One of Johannesburg's biggest drawcards is its accommodation options. Houses in Joburg are generally big and often come with a patio, a spacious garden and a swimming pool, all of which are highly useful in the city's sweltering summers. Expats looking for a home in the City of Gold will certainly get a lot of bang for their buck – here, money goes a lot further than it does in pretty-but-pricey Cape Town.
House hunting should be one of the fun parts for expats relocating to Johannesburg. Before the hunt for housing begins though, expats should decide on the aspects most important to them. Most expats tend to rent rather than buy property, at least initially or if they'll only be living in Johannesburg for a short time.
Types of accommodation in Johannesburg
Size is one of the key considerations in choosing accommodation. As is often the case, the size of a family should determine the size of their accommodation. Most expats do, however, live in bigger houses in South Africa than they would at home.
Mostly found in the suburbs of Johannesburg, freestanding houses are spacious and usually have at least two or three bedrooms. These homes tend to have large gardens, either in a wraparound form enclosing the house or split into distinct frontyard and backyard areas.
Expats opting for this kind of accommodation should bear in mind that, generally speaking, freestanding houses protected by nothing more than a fence are the least secure kind of accommodation. Expats can improve their home security by ensuring the house has an alarm, is fully fitted with burglar bars on all doors and that the house's surrounding fences can't be easily breached.
Locally known as 'flats', apartments are smaller units of accommodation situated within one building. They may be bachelor style with the main living area also acting as a kitchen and bedroom, or they may be larger with several bedrooms and a separate living area. Most apartment blocks have controlled access, making them a bit safer than freestanding houses.
Townhouses are units of accommodation connected to an adjacent home on either one side (semi-detached) or both sides (rowhouses). To maximise floorspace, townhouses often have more than one storey. These are more affordable and more compact than standalone houses, which may suit younger expats well.
The most secure types of housing are those in security complexes. They are protected by high walls, security cameras, and professional security guards that monitor access around the clock. The peace of mind provided by these gated communities is the reason most expats choose to live in them. Another perk is the sense of community as well as having access to numerous shared amenities.
Finding accommodation in Johannesburg
Once an expat has narrowed down their wish list to a target area, they can then approach an estate agent. Some of the larger companies serve the entire Johannesburg area, but there are also smaller ones specialising in certain estates.
It is also possible to find accommodation without the aid of an estate agent by browsing through online classifieds and local newspapers.
Renting accommodation in Johannesburg
Making an application
To apply for a rental, expats will need to submit copies of their passport, bank statements, proof of income and references. Most expats will of course not have rental histories in South Africa, but a solid reference from one's employer can be a good substitution.
Length of lease
The standard lease is 12 months, though they can be shorter or longer by agreement with the landlord. In some cases, if a tenant has been reliable, the landlord may be keen to renew the lease for a further 12 months at the end of the initial lease period.
Most landlords will expect a deposit equivalent to one or two months' rent. If the rental property is returned in good condition at the end of the lease, tenants will receive the deposit back in full.
Utilities such as electricity are usually an additional expense for renters and are not included in the cost of rent. However, it's not uncommon for the cost of rent to include other, more minor expenses such as water and refuse.
►For advice on where to live in the city, see Areas and Suburbs in Johannesburg
"You’ll probably end up in a house much larger and nicer than you’re used to. To give you a little more peace of mind, I’d highly recommend finding a house in a security estate. Most of these have boom gates and security guards, and while nothing is a 100 percent guarantee of safety here, security estates are as close as you’re likely to get." Read more of Phil's thoughts on expat life in South Africa.
Are you an expat living in Johannesburg?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Johannesburg. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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