Is it best to rent or to buy a house when moving to South Africa? We give you a run down of the variety of property choices here in Johannesburg......
Many expats choose to live in the northern suburbs of the city (Dainfern, Fourways, Cedar Lakes) due to its close proximity to international schools and its many security estates, which provide a convenient way of living. It’s also more recently developed part of the city, so all properties are newer and there is a wide variety of properties available.
Johannesburg is a massive, sprawling city though, so before you choose to follow the expat crowds (which is an easy option), it’s worth investigating some of the other areas in the city, which may or may not be a better and more integrated option for you (and your family!).
For expats who will be staying for a limited time, it’s probably more advisable to rent a property, but those looking to stay for longer could investigate buying a house, but note that the South Africa Rand is one of the most volatile currencies in the world, so you may not want to bring in a large sum of money.
Whether you choose to rent or buy, there are a number of different home types to choose from:
- Free-standing home in a suburb: Freestanding homes will give you more privacy and space, but will also require maintenance and investment into security, for example an electric fence, alarm and voice/camera intercom for visitors. Generally houses in the Parks area are free standing.
- Security village/ Estate: A popular option for the more security conscious, a security complex will offer residents individual homes within a gated community, often with shared leisure facilities (golf course and tennis courts) and very strict entry and exit criteria at the gate. Big estates are mainly based in the far north of the city in and around Fourways.
- Townhouse / Cluster homes in a complex: Townhouses are split level homes that are larger than an apartment and typically have a small garden. Cluster homes, are smaller secured villages, larger properties but clustered together with 3 - 6 other homes behind guarded entrance. Bryanston, Hyde Park and a few dotted around the parks.
- Apartment in a complex: With the growth of the city, apartments are much more popular and widely available, but newer complexes are typically oriented for 1-2 bedroom apartments and can be smaller. (Sandton and Rosebank) Apartment complexes in older, more established parts of the city can be larger though (for example 3 bedroom apartments in Killarney, Parkview and Illovo).
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
TRAFFIC: Traffic will be a very important consideration when choosing where to live in Joburg, as the northern suburbs are notoriously gridlocked during peak hour traffic periods (approximately 7-9am and 4-6pm). Traffic can also be worse in the mornings if you live near to a school, university or highway onramp.
The northern suburbs are very popular and offer a variety of different and affordable home options but because expansion in these areas has often been rapid, there hasn’t been commensurate growth and expansion of the road network in these areas, which originally served a farming community.
NOTE: Roadworks on the main highway into town (the M1) and from Pretoria (the N1) are particularly choked up during peak periods and when there are accidents on the highway, so always factor in extra travel time when needing to drive on the highway. Apps like Google Maps and Waze can help you to figure out alternate routes.
Houses can be a lot bigger than you might be used to, as there is generally more space available in Johannesburg and gardens will typically be bigger. The amount of space you require can influence where you’ll choose to live, as some suburbs and security complexes have more spacious homes than others.
When looking for a house you’ll also need to factor in whether you’re going to get a permanent domestic worker and if they will stay with you. If they will, you’ll need to make sure they have their own room and access to their own bathroom.
Johannesburg has particularly mild and sunny weather, so having a covered patio and outdoor space/garden to take advantage of the weather will make your life very enjoyable. A South African will also make sure to tell you to have adequate outdoor space for your braai (barbeque), which typically is a wood fired grill, but Webers and gas barbeques are becoming more popular.
A swimming pool is also very common and can be a wonderful addition in summer, but does require a large amount of maintenance (there are pool cleaning services available, your Local Assistant can provide more details here).
NOTE: Check the orientation of your home to make sure it is north-facing to take advantage of the movement of the sun in the southern hemisphere. Houses that face in another direction can be terribly cold in winter.
To get a better idea of cost, you’ll need to do some research into the different areas of the city.
Rental cost may also depend on whether or not the house is furnished, which might be a more convenient option, however there are much fewer options available, most houses come unfurnished.
Dainfern / Estate Living (3 bed R35,000 - R70,000)
Melrose Arch / Sandton 1/2 Bed Apartment R25,000 - R50,000
Cluster Home (Hyde Park / Sandringham/ Bryanston) R30,000 - R70,000
Free Standing in the Parks 3/5 bed R30,000 - R70,000
For a broad overview of the cost of living in Johannesburg read more here:
When looking for a house, you’ll need to consider what’s most important to you. Do you value independence and privacy? Or would you prefer the convenience and security offered by a security complex? We have a free guide to help you figure it all out. CLICK the image to your left to download it now.
HOW TO GET STARTED:
There are a number of different property websites in South Africa, here are the most popular:
Private Property: https://www.property24.com/to-rent/johannesburg/gauteng/100
Although a bit of a gamble, properties can also be found on these two sites:
Some estate agents operate in particular areas of the city, but generally the well known international agencies operate citywide.
Interestingly, many individual estate agents advertise on street poles and municipal trash cans (dustbins in South Africa) so it can also be worthwhile to contact an estate agent directly.
Estate agents can sometimes take a bit longer to respond to email, so it’s best to give them a call or send them a message to set up an appointment, and get them to show you around!
Find out more: https://www.property24.com/estate-agencies
NOTE: Even when you’ve made a signed offer or lease application, don’t think that an offer is a guarantee! A landlord or seller can refuse an offer at the last minute so be sure to factor this in when looking for a place and making arrangements for furniture transportation etc.
• Visit the estate agent and go through the lease in detail and make sure you understand every single point before signing (your Local Assistant can help you here)
• Understand what is your responsibility to maintain and what is the landlord’s responsibility
• Find out what utilities are included in the rent, and if possible, organise a pre-paid electricity meter as this will help you manage your electricity bill a lot more easily, especially in winter when you will be using a lot of electrical appliances to keep warm!
If you have your own local assistant - they can carry out all the research for you and provide you with a short list of properties for you to go and view. They can even arrange a driver to take you around for the day! Find out more here: Local Assistant