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Incompass Financial Solutions
Authorised Financial Service Provider
Graphic Centre, 2nd Floor
199 Loop Street
Cape Town, 8001 - South Africa

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Ph: +27 (0) 21 424 2936
Fax: +27 (0) 86 568 2086

Can Foreigners Buy Property in South Africa?

foreigners buy property in south africaThe short answer to this is 'yes', foreigners can buy property in South Africa. That said, there are a number of facts you need to know about the process, including the methods you may use to pay for the property.

The information below will provide answers to the most frequently asked questions that foreigners (known as non residents) will have.

Please note Incompass are not property experts and you should always seek the advice of a professional in this regards. We supply the below information as many of the clients we help are non residents.

Our area of expertise is the very important part that exchange control and money transfers play in any foreigner buying South African property.

Are there any restrictions on foreigners buying property in South Africa?

South Africa has proposed a new law banning foreigners directly buying agricultural land in the country as the government seeks to boost ownership for the black majority.

Non-residents will be allowed to take long leases on the properties or the land should be majority owned by a black South African, according to the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill, published in the Government Gazette in March 2017. The proposal is open for public comment until 17 April 17.

It should be noted that this applies only to agricultural land and not residential land or housing.

Therefore non residents are free to purchase residential properties, commercial buildings etc but should proceed with caution on agricultural land until the situation becomes clearer.

Which entities can foreigners use to buy property in South Africa?

Property may be owned by individuals, jointly or in shares, or by an entity such as a company, close corporation or trust. If such an entity is registered in a foreign country it must also be registered in the appropriate public office in South Africa.

How ownership is recorded

Ownership of land is evidenced by a Title Deed issued to the owner and signed by the Registrar of Deeds. The seller, under a contract of sale (known as an Offer to Purchase), usually appoints the conveyancer who draws preliminary documentation for signature by the parties. Thereafter the deed of transfer is prepared and lodged by the conveyancer at the Deeds Registry for registration. Ownership passes on the date of registration of transfer of the property into the name of the buyer.

Making an offer on a South African Property

This is where it can be very different to many other countries and you should always seek the advice of a professional when making an offer to purchase. Below we list some of the salient points you need to be aware of when buying property in South Africa:

The Offer to Purchase

An Offer to Purchase is the written offer from a purchaser to a seller that forms the basis of the agreement for the property to change hands:

  • It contains the purchase price of the property as well as the terms and conditions the property is bought and sold under.
  • An Offer to Purchase is legally binding once signed by the purchaser and seller.
  • Unless the purchase is for less than ZAR 250,ooo there is no cooling off period.
  • Properties in South Africa will have recorded in the Offer to Purchase.
  • Once submitted and accepted by the seller, the Offer to Purchase cannot be changed.

Some of the things contained in an offer to purchase

  • Voetstoots - The majority of South African Offer to Purchases contain an old Dutch maxim 'Voetstoots', which means the property is bought 'as is'. In other words, you, as the buyer, need to make sure you are happy with the state of the property.
  • Surveyors - Generally building surveyors are not employed in South Africa, although some do practise in the larger cities. The fees of the surveyor will depend on the size of the building. If you do require a survey it should be inserted into the Offer to Purchase as a suspensive condition.
  • Compliance certificates - Any person taking transfer of property on which a dwelling house is erected, should be provided with compliance certificates for:
    • Beetles.
    • Electrical.
    • Plumbing.
    • Gas (where applicable).

A prospective buyer should insist on a clause dealing with this aspect in the Offer to Purchase but it is normally not needed as your estate agent should have these as a standard item.

  • Other surveys or inspections - Should you require the reassurance of any other kind of inspection or survey you will need to also include these as suspensive conditions.
  • Fixtures and fittings - A property is sold together with all fixtures and fittings of a permanent nature, in other words anything which is attached to or accedes to the property. It is best to avoid uncertainty by specifically listing all such items which the parties intend to include in the sale, in the written agreement of sale.
  • Suspensive conditions - As referred to above once an Offer to Purchase is made, there is little scope for pulling out of a sale or purchase. The consequence of this should not be lost on foreign buyers, as this coupled with the 'as is' clause effectively means your due diligence needs to happen before you make an offer. One way of doing this is ensuring that you include suspensive conditions in the Offer to Purchase. Should a suspensive condition not be met then it would give you cause to claim the Offer to Purchase null and void.

