•Deposits for off-plan purchases are normally less than for other types of residences.

However, the golden rule in selling property off-plan, says Oosthuizen, is to ensure that buyers understand exactly what they will be getting before they sign.

Issues to be mindful of when purchasing a property off-plan:

1.Research the developer, as their track record with other developments will give you an indication of the quality of their work, the reliability of their contractors, and the returns they deliver to investors and buyers.

2.Ask that the developer provide proof of membership with organisations including the National Home Builders Registration Council that ensures the registered builder will guarantee his work i.e. 3 months general defects, 1-year roof and 5-year structural guarantees.

3.The actual property or development might end up looking slightly different to the artists’ impression as the build continues, so ask to be kept updated to any changes and/or visit the site from time to time.

4.Rates and levies in a development are as per any other property, with the local city council valuing property against a standard formula.

5.And in a development such as Westbrook, pre-paid metres are installed for electricity, and the water supply is from a bulk water source which Westbrook pays to NMBM.

6.At a development such as Westbrook no interim interest or payments are due until the date of registration. Be careful as not all developments offer this.

7.Each home at Westbrook has its own water meter to measure consumption in relation to the bulk water supply so that we can monitor use, and this is then charged monthly to the owners according to the rates we pay to Council.

Says Oosthuizen: “Buying a home is a big decision with a huge cash outlay. It needs to be a carefully weighed-up rather than an emotional decision.”

Knowing and familiarising yourself with key details about the development is key.

Westbrook, for example, is a 128-hectare gated estate of which only 83ha is being developed so as to retain the country like feel and sense of open space and fresh air.

The estate also has a Curro private school which opened its doors five years ago with 47 scholars who occupied the first building – a pre-primary school. The school has grown since 2014 then to incorporate 466 learnings from 3 months old to Grade 8. It will offer Grade 9 in 2020 and higher grades will be phased in annually.

The completed estate will comprise 9 residential developments along with a Town Square with retail, office and commercial space as well as medical facilities.

Additional notes

Westbrook is being developed by the Amdec Group. Established in 1989, the Group is active throughout South Africa as well as in the United Kingdom and the USA. It is perhaps best known for its mixed-use Melrose Arch precinct in Johannesburg, which offers a unique live work and play experience and has been voted the best place to see and be seen for nine consecutive years.

Other brands within the Amdec Group stable include Evergreen Lifestyles – South Africa’s premier retirement lifestyle brand – Val de Vie and Pearl Valley in the Cape Winelands, Harbour Arch and The Yacht Club in Cape Town, and Westbrook in Port Elizabeth.