This is what buyers should pay attention to during the handover of the house

To protect themselves from trouble and expensive surprises, a buyer must be extremely attentive when taking over a house. Raiffeisen expert Roland Altwegg recommends in an interview that it makes sense to have an expert accompany and advise you already during the first inspection.


House handover

Interview with expert Roland Altwegg

Mr. Altwegg, a young couple has realized their dream of owning their own home and bought a property. How should they prepare for the handover of the house?

Altwegg: «It's crucial that buyers make sure they have all the information about the property clearly available. This includes the official valuation, a current land register extract, the building insurance policy and floor plans. If available, a safety certificate for the electrical installations, details of heating and ancillary costs, wiring diagrams and a complete list of investments made should also be consulted. If possible, these documents should be transferred to the new buyer before the sale. It is best to collect them and keep them in a neat folder.»

What about defects?

Altwegg: «Any defects in the property must be addressed and recorded in writing as soon as they are discovered, as they may be relevant to the purchase price. After the purchase or the public notarization, it will then be rather difficult for the buyer(s) to enforce the rectification of defects.»

What specific contracts must be signed and sealed in order for the house to legally belong to the new owners?

Altwegg: «For a valid real estate purchase and the associated change of ownership, a publicly notarized real estate purchase contract is required. Depending on the canton or municipality, this is notarized either by the land registry or by a notary. A reservation agreement, which may precede the purchase contract, is only valid if it is also publicly notarized. The widespread opinion that a reservation is already legally binding even without this formal requirement is therefore not true.»

In your opinion, does it make sense to bring an expert along to the handover of the property?

Altwegg: «Definitely, but not only then. Instead, I recommend that interested parties are accompanied by an expert (e.g. architect, real estate appraiser, real estate consultant) as early as the first inspection of the property. This expert can tell you before you make your final purchase decision whether there are any investments to be made, and if so, which ones. Then you can include this cost estimate in your own budget.»

As a buyer, how should you react to obvious defects that were caused after the contract was signed and appeare when the property is handed over?

Altwegg: «This can also happen. In any case, the defects should be reported immediately. Then it is necessary to clarify who caused the defect or damage and whether it is insured. As a rule, in the case of existing properties, the warranty for all legal and factual defects is excluded in the purchase contract. The buyer must therefore be able to prove that the seller caused the defects himself and maliciously concealed them. In practice, this is extremely difficult and tedious.»

Between the signing of the purchase contract and the handover, the heater runs out. Who is liable?

Altwegg: «After the purchase contract has been signed or publicly notarized by the notary at the land registry, the transfer of ownership takes place. This corresponds to the actual change of ownership. However, the transfer of benefit and risk does not take place until the transfer of possession, i.e. when the keys are handed over. Until then, the seller is liable for any damage. In this specific case, this also applies to the heating system that has ran out.»

What other pitfalls can the buyer face?

Altwegg: «Due to the complexity of a change of ownership, there are various stumbling blocks that the buyer can fall over. Among the most serious are certainly major defects that can only be discovered after the public notarization and, if necessary, handover of the house. Furthermore, special mention should be made of the real estate gains tax, which, if not paid by the seller, will be charged on the property and will burden the buyer accordingly. In case of non-payment by the seller, the cantonal tax office enters a lien on the property. The consequence of this is that ultimately the buyer has to pay the real estate gains tax, which can easily amount to CHF 100,000 and more.»

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