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Buying Property in South Africa: Process & Foreign Documents

Simon Colwill - June 17, 2021 - 0 comments

Thinking of buying a property in South Africa, as a permanent relocation, holiday home or investment?

As a foreigner, you’ll need to ensure you have all the required documents for the buying process. We’ve put together a guide to the paperwork you’ll need to buy a house in South Africa. Plus, how to ensure it’s still legal abroad.

Why buy property in South Africa as a foreigner?

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in South Africa. But you can’t have a criminal record.

Buying a property in South Africa is less common than buying a property in Europe, but it’s gaining popularity. The country’s sunny weather, wildlife and beaches are a huge draw, and English is understood in many urban areas. 

The Land Holdings Bill restricts foreigners from buying agricultural land, but doesn’t apply to buying homes in SA.

There are many different types of property in South Africa, from city apartments in Cape Town to villas on the coast. The country is recovering after a recession, making it appealing for foreigners looking to move or invest abroad. Brits often notice similarities in the parliament and bank systems – as well as sports – due to lingering effects of British rule.

If you’re investing in property as a non-resident, you can notarise documents through a notary in the UK.

Will I need a South African visa to stay there?

If you want to live in your South African property, you’ll need a visa. If you’re buying to let out a property as a holiday home or managed apartment, be careful when buying as some lenders consider this a loan rather than a mortgage. 

You can find out more about entry requirements and residency permits here

For short-term stays (such as tourism or business purposes) in South Africa, you’ll need a passport but not a visa. 

The process of buying a house in South Africa

Buying a house in South Africa as a foreigner has some differences from buying a house locally in the UK.

You’ll still need to provide a deposit of the property price, alongside a variety of other costs. The legal system in South Africa is similar to the UK, but it’s strongly advised to employ a solicitor to help you through the buying process.

There are a lot of extra costs involved in buying a property as a foreigner, particularly if as an investment. If you’re buying as a non-resident of South Africa, you might be looking at a 50% deposit, rather than the usual 10%. 

How to find houses for sale in your chosen area

First, you’ll need to find a house you want to buy in your chosen area of South Africa. The market is dominated by a few real estate agents, rather than private sales. Apartments in Cape Town are particularly popular for property investors.

Familiar sites like Rightmove list South African properties, alongside dedicated resources like A Place in the Sun.

Making an offer on a house you want to buy

When buying a house in South Africa, it’s wise to get support from a conveyancer or residential property solicitor. 

Choose a lawyer local to SA, or someone in the UK familiar with South African property law. Using a solicitor will help ensure you’re not caught out by extra costs and that you meet deadlines for submitting required documents.

Documents required to buy a house in South Africa

As a foreigner buying abroad, you’ll need to provide more documents than if you were buying in the UK:

  • Valid passport or other agreed ID documentation
  • Proof of legal residence, whether in the UK or South Africa
  • SA bank certificate to show you’re eligible for a loan
  • Documents to prove good credit (bank statements, credit checks)
  • Documents to prove you can afford a mortgage (bills, paychecks)

Your solicitor or conveyancer will be able to advise you on exactly what documents are required. If you can ensure you have access to these documents, the process of buying a property in South Africa will be much quicker and smoother.

The legal process can take a long time – often up to six to eight weeks – so it’s important that you start early.

Do documents need to be notarised and legalised?

If you’re buying from abroad, you may need to get documents notarised, such as your passport and proof of address. Notarisation helps to ensure documents are still legal abroad and involves signing documents in front of a notary.

We offer a swift and streamlined notary service, call 0208 907 2699 or use our enquiry form to book an appointment.

If you have an attorney acting on your behalf in South Africa – for example, if you’re a non-resident looking to invest in a property abroad and then rent it out – you may need to notarise documents such as a power of attorney or affidavit. 

Some bond and transfer documents may also need to be apostilled at the FCO, which we can assist you with. 

Find out more about notarising a power of attorney here

Ensure you’ve discussed exactly what’s needed to finalise the property sale with your solicitor in South Africa.

Costs to consider when buying in South Africa

When buying a house in South Africa as a foreigner, here are a few extra costs to consider during the process:

  • Deposit – is it safe? Ensure you’re buying through a reputable company and it’s protected
  • Mortgage – if you’re buying as a non-resident, some lenders consider will this as a loan
  • Insurance – South Africa has crime hotspots, so never forget about home insurance 

Getting documents notarised costs money, and ask your conveyancer about transfer and registration fees.

As for buying the house itself, it’s relatively cheap for foreigners to buy property in South Africa, due to the devaluation of the Rand (ZAR). However, investors should consider capital gains tax as this is relatively high in South Africa. 

Banks offer uncompetitive rates, so fixed-rate mortgages are popular, but you can still get a variable rate.

Last tips on buying a house in South Africa

If you’re buying property abroad in South Africa, our notary in London can help with the process of legalising documents.

However, it’s best to also get the support of a real estate solicitor or conveyancer in South Africa to help you with the buying process. Be aware of extra costs, plan ahead as much as possible, and do as much research as you can.

There are no government schemes to help foreign buyers, but you can gain citizenship after 5 years of living in SA.

What about selling a property in South Africa?

When it comes to selling a property in South Africa, you may need the help of a notary to legalise a seller’s affidavit. 

This document is a sworn statement of fact, showing proof that you own the property. If you’re selling a house in South Africa, our notary can help ensure your seller’s affidavit is duly notarised. We can also advise on the affidavit process.

Get in touch with us for streamlined notarisation of documents required to buy and sell property in South Africa.

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