If you’re planning on buying a house in South Africa, these expert tips and overview of costs can help you prepare for buying property in South Africa.
If you’re tempted by houses for sale in South Africa, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in South Africa, although lower mortgage limits typically apply. You can buy a home cheaply in South Africa, but it’s important to be aware of the potential extra fees. This guide explains the process of buying a property in South Africa and how to find houses for sale in South Africa.
Real estate market in South Africa
House prices have been relatively stable in South Africa, with homeownership levels at around 60% of the population.
The average national price for an entry-level home (80–140 sqm) is around ZAR 937,000, with an average medium-size house currently costing around ZAR 1,255,000. Despite steady increases in the last year, property prices in South Africa remain relatively low.
Foreign buyers can freely purchase property. However, mortgage options top out for non-resident buyers at just 50% of the property purchase price. The transaction costs of buying a home in South Africa should also be a consideration; they can range anywhere from 5–15 or more on top of your property price. Taxes depend on the price range of your property.
Should you buy property in South Africa?
In certain cases, houses for sale in South Africa can make financial sense; rental costs can be expensive, especially in large cities. You can read more in our guide to renting in South Africa.
Currency is another contributing factor. With the Rand (ZAR) devaluing in recent years, it’s now significantly cheaper than it was for foreign currency buyers to purchase homes in South Africa.
Although you can buy cheaply, those planning shorter stays in South Africa should consider capital gains tax. This tax is relatively high in South Africa and can eat into profits on short-term investments. Sellers are typically liable to pay capital gains tax of 33.3% on their profits, after deducting certain expenses.
How to find houses for sale in South Africa
Property for sale in South Africa generally goes through real estate agents, and private sales are relatively rare. Estate agents in South Africa must register with the Estate Agency Affairs Board. Agents receive a certificate annually that says they comply with the code of conduct. Many agents are also members of the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa. You can find a listing of housing services and real estate agents in South Africa.
You can also find real estate agents that specialize selling in a particular area or focused on foreign buyers. This is particularly the case in more popular areas such as Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, and Johannesburg.
A traditional method of sourcing properties is registering your preferences with as many agents in the area as possible and hoping that they are diligent enough to find you the right home.
You’ll find many sites advertising properties, which can be a quick way to gauge potential areas, prices, and properties. Read up on some tips for how to choose the right real estate agent in South Africa
Real estate agents in South Africa:
Building your own home in South Africa
Building your own home in South Africa is a viable option, although the financial benefits of doing so are open to debate.
Unlike some countries, there are no government incentives for people building their own home. While land is relatively cheap, so too are existing properties.
If you choose to build your own home, in addition to buying a plot of land (either from a house builder or privately), you must appoint an architect to design the property and a builder to turn your plans into reality. Architects are usually registered with the South African Institute of Architects. House builders can be found by contacting the National Home Builders Registration Council.
Buying property in South Africa
Once you find your ideal property in South Africa, you need to make an offer – usually through the estate agent. The estate agent requests a formal letter confirming details of your offer (which can also include prospective completion dates). This then goes to the seller for approval. If the seller agrees to the offer, both sides sign the document; this effectively works as a sale agreement.
The seller will now appoint a conveyancer to deal with the legal aspects of the transaction. While the seller usually gets to choose the conveyancer, the buyer pays their fees.
You then must submit identification documents to the Deeds Registry so you can be officially registered as the new owner. As in other countries, the legal process can be time consuming, often running to six to eight weeks.
Once you’re officially the new owner, you must pay the remaining balance. The conveyancer then delivers the title deed.
Funding a purchase: deposits and mortgages
As a foreign buyer, you’ll typically need a deposit of at least 50% of the purchase price of the property if you are a non-resident. Read about South African visa and permit regulations.
Foreign nationals living in South Africa or investors may be able to loan more at the bank’s discretion. All loans to foreign nationals are typically subject to approval from the South African Reserve Bank. Some banks will require you to set up a South African bank account so your mortgage payments can be debited, although this is not always the necessary as payments can be arranged from an international bank in some cases.
As with mortgages in other countries, the lender conducts a property valuation before lending you the money. They sometimes base the amount they lend on their valuation, rather than the purchase price.
Lenders tend to offer both fixed-rate and variable mortgages, although fixed-rate deals tend to be less popular at the moment as banks offer uncompetitive rates. While mortgages with terms of up to 30 years are available, it’s more common to take out a 20-year mortgage; as a result, your loan will normally be paid off by the age of 70. Most mortgage products in South Africa don’t come with early redemption penalties.
