Options for accommodation in Cape Town are plentiful, and expats will need to decide on their priorities before choosing the area and type of housing that best suits their needs.
The city centre is relatively small, and there are a number of neighbourhoods nestled in the midst of Table Mountain, Lion's Head and Signal Hill in the City Bowl. Residential communities flank the mountain on either side, stretching up along the coast and down along the mountain into surrounding suburbs and family-friendly developments.
House prices in Cape Town are among the highest in South Africa, with the most expensive properties situated closer to the city centre and seaside neighbourhoods. Most expats choose to rent a property in Cape Town until they become more familiar with the city and its property market.
Types of accommodation in Cape Town
Expats will find that there is plenty of choice when it comes to types of accommodation. Factors for expats to take into consideration include the size and type of property they want, whether they're willing to tolerate morning and afternoon traffic, and whether they would prefer to be in a leafy suburb or a colourful city district.
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation are easily found. Expats looking to rent long-term may want to rent unfurnished and bring their own furnishings, while those in the city for a shorter period may prefer furnished accommodation.
Most frequently found in the suburbs, freestanding houses are spacious private homes with gardens. Many South African houses come complete with a 'braai' (outdoor barbecue) area. While freestanding houses are more expensive than apartments, they're a great choice for families, animal owners, or simply those who enjoy their own space.
Commonly referred to as 'flats', apartment blocks can be found all over the city, though they are most common in the city centre and surrounding areas. Styles range from small and simple to modern and replete with facilities.
A garden cottage or 'granny flat' is a small home located on the property of another, larger house. These compact, self-contained dwellings are usually occupied by a single person and are often 'bachelor style' with one main room acting as a kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Security complexes, also referred to as gated communities, are controlled-access housing developments typically comprised of a mix of accommodation types, such as townhouses, freestanding houses and apartment blocks. This type of accommodation is naturally popular with security-conscious expats. Other benefits include access to in-complex facilities such as a communal pool, braai area or park.
Finding accommodation in Cape Town
An abundance of real estate agents in Cape Town provide services for both renters and buyers. In South Africa, property owners bear the burden of paying agents to find tenants or owners for their properties. Real estate agencies are great resources for finding out what kind of accommodation is available on the market.
Otherwise, expats can check weekly listings in major local newspapers, as well as property websites and online classifieds. Upon finding a suitable place, expats should contact the advertiser to arrange a viewing. Expats should note that properties go quickly in Cape Town, so it is best to work swiftly. House-hunting in Cape Town can be cut-throat, especially during high season. It's best for prospective tenants to have all their paperwork prepared beforehand and to be ready to pounce on a place if it suits their requirements.
Renting accommodation in Cape Town
Making an application
Once their ideal home has been found, expats will need to put in an application. This usually consists of an application form, proof of identity, proof of income and employment, and references.
Before moving in, prospective tenants will need to pay the first month's rent upfront, along with one or two months of rent as a security deposit. If the property is in good condition at the end of the lease, the deposit will be returned. Any damages beyond normal wear-and-tear incurred during the lease will be deducted from the deposit. Before moving in, expats should inspect the home for any pre-existing damage and alert the landlord of any issues.
Signing a lease
Contracts are typically signed for 12 months and are renewable. Some leases have stricter conditions than others and may contain stipulations about smoking, pets, noise hours and gatherings in the home. Expats should make sure they understand the lease agreement and any such clauses before signing.
Utilities are rarely included in rental prices and are usually an additional expense for the tenant.
Expats are advised to ensure their new home has appropriate security measures installed such as burglar bars, alarm monitoring and armed response. Complexes and larger apartment blocks will have their own front-desk security, but smaller units will only have security if provided by the body corporate.
Buying property in Cape Town
Despite the rand’s weakness and low consumer confidence, the South African property market is considered by many to be a worthwhile investment, and sellers have the advantage when it comes to Cape Town real estate. In fact, many a Cape Town millionaire has made their fortune through property. Resale returns have, however, diminished since the height of the property boom, and foreign investors are increasingly choosing to rent out their properties and settle for a stable source of income.
Conversely, the weak rand means that expats get high-end properties in Cape Town at great value for money, with the number of investors buying to rent increasing despite economic conditions in the country.
►Areas and Suburbs in Cape Town gives info on neighbourhoods popular with expats
"I think the standard of housing in Cape Town is excellent. Properties tend to be more spacious here." For more, read Shantalie's expat interview.
"It is still relatively cheaper to live in a comfortable, sizable space in Cape Town than many western hemisphere big cities, but rental rates are rising quickly as a result of a growing global spotlight." Learn more about the expat life in Cape Town in our interview with American expat Kate.
Are you an expat living in Cape Town?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cape Town. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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