The role of the attorney

In South Africa there is one conveyancing attorney who is appointed by the seller of the property to transfer the property. The conveyancer owes a duty of good faith to the purchaser, however they act on the instruction of the seller.

The purchaser may by agreement appoint their own attorney to oversee the sale and transfer process but this is not the norm.
The purchaser is liable for the fees and disbursements payable to the conveyancers. A quotation should be obtained before proceeding.

Marital Status

South Africa generally classifies you as married in or out of community of property. In layman's terms married out of community of property is a type of marriage where the parties enter into an antenuptial contract and those married in community of property is typically where it includes all money earned, debts incurred and property acquired during the marriage.

 The Deeds Registry treats all foreign marriages as potential 'in community of property' marriages. This means that where there is a potential effect on the potential joint estate, one spouse must assist the other spouse. In practical terms, when dealing with immovable property the following rules apply:
  •  Selling:

If the property is registered in only one spouse's name, the other spouse will have to assist the selling spouse. This means the spouse who does not own the property will also have to sign the transfer documents required to sell the property. It is preferable that they also sign the agreement of sale.

Note that this does not mean that the assisting spouse is entitled to any of the proceeds of sale but rather that the assisting spouse is made aware of the sale.

  • Buying:

No assistance is required where the property is purchased for cash (i.e. no bond is taken up). Where the purchasing spouse purchases property and wishes to take a bond to pay the purchase price, the non-purchasing spouse will have to assist the purchasing spouse in taking the bond. Note that this does not mean that the non-purchasing spouse becomes a co-owner or becomes liable under the bond but rather means that the non-purchasing spouse signs documents to show s/he is aware the bond is being taken out.

Financing

In general a foreigner is eligible for a bond (mortgage) of up to 50% of the purchase price of the property. The granting of such finance is of course subject to the normal check s and balances.

Banking

Non-residents who own property in South Africa or who wish to purchase property will more than likely have to open a local bank account.

Normally this can only be done in person, however, Incompass can assist in this regards by opening up an Investec account for you whilst you are still abroad. There are many advantages to this which include:
  • You can open it from abroad. No need to appear personally in a South African bank.
  • The ability to transfer your foreign currency money to your cash account as you please, at your own pace and whenever the exchange rate is in your favour.
  • Transfer money directly from your Incompass Cash Account to third party accounts, for example for the purchase of your property or car, simply by instructing your designated cash account manager.
  • Debit orders are set up on the account, so expenses such as your insurance and medical aid can get paid automatically out of the account.
  • Your money is available within 24 hours.
  • Superior private bank service experience. Every cash account holder is designated a personal cash account manager and instructions such as payments, debit orders and statements are simply routed directly to the manager for processing. No more frustrating bank queues, automated answering systems or complex instruction procedures.

Opening your Investec Cash Account

We will require:

  • An original certified copy of your passport or SA ID book.
  • An original certified copy of a utility bill as proof of your address (not older than 3 months).
  • Our application forms.

Upon receipt our administrators will complete your application form, which will be e-mailed or faxed to you to sign.

Exchange control

The S.A. Reserve Bank has imposed regulations governing the transfer of funds out of South Africa. In order to ensure that a non-resident purchaser is able to remit the proceeds of the property on eventual future re-sale, any funds introduced by the non-resident to acquire the property should be disclosed.

After registration of transfer the purchaser should ensure that he is in possession of a document issued by a South African bank, proving the transfer of his funds from abroad. (The title deed proving ownership of the property may be endorsed by the bank as 'non-resident' although this is no longer a requirement.)

In the absence of such proof, formal application to remit the proceeds of the resale would have to be made to the S.A. Reserve Bank, resulting in delays. An application may also be refused by the S.A. Reserve Bank.

Incompass has been assisting foreigners buying property in South Africa since 2004. Not only are our rates market leading but we will also be able to advice on all aspects of exchange control needed to ensure you can repatriate your funds at a later date.

Find out more about our money transfer services by calling us on +27 (0) 21 424 2936 or emailing us here:

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  • Market leading forex rates.
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