As part of the home buying process, you’ll also need to take out building insurance. Read about insurance in South Africa.
Costs of buying property in South Africa
When you buy property in South Africa, you’ll typically pay a transfer duty plus a registration fee and conveyancing fee.
Transfer duty is not applicable in all property sales, as it depends on the property price:
- 0%: up to ZAR 750,000
- 3%: ZAR 750,000–1,250,000
- 5%: ZAR 1,250,000–1,750,000
- 8%: ZAR 1,750,000–2,250,000
- 11%: ZAR 2,250,000+
Transfer duty is often paid through your conveyancer at the point of purchase, otherwise it must be paid within six months of agreeing to buy your home (not the date of the completed sale). If you don’t pay on time, you’ll be subject to interest at 10% per annum each month.
Registration fees are also due to finalize the property transfer:
- Up to ZAR150,000: ZAR 70
- ZAR150,000–300,000: ZAR 350
- ZAR300,000–500,000: ZAR 450
- ZAR500,000–1,000,000: ZAR 550
- ZAR1,000,000 – 2,000,000: ZAR 650
- ZAR2,000,000 – 5,000,000: ZAR 1,050
- ZAR5,000,000+: ZAR 1,250
Conveyancing fee depend on the provide and can range anywhere from ZAR 1,250–36,000 ZAR (plus VAT at 14%).
Selling property in South Africa
There are various ways to sell your home in South Africa. The most common is to appoint a local estate agent to market the property online and in-store. Alternatively, although less common, you can sell your property privately or use an online-only agent.
As with buying in South Africa, fees can be high. When you sell a property, you’ll need to pay estate agent fees of up to 8% of the sale price (plus 14% VAT). Estate agents’ commission is often open to negotiation, and can depend on whether you sign a sole agent agreement or an open agreement (where other agents are also allowed to market your property).
Capital gains tax charges are also due in South Africa, which can be quite high. Several tax exemptions are available, however. After the deduction of transfer costs, property improvements, acquisition costs, and an allowed annual deduction of ZAR 30,000, capital gains tax is charged at 33.3% of the remaining profit. Read about income taxes in South Africa.
Assistance when buying a house in South Africa
There are currently no home buying schemes available to foreign citizens living in South Africa, but government assistance in the form of a one-off grant is available for South African citizens with low earnings. This isn’t particularly useful to people who have just moved to the area, however, as you usually need to live in South Africa for five years before applying for citizenship.
Where to buy in South Africa?
Location, Location, Location
Everyone knows that the most important point to buying property is the area where it is located. What this means essentially is that it is sometimes advisable to downscale on the size or quality of house in favor of a better area. Find where to live in Cape Town
Once you have identified the area you want to buy in, consult with the local residents and the police station regarding the crime rate in the area. Look out for open tracts of land and developments going on in the neighbourhood, which could promote incidents of criminal activity. Read about the top five safest places to live in South Africa.
Also take note of the presence (or lack thereof) of schools, libraries, shopping centers and other facilities that you would require in the area.
Tips and advice when buying South African property
Mark Bellinger at Online-Property advises it is necessary to avoid the common pitfalls when making a property purchase, particularly abroad, considering buying your house or property is one of the biggest purchases you will make during your lifetime. Here are some things to consider to ensure your property purchase in South Africa is secure in all of the following aspects.
- Deposit: as foreign buyers typically need pay half of their property purchase, it’s important to establish the amount you can put down as a deposit on your bond.
- Bond amount: Establish the amount of the monthly repayment you can afford. You can do this by totaling your monthly income (joint income if you are married) less your expenses. The banks will normally grant a maximum bond where the repayment is no more than 25% of your gross monthly salary which should not be more than the amount you calculated above, otherwise you may be overcommitted.
- Transfer cost: Do not forget to include the costs of transfer duty tax and conveyancing fees that are normally payable by the buyer.
- Bond approval: Not only has banking changed dramatically in past years, the new credit act has made it more difficult to get bonds approved, so get good advice and assistance with regard to home loans and bond finance.
One way to avoid paying transfer duties and conveyancing fees is to buy a property off-plan from a developer. Developers normally waive the legal costs, and if the property is new and has not been previously registered, there won’t be transfer duties to pay.
Before paying duties, it’s worthwhile noting that some bond originators and finance houses may pay some of these fees for you if you register your bond with them.