Advantages & Disadvantages

What to take into account

There are both advantages and disadvantages to buying a home in South Africa, although for most people the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Among the many advantages are:

  • Guaranteed summer sunshine in most areas and a pleasant climate for much of the year in many parts of the country;
  • Good value (provided you avoid the most fashionable areas), particularly if you want a country house with a large plot or an urban property in an upcoming part of town;
  • The solidity and spaciousness of rural homes;
  • Impressive design and a huge variety of architectural styles;
  • A buoyant property market;
  • Safe purchase procedures (provided you aren’t reckless);
  • The integrity of (most) licensed estate agents;
  • The availability of good food and excellent wines at reasonable prices;
  • Good rental possibilities (in many areas);
  • Reliable, inexpensive local tradesmen and services;
  • Sophisticated transport and telecommunications systems;
  • A relaxed, slow pace of life in rural areas;
  • The natural splendour of the countryside.

Naturally, there are also a few disadvantages, including:

  • The high purchase costs associated with buying property in comparison with some other countries;
  • High inflation (currently around 5 per cent per annum);
  • A high crime rate in some urban areas;
  • Traffic congestion and pollution in some towns and cities and a high road death rate in the country as a whole;
  • Cool, wet, windy winter weather in some regions;
  • Overcrowding in popular tourist areas;
  • The duration and cost of flights to South Africa from Europe or North America, although prices are coming down.

You should also bear in mind the following pitfalls that await anyone purchasing property abroad:

  • Unexpected renovation and restoration costs (if you don’t do your homework);
  • The risk of overpaying for a home, and being unable to sell it and recoup your investment;
  • The possibility of over-stretching your finances (e.g. by taking on too large a mortgage);
  • The heavy workload associated with owning a large home and garden (although hiring staff is inexpensive in South Africa).

Finally, it is instructive to consider the views of South Africans, particularly those who left the country in the early post-apartheid years (a phenomenon sometimes disparagingly called the ‘chicken run’), fearing a breakdown of law and order and a Zimbabwe-style persecution of whites. According to the website Homecoming Revolution (www.homecomingrevolution.co.za ), which is a non-government site started by two young South African businesswomen, an increasing number of the South Africans who emigrated during the last decade – many to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US – are returning, disappointed with the weather, the high cost of living, poor public services and a stressful lifestyle in their adopted countries, and attracted by a belief in South Africa’s bright future.

Some commentators maintain that there was a ‘conspiracy’ in the 90's to lure South Africa’s brightest people abroad, with the country portrayed only in terms of growing crime, AIDS infection and political instability, an impression which some South African expatriates were happy to endorse because it reinforced their decision to leave the country. Rarely did you read about the positives of post-apartheid South Africa: the houses and shopping centres being built in the townships, the fact that one of Daimler Chrysler's most efficient plants is in South Africa, multinationals making higher profits in Africa than in any other continent, and falling interest and inflation rates. But that has changed and in the 21st century South Africa is increasingly being portrayed in a realistic, positive light, with the emphasis firmly on sun, space, bush, beaches, surf, wildlife, clear skies and barbecues (braais).

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: