Ownership of a property takes much more than your signature on an offer to purchase or, for that matter, payment of the purchase price. The property must go through the transfer process and be registered in your name at the Deeds Office, which requires the services of a conveyancing attorney.

According to Adrian Goslett, the regional director and chief executive of Re/Max Southern Africa, the process of buying a home can sometimes be complicated.

The conveyancing attorney (usually appointed by the seller) can answer your questions and give you a better understanding of the process. For example:

• How long will the registration and transfer process take?

On average, the process should take about three months from the date of sale. However, this depends on a few key elements, such as the due date of the buyer’s bond grant and whether or not there are guarantees or conditions stipulated in the deed of sale.

If there are no complications, the process may take less than three months. On the other hand, if there are complications, transfer may be delayed. Staying in touch with the conveyancing attorney will help you stay abreast of the situation.

• To whom do I pay the deposit? 

This depends on what is stipulated in the sale agreement. The deposit is usually paid to either the estate agency or the transferring attorney.

The deposit is never paid directly to the seller, but always held safely in a trust account.

• What happens to the interest that accrues on the deposit?

If you, as a buyer, provide written consent, the estate agency or attorney can have the deposit invested in an interest-bearing account.

Once the property has been registered, the interest that accrued over the period it took for the transfer to go through will be paid to you, unless other arrangements have been made.

• How much will the transfer and bond costs be?

The transfer duty is based on the purchase price, while the bond registration costs are determined by the amount of the loan.

Either the estate agent or the conveyancing attorney should be able to provide a fairly accurate answer based on a schedule of bond and transfer costs.

• When are the transfer costs on the property due?

A few weeks after the sale of the property, when the conveyancing attorney asks you to sign the documentation. The attorney must pay the transfer duty in advance, along with pro rata rates and taxes or levies required to obtain the necessary clearance certificates.

The longer it takes you to pay the transfer duty, the longer it will take to have the property transferred.

• To whom do I pay occupational rent?

If you move into the property before registration has taken place, you will be required to pay occupational rent at a rate determined in the offer to purchase. You and the seller can agree that the rent be paid directly into the seller’s bond account.

Alternatively, you can pay the occupational rent to the estate agent or conveyancing attorney, and they will ensure that it is paid to the seller.

• How will I know when the property is registered in my name?

The conveyancing attorney’s office will let you know. At this stage, you will be given the final statement of account. The bank will give you written confirmation that your bond has been registered and say when you can expect the first repayment to be debited.