South Africa: Lured by a low cost of living

A great climate, natural beauty and top value makes South Africa a winning bet
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The Independent Online

The idea of charging British drivers £1.34 per mile will no doubt encourage more people than ever to leave the UK in search of a lower cost of living. South Africa offers that, with a fabulous climate and great landscapes on top.

The idea of charging British drivers £1.34 per mile will no doubt encourage more people than ever to leave the UK in search of a lower cost of living. South Africa offers that, with a fabulous climate and great landscapes on top.

Last month, research revealed that many costs in South Africa are a fraction of those in many places. The UK came out as most expensive for anything from a Big Mac to a litre of fuel, while a beer averages just 35p in South Africa. A couple can eat out very well, with wine, for £10 or so. The research came from the organisers of the Fresh Start Show in London, aimed at people wanting to move and live abroad.

South Africa is currently rated the top property investment country in a survey by the website www. Estates Gazette noted in February that prices rose faster in South Africa in 2004 than anywhere else in the world, by an average of 32.6 per cent. Interest rates and inflation are low. Prices are expected to rise by about 20 per cent this year before a gentle slowdown.

The end of apartheid in 1991 was followed by steady growth of foreign buyers, attracted by the sun, sea, tranquillity, climate and relatively inexpensive properties in beautiful settings.

Small apartments near the sea are widely available for less than £20,000, and villas with pools start at less than £50,000, but top £100,000 in more popular areas. A top-of-the-range beachside villa in the Cape Town area is obtainable for less than £500,000. For £700,000 plus, in the countryside, are homesteads with 18th-century thatched whitewashed houses set in landscaped gardens.

UK buyers are mostly attracted to the coastal areas of the Western Cape and, to a lesser extent, the Eastern Cape. New Skys (0845 330 1449; has a pleasant £53,000 (640,000 rand) two-bed townhouse at Somerset West on the Western Cape. It has an open-plan lounge/ diner and garden with pool. Amenities near by include a beach, golf course, bars and restaurants.

On the Eastern Cape, in Kenton-on-Sea, Seeff Properties (046 648 2272/; have a £99,000 (R1.2m) architect-designed four-bed home with two reception rooms and sea views. "It is a much-loved home with a lovely atmosphere," says agent Cecily Massart. "In season, you can watch the whales with a telescope."

Game farms in the inland Mpumalanga region are also popular, and the east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal (capital Durban) is seeing more interest. Pam Golding Properties (00 27 035 753 5413; has a £72,000 (R870,000) three-bed, three-reception house at in an estate at Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. There's also a two-bed granny flat and two-bed staff quarters.

Cape Town, particularly the plush suburb of Constantiaberg, is South Africa's biggest property success story. Developers are flocking here, crowned by Mandela Rhodes Place, which will cover an entire block of the regenerated city centre and include 160 luxury apartments. Four-fifths of the apartments sold within four months of the launch.

False Bay, to the southeast of the city, is popular for beach homes. Camps Bay, where the Twelve Apostles mountain range runs south from Table Mountain, has great architect-designed homes perched on cliffs overlooking stunning sandy bays.

The old town of Knysna in the Western Cape is popular with retired people. Its lagoon is an inlet for the warm Ind.ian Ocean, with a backdrop of forests and mountains. The Franschhoek and Paarl wine regions are also popular.

Conveyancing and land registration are relatively straightforward, and transactions are in English. Conveyancing costs are 1 to 2 per cent of purchase price; legal and other fees are another 1 per cent or so. Fees to prepare and register the title deed range from £250 to £650; stamp duty is 0.5 per cent of purchase price. Transfer duty of 1 to 8 per cent is payable by the buyer on resale properties.

South Africa has its crime hotspots, but is largely safe. Even so, buyers should appreciate the country's history of instability, social and economic problems and civil discontent. This has led to an unstable currency: the rand has fluctuated by as much as 40 per cent against sterling.

Most crime occurs in cities, especially Durban and Johannesburg. Cape Town is more relaxed, although crime is rising and electric fences, guards and armed response units are common. Yet this does not seem to deter foreign buyers in search of one of the world's best standards of living.