Wednesday, November 07, 2012
I’ve lost track of the number of emails on this topic I’ve received over the years from angry readers.
The emails start by outlining a promise made by a property seller - which the seller failed to honor.
After wading through the twists and turns of each individual case they all boil down to one thing.
The promises were made verbally.
One reader complained that the seller promised to sell his property to the reader but he then accepted an offer from another buyer. Another reader wasn’t happy that a promised permit failed to materialize before closing. And one reader didn’t know that the deposit he paid on a property wasn’t refundable after 10 days.
One seller promised to leave the furniture and appliances in the property as part of the deal but kept some items - including the air conditioning units. Another seller made the same promise but took everything with him, down to the knives and forks, when he left.
There is a very easy solution. Whatever promise a seller makes, get it in writing. The best way is to include it as part of the sale contract.
It starts with the fundamentals. If you make an offer, try to put it in writing. If the seller accepts your offer, ask him in writing to stop showing/listing the property while you get the paperwork done.
If you pay any kind of deposit, make sure you have a written agreement outlining how much the payment is and what it’s for. If it’s refundable, add in the terms and conditions for that.
Once you agree the purchase price and conditions of sale your attorney will draw up a sale contract or modify one provided by the seller. You need to add in as much detail as possible. If the seller wants to include his furniture as part of the sale, add a clause for that – and attach an itemized inventory to the contract. I’ve provided an inventory that listed everything, from appliances, beds and sofas down to the forks and milk jug. Include items such as air conditioners, ceiling fans and cabinetry (surprisingly, some sellers don’t regard these as part of the furniture/fittings of a property). If the seller needs to get a pending permit, the contract should state that you will only close the sale when he has the permit.
Perhaps you want a task done before you move in, like cleaning the swimming pool, repairing the entrance gate or tidying up the yard. Put these in your contract, too, even if they seem like trivial things. They’re small things, for sure, but sometimes the small things add up to one big headache.
Don’t get me wrong. Most sellers aren’t out to rip you off. But misunderstandings often crop up when you’re dealing with a foreign language and different customs. Don’t rely on a verbal promise when you’re buying overseas. Instead, get it in black and white.