Selling your home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, and for most people, it will be one of their most significant transactions. South African law has a clear set of rules in place regarding the rights and responsibilities of both buyer and seller. The law also sets out a clear roadmap to follow, with a number of important milestones along the way.

The sums involved and the complexities of the transfer process mean that it is highly advisable to involve attorneys and to seek specialist advice from property experts.

Agreeing the sale with the purchaser of your property is just the very first step along this path – in many ways, it’s like the old African proverb about the journey of a thousand kilometres. The signing of the sale agreement sets in motion a chain of events that will be much smoother if both parties are able to provide all the necessary documentation and guarantees.

You’ve closed the deal – so now what?
Unless the purchaser is paying cash (which is uncommon), they will need to get approval for a bond. This new bond will have to be registered by the appointed attorneys, who will also arrange for the cancellation of the existing bond and the actual property transfer (technically known as conveyancing).

While the process can seem daunting – especially to first-time buyers and sellers – it is logical and easily managed with the right advisors by your side. Much of the transfer of paperwork essentially involves both parties making assurances: the seller needs to know that the buyer is able to meet the agreed asking price, whilst it is in the buyer’s best interests to be sure that the seller is legally entitled to transfer the property, and is in good standing regarding municipal rates and other obligations.

Know who you’re selling to
A vital first step is to “FICA” both buyer and seller – that is, to obtain their ID and proof of address in accordance with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, SA’s most important legislation against financial crimes. This is done by the transferring attorney, who will also request the seller’s bond cancellation details.

The final step in the process is the lodging of the necessary documents at the Deeds Office. After an 8 – 10-day period for review – assuming no objections or irregularities are discovered – the property transfer is complete, and the buyer becomes the legal owner of your property.

Whether you’re looking to emigrate, semi grate or simply streamline your property portfolio, this is the moment you’re working towards. However, there are a few more necessary steps en route, so let’s circle back and look at each of them in turn.

Preparing to sign
Once the bond cancellation calculations are complete, the bank will send the original title deed for the property to the bond cancellation attorneys. The buyer and seller will then be in a position to sign the transfer agreements drawn up by the transferring attorney.

It is at this point that clearances become important. Clearance certificates need to be obtained from the municipality and the managing agent (if there is one), to prove that the seller is up to date on all rates, utilities and levy payments – which remain the seller’s responsibility if the costs were incurred before the date of transfer.

These clearance certificates are not just a legal requirement; they also help establish trust between the buyer and seller. A further important certificate is the one issued by SARS to show that the necessary amount of transfer duty has been paid by the buyer. Transfer duty is a variable rate tax levied on all non-VAT property transfers where the value of the property exceeds R900 000 – it often represents the most significant contributing factor to the buyer’s costs.

Lodging the paperwork
Once all the clearances have been obtained – and not before – the transferring attorneys (also known as the conveyancer) can lodge all the paperwork with the Deeds Office, as mentioned. This means that the end of the process is now in sight for both buyer and seller.

Typically, the review process takes less than 10 working days, after which the buyer becomes the legal registered owner of the property. While this may seem quite convoluted, it is a straightforward and logical process that happens successfully many thousands of times each year, so there is nothing to be afraid of.

For more information on efficient property transfers, please contact of our Sales specialists here at Solver Property Services.