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Finding your home in South Africa

Whether you’re thinking of buying or renting, the best way to start your search is to use a registered local estate agent

(see the Estate Agency Affairs Board for more information), check out the local papers or use an internet search portal such as Property24, Private Property and Prime Location. If you’re part of an intra-company transfer, your employer may provide your accommodation, or will at least be able to point you in the right direction. Word of mouth is also an invaluable way of finding out more about the area and the best places to live.

Think about:

  • Locality – properties closer to the centre of town and beauty spots often attract a premium price; and while a professional couple may enjoy the bright lights and fast-paced life of the city, the green spaces and family-friendly amenities of the suburbs may be better for those with children.
  • The proximity of schools, colleges and commercial centres – in places where commuting is a headache. Will you want to spend a percentage of your day in stop-start traffic?
  • Safety – some areas present few problems in terms of crime, others are best enjoyed as part of a cluster community.
  • Outside space – if you're concerned about the safety of being outside in the local area, make sure you've got enough room for you and your family to enjoy the sunshine in your yard: whether you’re throwing a braai, playing football with the kids or cooling off in the pool.
  • Furnished or unfurnished – shipping your furniture can be an expensive and complicated operation. There are plenty of specialist firms who are happy to help but if you’d rather skip the worry, consider moving into a furnished property or investigate buying whatever you need for your home when you’re there.

With townhouses, smart apartments, and gated communities in good supply, there is no shortage of options open to the expat. The good news is that there are no restrictions on foreign citizens buying property in South Africa. The only stipulation is that they can only borrow up to 50% of the value, the remainder coming from their private funds. Different rules apply if you're in the country on a work permit as you’re considered a resident, and if you choose to rent the property out for any reason, you’ll need to register for income tax.

A good estate agent will listen to your needs and will find some properties for you to consider. When you have had a look around them and found one that meets your requirements, make an offer. From there, the agent will draw up a confirmation letter to the vendor with the details, which may also include expected completion dates. Those from Western countries, particularly the UK, will be familiar with the next step of the process, which employs the services of a conveyancer to handle the legal details. Make sure you find out about, and set aside enough money, to cover the fees.

The next step is registering with the Deeds Registry, which may take up to eight weeks, and when that is processed you'll need to pay the balance. At this point, the conveyancer will give you the deed.


If you’re only in the country for a short while or you’d like to have a look around before you choose to settle somewhere more permanently, renting is a great option.

South Africa has seen dramatic increases in both rental and purchasing markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Price-to-rent ratio, which is the average cost of ownership divided by estimated rental cost, in South African city centres has seen the most notable increase — 23.7% between mid-2019 and mid-2020. Higher values indicate that renting is better than buying. Read more in our 2020 Global Housing Market Trends report.

Again, using a search site, a registered estate agent, local printed media, or word of mouth is a good place to start. When you’ve found the best place, for the right amount, the agent will help you to fill out a lease application.

If accepted, be prepared to be able to prove that your income is at least three times the monthly rent and to put down one or two months' rent as a deposit. The lease is likely to be for one or two years but this can vary, and shorter leases are available.

Choosing a place to live can be a daunting decision when you’re moving to a new country. Talk to our friendly team today and let us take the worry out of health care cover so you can get on with organising your new home.

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