Favourable exchange rates make buying property in South Africa very appealing for foreigners, also referred to as non-residents, so it’s important to know what is possible within the legal framework of the country.
Foreigners (whether they be natural persons or legal entities normally domiciled or registered outside South Africa) can invest in property in this country, within limits. Non-residents’ investments are not subject to South African tax. If foreigners investing in property in South Africa later sell that property and wish to transfer funds out of the country, the local tax laws of that country will apply.
Frequently asked questions:
1. What impact does exchange control play when purchasing a property in your own name in South Africa?
The money you paid to buy the property and any profit made if you sell it can be repatriated. Capital Gains Tax will be deducted from that profit though. Make sure that your title deed is endorsed as ‘non-resident’.
2. Should I opt for a fixed interest rate or variable interest rate on my home loan/ mortgage?
The first thing you have to decide is whether you want a fixed rate or a variable rate product. Fixed-rate mortgages will guarantee that the same interest rate will be applied for the duration of the agreement. This is usually in the region of about five years.
Variable-rate mortgages are more common than fixed-rate products in South Africa. Unlike a fixed rate product, these can cost more or less depending on how the interest rates change.
3. If the house I purchase stands empty for six months of the year – how do I protect it and what insurances are required?
Household insurance is a must, but because of the length of time the property is unoccupied, your premiums may be higher to cover the associated risks. Cover against loss or damage will also be affected. It’s important to check the terms and conditions of your policy and ensure that all the specified security requirements are met. These will no doubt include a radio-linked alarm system with armed response, burglar guards on opening windows and security gates on external doors.
4. This is my first time I am buying a property in South Africa – I hear about all the political turmoil and land expropriation without compensation – how do I make sure my property rights are safe?
It is best to check the state of play with your estate agent as regards land expropriation at the time of purchase.
5. If I take a mortgage for the property – what can I apply for and what are the terms I am likely to get?
Major banks will offer mortgages to foreign buyers under certain conditions. Non-residents may arrange finance for up to 50% of the purchase value, with the balance coming from foreign funds transferred to South Africa. Bank loans to foreigners are subject to the approval of the South African Reserve Bank.
6. Should I get a mortgage in the UK for a property in South Africa or is it best to get one in that country?
It is not currently possible to mortgage a South African property in the UK.
7. They want me to pay a deposit – how do I know that money is safe?
Your deposit should be safely held in an interest-bearing trust account where it will earn interest until the transfer of ownership goes through. While the conveyancing attorney or estate agent will charge an administration fee, this will usually be deducted from the interest earned and not the capital investment.