Accommodation in South Africa
Expats moving to South Africa can look forward to finding plenty of reasonably-priced, comfortable housing options available to them. Whether you are relocating to Johannesburg, Cape Town, or anywhere else in the Rainbow Nation, rest assured that the range, quality and affordability of accommodation will make your adjustment to life on the African continent that much smoother, and easier to manage.
Renting property in South Africa
Renting property in South Africa, on a short- or long-term basis, is a straightforward process. Renting through estate agents remains a popular method of finding a place to stay, while listings are also given in local newspapers, and on a wide variety of websites (such as Gumtree.co.za). There is an almost inexhaustible range of accommodation available to rent in South Africa: from bachelor flats in skyrise apartment blocks, to Victorian cottages, to large, stand-alone houses with big gardens, and semi-detached units in modern townhouse complexes. House-sharing – that is, renting an individual room in a larger house, shared by other people – is also very popular in South Africa, particularly with students and young professionals, and is a terrific way to make new friends.
Typically, once you have decided on the area of the city in which you want to live, you will approach an estate agent based in that area, and inform them of your budget and desired housing specifications. The estate agent will then present you with a range of options, and schedule viewings of the potential properties. When you see something you like, you fill out the lease application and wait for it to be processed. Note that you might need to prove that your monthly income is at least three times the monthly rent, and that you will be required to pay a deposit (usually, one or two months' rent) in order to secure the deal. Leases are typically signed on a one- or two-year basis, although shorter periods are possible.
The standard of accommodation in South Africa varies in direct proportion to your income bracket – but is generally quite high. On the whole, houses are certainly more spacious than in most European countries, and it is not uncommon to find relatively inexpensive properties boasting big gardens and swimming pools. The South African institution of 'braaiing' ensures that most properties will have at least some kind of outdoor entertainment area. Air conditioning is considered a bit of a luxury in South Africa, while indoor heating is virtually non-existent.
As it can be a notoriously unreliable and expensive process, it is inadvisable to ship your furniture to South Africa. Rather look for furnished accommodation, or simply buy the things you need once you've found your dream rental. Second-hand and antique furniture shopping is common in South Africa, and expats are sure to find great deals when kitting out their new homes.
Home security is a concern in South Africa – however, it is NOT the paralysing preoccupation some might imagine it to be. As in any country with such obvious social inequality, opportunistic (sometimes violent) crime abounds in South Africa; however, as long as expats take appropriate precautions, and remain vigilant, there is nothing to be unduly worried about.
Particularly in the cities – if the property you're interested doesn't already have these installed – it's advisable to have some kind of perimeter fencing, good locks and security gates for your doors, 'Spanish-style' burglar bars on your windows, and an alarm system (with panic buttons). Private security companies offer good deals on alarm systems, and will include a patrol and armed response service in your monthly bill. For the very security conscious, townhouse complexes (also known as 'gated communities') are probably the way to go: invariably, these employ night watchmen; and access to the individual units is controlled by security guards stationed at a boom-gate, which is only opened to let residents and their visitors come and go.
Buying property in South Africa
Attracted by the competitive property rates, and enormous investment potential, many expats – especially those who plan to spend a few years in the country – end up buying property in South Africa.
The good news for expats is that there are no restrictions on non-residents regarding property ownership in South Africa. However, there is a restriction on the amount of financing non-South African residents can apply for when purchasing a new home – with a 50 percent loan to value borrowing ratio being the maximum permitted (i.e. you may only borrow up to 500,000 ZAR for a 1 million ZAR house).
Note that property transfer costs are as follows: 0 percent of the value of the property (for houses up to 500,000 ZAR); five percent (500,000-1 million ZAR); eight percent (>1 million ZAR) – and that all funds brought into the country from outside South Africa, for the purpose of acquiring fixed property within South Africa, may be repatriated along with any profit garnered from the resale of the property (provided that the title deed of the property has been endorsed ‘non-SA resident’).