Property in South Africa – Guide to Buying Property in South Africa

By: Les Calvert

There are no restrictions on foreign nationals investing or buying real estate in South Africa. Indeed, for generations, foreign nationals have been very active in the real estate market in South Africa.

As will be discussed more fully later, real estate in South Africa actually is known as or termed immovable property

Investment Property in South Africa

The investment real estate market in South Africa has been profitable for foreign nationals for years. There were some tentative times directly after the end of Apartheid in that country. However, as time has marched on from the period of transition, foreign nationals have carried forth in their investment in South African real estate — immovable property — on many fronts.

By way of example, foreign nationals play a significant role in the ownership of real estate or immovable property in the commercial sector. Foreign nationals own everything from office buildings to hotels and resorts.

There are no restrictions on the types of real estate that a foreign national can invest in within South Africa

Residential Real Estate in South Africa – Single Family Properties

Many foreign nationals have taken to purchasing some fairly high cost properties in South Africa. These men and woman have purchased these costly residences to be used as second homes and for holiday or vacation purposes. Many people — including a significant number of Europeans — regularly take extended holidays in South Africa. Since the end of Apartheid, a greater number of people from across the globe are taking to spending extended holidays in South Africa. This includes an ever growing number of North Americans, Canadians and U.S. citizens alike.

The single family dwelling market is fast moving and brisk in many different areas of the country. Not only can foreign nationals be found investing in these types of residences in the more urban centers in the country, but they are making purchase of these types of property in rural areas as well. As will be discussed, many foreign nationals enjoy making an extended holiday stay in South Africa (and have done so for many years). Thus, many of these foreign nationals have been interested and continue to be interested in buying single family residences — and at times very substantial properties — in urban and in rural regions of the country where they can live for a portion of the year.

Residential Real Estate in South Africa – Apartments

Because of the high rate of foreign investment in all sectors of the South African economy, many foreign nationals regularly can be found purchasing apartments in the major urban centers in that country. These foreign nationals find themselves in country for more extended periods of time. These men and women find the purchase of apartments to be an economical manner in which they can provide themselves housing during their time in South Africa on business.

There has also been a brisk business in the buying of apartments in resort communities by foreign nationals. Many foreign nationals are taking a two-pronged approach to buying apartments in resort venues. First, they are using these properties for their own holiday purposes. Second, they are letting out these premises to other foreign nationals when they are not personally using the property. Many foreign nationals have found that they can make a tidy sum by renting or leasing an apartment in a resort locale during that part of the year when they are not personally in residence in the resort community apartment.

Holiday Property in South Africa

For generations, Europeans and men and women from other countries the world over have made South Africa a holiday destination. Indeed, the history of people from Europe and elsewhere around the world making long and extended holiday stays within South Africa is long and legendary. As a consequence, the market in vacation or holiday real estate in South Africa is well established.

For the foreign national interested in purchasing vacation or holiday property in South Africa, the options and opportunities in regard to such property is extensive and varied. A foreign national has the ability to purchase anything from a high priced villa in a trendy resort community to a snug and tidy apartment in a sprawling urban setting to a lovely chateau in a rural area in the country.

A number of foreign nationals have taken to investing in different holiday and resort properties. Indeed, foreign nationals have been active in the development of hotels, apartments and free standing dwellings that are leased or rented to people who have traveled to South Africa on holiday. Overall, this type of investment has proven to be very lucrative for many foreign nationals from different countries the world over.

Specific steps to buying real estate property in South Africa

In South Africa, the laws governing the buying and selling of real estate actually are called laws governing the buying and selling of immovable property or land. At the present time, there are no restrictions on a foreign national buying and owning real estate in South Africa. Indeed, foreign nationals have bought and owned real estate — immovable property — in South Africa for generations.

Generally speaking, the buying and selling of immovable property or real estate in South Africa is governed by decisions of the courts of that country. The one area in which statutory law does play a role when it comes to buying and selling real estate/immovable property in South Africa is in the area of the ownership of mineral rights. When it comes to mineral interests that might be underneath the surface of a particular piece of property, that interest as a general rule belongs to the “people of South Africa.” In other words, even though a foreign national may be able to buy real estate in that country, more often than not a foreign national will not be able to easily purchase a right to extract minerals from that real estate. (Of course, a contract can be entered into with the government that will grant an individual of business the right and the ability to withdraw minerals from underneath the surface of land.)

Because there are some tribes that exercise some degree of local autonomy in South Africa, some foreign nationals wonder what impact these more or less autonomous governing authorities might have on their ability to purchase real estate. Historically, local, tribal or customary law had little impact on the buying and selling of real estate in South Africa. However, in recent years, the national government has given some recognition to parallel lines of authority within the country. Therefore, if a foreign national is interested in buying immovable property in an area that is included within an autonomous, that foreign national will need to make certain that he or she understands the particular regulations in that area that might have an impact on the purchase of real estate in that area. Because there are so many different local variants that might come into play depending on what region of the country a person is considering investing in real estate in, it is impossible to detail them all in this limited space. Therefore, a foreign national who is interested in purchasing real estate in South Africa will want to make certain that he or she has access to very capable legal representation.

The underlying real estate purchasing process in South Africa is simple when all is said and done. A tentative or preliminary contract is entered into between the buyer and seller. As in many other countries around the world, a deposit is made upon the property by the purchaser. The amount of the deposit is negotiated between the parties. Additionally, the terms of under what conditions a deposit might be returned are also negotiated between the parties to the agreement.

Following the execution of this preliminary contract, the buyer will embark on his or her efforts to find appropriate financing for the real estate. There are many different mortgage lenders within South Africa that deal regularly with a foreign clientele. With that said, it is also perfectly permissible for a foreign national to obtain mortgage financing from a firm located in that person’s country of origin. The government of South Africa is flexible as to where a person obtains his or her financing to fund a real estate or immovable property purchase in that country.

Once all of the requirements of the initial agreement have been satisfied, a final agreement of sale and transfer of immovable property is executed between the parties. It is at this juncture, when this agreement is duly executed, that ownership of the immovable property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. With this conveyance, a new title to the real estate is registered immediately with governmental authorities.

Again, it is important to keep in mind that there might be some slight variances in this procedure in some of the more autonomous regions of the country. However, with the assistance of capable legal counsel, a foreign purchaser of immovable property or real estate in South Africa will be able to maneuver through the legal requirements.

Property Abroad always recommends using a Solicitor or Lawyer.

About the Author

Property Abroad’s directory Les Calvert writes interesting and useful articles on all subjects dealing with overseas investment property and buying property in South Africa. Visit their website to view their property for sale in South Africa and other useful information on buying property abroad.

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Francis Gichuhi (692 Posts)

Architect Francis Gichuhi . B.Arch. University of Nairobi. Registered Architect, Kenya. Member, Architectural Association of Kenya. Contacts. email info@a4architect.com. Telephone +254721410684


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