Playing the Game


South Africa’s property market is having a good year, so where are foreign buyers putting down roots? James Matthews pays a flying visit.

The perceived weakness of the rand compared to most major foreign currencies is making residential property in South Africa an increasingly attractive investment option for foreign buyers at present; an appeal further driven by the fact that the country is home to several internationally acclaimed and award-winning destinations.

A mix of centuries-old architecture, a minimalist aesthetic, and outdoor influence give this country an edgy sensibility. Beyond its buzzing cities lies endless countryside with vast open plains, unspoilt villages and a burgeoning wine culture. All in the glow of a wonderful year-round climate. The country is also a natural destination for UK buyers. Cape Town is only two hours ahead of London, and everyone speaks English.

“The economy has avoided a lot of the volatility witnessed in Europe and North America these past eighteen months,” explains Solly Fouri from the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism: “It’s seen as a safe haven due to exchange control regulations with higher commodity prices in combination with lower inflation and stable interest rates driving investment growth.”

Foreigners own around 3% of all South African properties, a proportion of which is still growing, confirms Craig Hutchison of Engel & Volkers Southern Africa. Most foreign owners are based in Europe, in the UK, as well as Germany, Italy, Holland, and France, with an increasing percentage from African countries such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Cameroon. A fresh investment vein is also opening up with a number of buyers from China and Dubai eyeing properties in the KwaZulu-Natal and the Durban area.

But if there’s one location continuing to drive inward investment with a commanding list of tourism accolades - it’s the ‘Monaco of the South’ City of Cape Town. Voted one of the ‘top 50 international housing markets’ favoured by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) by Wealth-X “Alpha Cities Index”, Cape Town’s Deed Office records clearly demonstrate the city’s continued appeal.

Says Mimi Nicklin of Pam Golding Associates: “Cape Town’s temperate climate offers an idyllic respite from European winters, while its unique synthesis of lifestyle, scenic beauty and world-class amenities, including a growing reputation as a global gourmet capital, meet even the highest expectations and cater to most needs.”

When it comes to property styles, investors are spoilt for choice from luxurious lock-up and go apartments and penthouses to superb villas that boast wine cellars, games rooms, cinemas, gyms, saunas, expansive reception areas and state-of-the-art fittings and security. Adds Ana Maria Delgado of Remax Property Associates: “Residents are also just a short walk or a minute’s drive away from pristine Blue-Flag beaches and gourmet restaurants and cafés.”

Sought-after districts include the Atlantic Seaboard where records reveal that between 2010 and 2016, foreign investment in Bantry Bay, Camps, Clifton and Fresnaye accounted for 17% of all residential sales and 22% of the total rand value achieved during this period. “Plot sizes are a fraction of those in the Constantiaberg, but the area’s elevated oceanfront position dotted with architectural masterpieces has enduring appeal, with both foreign and domestic buyers,” confirms property consultant Jude Reynolds. “We’re increasingly witnessing a "semigration" trend of up-country buyers flocking to the Cape in search of a more relaxed, outdoor lifestyle and better work-play balance. Who can blame them – the city has it all.”

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