New real estate guidance platform flags illegal structures to home buyers.
Archicheck, an online platform developed and maintained by architecture firm, Archimedes Design – aims to address an existing void in the real-estate industry by warning prospective home buyers and property agents if a home is noncompliant with national building regulations.
This information is generally hard to come by, but should be deemed as essential information, because buildings that do not fall within the guidelines imposed by the local council may be illegal, explains Sheldon Jennings – architect and founder of the platform.
“The platform asks users to enter the physical address, size of the property and the square meterage of the existing building into a user-friendly interface. It then cross references this information against the local building restrictions and provides a report of the zoning, remaining permissible coverage, height restrictions and boundary lines of the site within 48 hours.
“Most importantly, the report will also alert the user 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.”
Jennings warns that far 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.Read the Article Here
“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, explains Jennings.
“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.”
Keep in mind that this is just to approve the existing illegal structure and at this stage no new plans for renovations have been submitted, adds Jennings.
“That is why I decided to launch Archicheck, to guide home buyers with this information before they purchase a property. On top of this quick online check, the platform also allows users to book a physical, comprehensive property inspection to alert them of any serious structural issues or defects. Following the inspection, we issue the buyer with a full report of defects, which can assist in negotiating for a better price.”
Jennings points out that home owners often feel pressurised to make hasty decisions in fear that they will lose out on the property, especially in Cape Town where the market is peaking. “It is important to remember that a property is a significant, long-term investment, so don’t be too hasty to commit to anything without having completed the necessary checks.”
“Archicheck, is the only property inspection firm in SA that employs only qualified architects, who are registered with the South African Council for Architecture Professional (SACAP). This ensures that inspections are highly accurate and of the best quality the industry has to offer”, he concludes.