The Agreement for Sale (AFS) is a document you sign when you agree to purchase or sell a property. Your signature and that of the vendor bind both parties to the terms and conditions that are stated in the document. Yes, you hired a lawyer to handle the legal matters for you, but often lawyers foul up. You therefore should know what you are signing to. Here is a brief look at a standard Agreement for Sale for residential properties and the pitfalls and safeguards you should be aware of.
All AFS have a space for the date from which the document takes effect. The first rule is: do not fill in the date, whether you are vendor or purchaser. Your lawyer will do that for you. I will explain the reason in a later article.
A Tax Registration Number (TRN) must be included in the section for Vendor or Purchaser . Local or overseas residents, can apply online or in person at the nearest Tax office if you don’t already have a TRN.
Description of Property
This information is copied from the certificate of title of the property and usually abbreviated. Check to ensure that the volume and folio are correctly written.
This is the sum at which you agreed to sell or buy the property. If the residence is fully furnished this figure is sometimes broken down into “Realty” and “Chattel” and a supplemental AFS prepared. The closing costs to buyer and seller is reduced if the purchase price is divided accordingly. Remember this applies only to furnished properties.
Some vendors specify a US dollar or pound sterling (GBP) figure. If a US dollar or GBP amount is quoted here, be sure that the equivalent in Jamaican dollars is specified otherwise it may cost you more than necessary in Stamp Duty and Transfer Tax. Better yet, have the Jamaica dollar amount stated first since that is the figure that the Tax Office will use to assess the tax and duties payable.
How much you agree to deposit upon signing of the agreement. The deposit generally ranges from ten to twenty percent of the sale price. Most lawyers will require fifteen percent. You will need to find the amount of the deposit whether or not you are receiving a mortgage from an institution. So be prepared to have at least this amount ready when you sign the agreement if you are the buyer.
If you are the vendor, be sure there is a calendar date written here, example, December 15, 2014. Some lawyers will state, the number of days “after the signing of the agreement. This reference is too elastic and may cause your sale to drag on for a long time. Do not allow you money to be tied up for an unnecessarily long period. A specific date gives the vendor more legal clout to enforce an adherence to the specified closing date if it becomes necessary.
I encourage buyers to have the clause “vacant possession on completion” stated . This means that the seller has to evict the tenant, and squatters if there are any, before you take possession. The closing date may be delayed as a result, but in most cases it is well worth the wait. Hint to sellers: If your property is occupied, serve a notice of possession as soon as you decide to sell the property.
Title and Costs of Transfer
Download my tables at the end of this article showing you how to calculate these charges. It is against the law for buyers to share the cost of the Transfer Tax. The vendor always pays the full amount of the Transfer Tax.
Here are a few items to look for under the heading “Special Conditions”. The fee that the lawyer charges to prepare the AFS may range from $60,000 to $100,000. You are required to pay half. If you are receiving a mortgage be sure the AFS states that. If you are the seller, consult your lawyer whether a “Time is of the essence” clause should be included in this section. Such a clause along with a calendar date for completion encourages all parties to complete the sale on time.
Vendors, before choosing a lawyer to act on your behalf in a real estate matter, enquire of the percentage fee he/she charges for the service, the cost of drafting the AFS and the cost of all miscellaneous fees. These are separate costs. Two or three percent of the sale price is a common fee. Finally if you are a buyer, never use the same lawyer that the seller uses.