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Property inspection business set to boom, but beware of opportunistic service providers

14 June 2018Sheldon Jennings, Archicheck
Sheldon Jennings, Architect and founder of Archicheck.

Sheldon Jennings, Architect and founder of Archicheck.

The Property Practitioners Bill (PPB) was gazetted for comment in March 2017, and the industry is holding its breath for the 10 000 new jobs that will likely be created with its official implementation, but prospective home buyers must take heed not to trust unqualified service providers.

This is according to Sheldon Jennings, Architect and founder of Archicheck – SA’s only property inspection firm that employs qualified architects, who says that the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), which falls under the Department of Human Settlements, has announced its target of creating 10 000 jobs for home inspectors within the next five years.

“This target aligns with the looming implementation of the Property Practitioners Bill, which will usher in a new era for the real-estate industry, where more focus will be placed on the protection of consumer rights. Government recognition of the home inspection industry is long overdue, as currently many home owners purchase their properties voetstoots without the knowledge that they can and should insist on an official investigation or report to protect their interests. This leaves the home buyer in a very precarious position down the line when functional or structural issues begin to arise.”

Jennings says that usually when a relatively unestablished industry booms so suddenly, there is the odd unscrupulous service provider who delivers a subpar service and preys on unsuspecting clients. “The property inspection industry is currently unregulated, meaning even in situations where an inspection is conducted, the home buyer cannot be sure of the qualifications and knowledge of the inspector.”

“While the South African Home Inspection Training Academy (SAHITA), together with the National Association of Building Inspectors of South Africa (NABISA), has been working on developing an accredited 3-year building inspector qualification, currently no legislation ensures that property inspectors possess the knowledge and necessary expertise to issue a quality report.”

“It is for this reason that we decided to establish Archicheck, where only qualified architects who are registered with the South African Council for Architecture Professionals (SACAP), can issue prospective home buyers with a truly unparalleled inspection report. To register as a Professional Architect, one must study for a minimum of 5 years and complete two years’ worth of practical work in the industry, placing these individuals in an ideal position to detect latent structural defects and potential issues.”

Jennings adds that in many countries with more robust legislation to protect home buyers, it is common practice to conduct a home inspection before purchasing a property. “80% of homes in the USA are inspected before a sale takes place. This amounts to about five million home inspections per annum.”

Aside from the physical onsite inspections, Archicheck.co.za can also furnish a home buyer with vital information such as the zoning, remaining permissible coverage, height restrictions and boundary lines of the site. “This check takes place online within 48 hours and can warn a prospective buyer if the existing home already exceeds the permissible coverage, which likely means that a part of the building has not been approved by the local building council.”

“Too often homes are sold without the buyer having cross referenced the structure against the existing building plans to ensure that it has been approved by the local council. In fact, sometimes people purchase a property without having laid eyes on any building plans at all. This can have catastrophic repercussions down the line, both from a financial and timeline perspective.”

It’s usually only when the new home owner begins the process of renovating, that he or she becomes aware of the fact that they have purchased an unapproved structure, explains Jennings.

“Unfortunately, it is too late to claim against the seller at this stage, as most properties in South Africa are sold ‘voetstoots’, meaning the new home owner will bear the financial brunt of this loss. In the worst-case scenario – when the structure does not comply with the building guidelines at all - the city will demolish any part of the building that is not indicated on the approved as-built plans.”

“In cases where the structure does comply with the building guidelines, but plans were not submitted for approval, the new home owner will need to get the existing structure approved, before submitting plans for new renovations.”

“This too can be a very expensive and time-consuming process. First, an application to amend the existing building plans is submitted to council. Council has approximately two months to respond to your application. If you are fortunate enough that council does not issue an instruction to demolish, you will likely need to apply for departures, get necessary approvals from neighbours and submit the amended plans for evaluation, to name but a few of the hurdles that must be overcome.”

“The timeline for this process is typically 6 months, but it can easily exceed a year depending on the specific situation. On top of this, a penalty fee of a 100% of the building cost is charged for any unapproved structures. Scrutiny fees are also calculated according to the square meterage of the building”, concludes Jennings.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

Millennials make up 30% of the South African job market; these are your clients and future clients. Do you engage with them?

ANSWER

No, not my target audience
Yes, the same as all my other clients
Yes, via social media
Some engagement but by far the most difficult generation to engage with
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