Time is a constraint when you are the prospective owner of a property or, similarly, a seller – be it a residential or a commercial property. Unfortunately, the property transfer process requires patience as it may take longer than expected. It is essential to understand the registration process to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

On average, the registration process takes roughly three months from the date of signature of the sale agreement until the property is registered in the new owner’s name. Many aspects of the registration process – which the Transfer Attorneys is assigned to coordinate – is dependent on the co-operation of several institutions and authorities for example, city councils, financial institutions, revenue offices and the deeds office.

In most instances, three different attorneys are involved in the registration process.

  1. Transfer Attorney: Once the sale agreement is signed by both parties the seller appoints the Transfer Attorney who will be responsible for the registration of the transfer of the property;
  2. Bond Attorney: The bank that is financing the purchase of the property may appoint the Bond Attorney who will be responsible for the registration of the bond over the property; and
  3. Cancellation Attorneys: These attorneys represent the bank cancelling the seller’s home loan and is also appointed by such bank.

The Transfer Attorney will request cancellation figures from the cancellation bank, obtain the rates, lights, water and refuse removal clearance figures from the local authority, and, if applicable, levy clearance figures from the relevant body corporate or home owners’ association. On receipt of the clearance figures the seller needs to pay the amount/s to obtain a clearance certificate for lodgment in the Deeds office.

The Financial Intelligence Centre Act no. 38 of 2001 (“FICA”) is applicable to all property transfer transactions and the Transfer Attorney is obliged to obtain FICA documentation from the seller and purchaser. These documents provide proof of the parties’ identity, residential addresses and tax registration numbers.

Once the Transfer Attorney has these documents, he or she will draft the transfer papers and request supporting documentation from the seller and purchaser.

The Transfer Attorney will request guarantees from the purchaser’s Bond Attorney and will supply a draft title deed to the Bond Attorney to enable them to prepare the purchaser’s bond documents and to issue the guarantees. The purchaser must attend to the signature of the bond documents as soon as possible in order to facilitate the registration process and avoid any unexpected delays.

The next step is for the seller and purchaser to sign the transfer documentation and the purchaser should pay the transfer duty and the Transfer Attorney’s fees and expenses. Upon receipt of the guarantees, the Transfer Attorney will forward such information to the Cancellation Attorney where after the Cancellation Attorney provides the property’s original title deed to the Transfer Attorney.

The Transfer Attorney will arrange for simultaneous lodgment of the title deeds and bond documents in the deeds office.  The deeds office will examine the documents, which process normally take between six and eight working days. Thereafter the deeds are taken to the “prep room” and the Transfer Attorney have the opportunity to finalise any outstanding matters. The Transfer Attorney may then register the deeds and ownership passes from the seller to the purchaser. At the same time the purchaser’s new bond is also registered and the seller’s existing bond is cancelled.

The finalisation of the finances will usually be completed the day after registration took place due to the fact that the purchaser’s bond payment will only reflect in the Transferring Attorneys trust account the following day after registration.

In conclusion, in order not to become unduly frustrated by the seemingly unnecessary elapsing of time during a transfer process, it is essential to understand processes and steps and concomitant time frames pursuant to the sale or buying of a property.

RMI4law members enjoy the benefit of legal advice from an attorney 24 hours a day. If you would like to join RMI4law, kindly contact 0861 668 677. This article was written by Johané Janse van Vuuren, an associate at Barnard Incorporated Attorneys in Centurion.

Legalex (Pty) Ltd, registration number 2003/003715/07, is an authorized Financial Services Provider (FSP 5277) and underwritten by Guardrisk Insurance Company Limited (FSP 26/10/75).

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