Buying Property in South Africa
All contracts to acquire immovable property must be in writing, and signed by both buyer and seller. Estate Agents will draw up this contract which is called an Agreement of Sale or Offer to Purchase. Once signed this constitues a valid and legally binding contract which neither party can withdraw without incurring legal consequences, save for certain instances where:
- The agreement is subject to certain conditions which are either fulfilled/not fulfilled
- If the property is less than R250 000 then a 'cooling off' period of 7 days is permitted for residential property only.
A non-resident may only borrow up to a maximum of the amount he invests into the purchase of the property, which translates into a 50% loan. There is a registration cost levied on bonds which is dependant upon the value.
The registration of a property transaction is handled by a specially qualified legal practitioner known as a conveyancer and the Purchaser to pay the costs, unless contractually agreed to otherwise.
The conveyancer prepares the transfer documentation that, after signature by the purchaser and seller is lodged together with the cancellation of any existing mortgage bonds and new mortgage bonds to be registered in a regionally located Deeds Registry. The deeds are subject to an intense examination process whereafter they are made available for registration. On the date of registration of transfer all existing mortgage bonds registered over the property are cancelled simultaneously with the registration of any new mortgage bonds by the purchase in favour of the bank granting financial assistance. The purchaser is recorded as the new owner of the property and the purchase price is paid to the seller.
Commission/Brokerage is payable where an estate agent is the effective cause for concluding a sale of the property. It is customarily that the seller is responsible for this fee.
The purchaser is responsible for the payment of these fees unless purchasing new property directly from a developer whereby the developer is VAT registered. Transfer Duty payable to the Receiver of Revenue. The rate that a natural person will pay as at 20 February 2008 is: R0-R500 000 - Exempt; between R500 001 and R1 million - 5% and 8% on the balance above R1 million.
Exchange Control/Repatriation of Funds
All funds introduced from outside of South Africa to acquire fixed property within South Africa may be repatriated together with any profit on resale of the property, provided the title deed of the property has been endorsed as "non-resident".