Accommodation in South Africa
Expats moving to South Africa can look forward to finding an abundance of reasonably priced, comfortable housing options. Whether relocating to Johannesburg, Cape Town or anywhere else in the country, the range, quality and affordability of accommodation will make adjusting to life on the African continent that much smoother.
Renting property in South Africa
Renting property in South Africa is a straightforward process. Working through an estate agent remains a popular method of finding a place to stay, while listings are also given in local newspapers and on a variety of websites. The country has a vast selection of rental accommodation including bachelor flats in skyrise apartment blocks, Victorian cottages, stand-alone houses with big gardens, and semi-detached units in modern townhouse complexes.
House-sharing – renting a room in a house shared with other people – is also popular, especially with students and young professionals, and is a great way to make new friends.
Normally, once someone has decided on the area of the city they want to live in, they approach an estate agent based in that area, and inform them of their budget and desired housing specifications. The estate agent presents them with a range of options, and schedules viewings of potential properties. When the applicant sees something they like, they fill out a lease application and wait for it to be processed.
The applicant may need to prove that their monthly income is at least three times the monthly rent, and will be required to pay a deposit of usually one or two months' rent in order to secure the deal. Leases are typically signed on a one- or two-year basis, although it is possible to rent for a shorter time.
The standard of accommodation in South Africa varies in direct proportion to income but is generally quite high. On the whole, houses are more spacious than in most European countries, and it isn't uncommon to find relatively inexpensive properties with big gardens and swimming pools. The South African institution of braaiing (barbecuing) ensures that most properties will have some kind of outdoor entertainment area. Air conditioning is reserved for the wealthy, while indoor heating is quite rare.
Shipping furniture to South Africa can be an unreliable and expensive process, so expats should consider this carefully. Many expats prefer to look for furnished accommodation or buy the things they need once they've found a place to rent. Second-hand and antique furniture stores are common, and are a fairly inexpensive way to kit out a new home.
Buying property in South Africa
Attracted by competitive property rates and enormous investment potential, many expats – especially those planning to stay for a few years – end up buying property in South Africa.
The good news is that there are no restrictions on non-residents owning property in South Africa. However, there is a restriction on the amount of financing non-South African residents can apply for. Foreign citizens are only allowed to borrow up to 50 percent of a house's value and have to provide the balance themselves. Expats in South Africa on a work permit are, however, considered to be residents and aren't subject to this restriction.
Foreign home-owners who choose to rent out their property will have to register for income tax in South Africa, even if their home country has a double taxation avoidance agreement with the South African government.
Should the expat decide to sell their property, they will be expected to pay capital gains tax. The buyer generally subtracts this amount from the house's selling price and transfers the amount directly to the South African Revenue Service.
Home security in South Africa
Home security in South Africa is a concern, however, it often isn't as paralysing a preoccupation as some might imagine it to be. As is the case in any country with large-scale social inequality, opportunistic and sometimes violent crime occurs in South Africa but, provided the appropriate precautions are consistently taken, expats should have nothing to be unduly worried about.
Especially in the cities, if a property doesn't already have them installed, it's advisable to have some kind of perimeter fencing, good locks, burglar bars for the windows and security gates for doors. It is also an idea to contract a private armed response company and have an alarm system installed. They offer good deals on alarms and will include a patrol and armed response service in the monthly bill.
For the very security conscious, townhouse complexes and gated communities are an attractive option. These settlements generally employ security guards and night watchmen who control access at a security boom which is only opened with resident authorisation.