How to find and deal with the real property owner

Before you sign an offer to purchase, make sure the person selling the property is the legal owner.

Property sellers

It may seem obvious that the seller you are dealing with is the actual property owner. But there are many instances where this has been found not to be the case.

It frequently happens that elderly parents who have moved out of the family home will leave the sale of the property to one of their adult children or other relatives. Also, owners who have moved overseas or to another town may ask friends to manage the sale on their behalf.

There have even been instances where apparent ‘owners’ have sold vacant stands to unsuspecting buyers and then disappeared without a trace after pocketing thousands of rands in deposits.


If the person who signs the acceptance of your offer to purchase is not the actual owner, it can lead to unexpected delays in the transfer of the property. It could even result in the cancellation of the transaction if the actual owner changes his mind about selling – or decides to make a counter-offer.

This would be very costly – not to mention disappointing.

It might also mean that you could miss out on buying another property at a good price while waiting for the legal muddle to be untangled and your deposit to be refunded. If you have already sold your existing home, you will probably have the additional costs of renting a place to stay while you start house hunting from the start.

Check upfront

The registered owner of a property is the only person legally entitled to sign the necessary documents for the transfer of a property to a new owner.

To avoid potentially costly problems, it is wise to deal only with suitably qualified – and experienced – estate agents. Before taking on a sales mandate and drawing up a sales agreement, the agent needs to verify the real owners of a property.