House hunting in South Africa: carved into a mountain in Cape Town

This five-bedroom home backs onto the slopes of Table Mountain in Oranjezicht, Cape Town, South Africa. Sitting on three-quarters of an acre, the house is designed to mimic the topography of the mountain, a prominent landmark, with an undulating concrete roof and ample wood and stone.

“The house is literally built into the mountain,” says Ryan Ackerman, agent for Pam Golding Properties, of the listing. “The owners wanted it to be a bit of a sanctuary. They enjoy meditation and wellness retreats. So it was very much like creating a home retreat.

In the year The home, built in 2011, was one of the first to have a swimming pool with an “eco-pool” that uses plants and microorganisms instead of chemicals to filter the water, Mr. Ackerman said. The pool is heated by solar panels, which are used to provide backup power during outages.

The home’s ground-level spa room is at one end of the pool, and the front is open for direct access to swimmers. It has a sauna, hot tub, shower and hammam with red zellige bricks made in Zimbabwe.

A concrete staircase leads up to the house’s glass front door. The hallway opens to the main living and dining area, a large, airy space with a double sided fire and black granite floors. Glass walls slide on one side to open the room to a dining balcony.

On the other side of the room is an impressive wall of backlit bookshelves that span the floor below. Stairs from the living room lead down the length of the library to the ground-level yoga studio, which is divided into two office spaces. This floor also has a theater room and wine cellar.

A large kitchen is across the hall. It has a tall, stainless steel island with built-in Gaggenau and Viking appliances. There is a separate scullery off the kitchen, as well as two guest bedrooms with ensuite baths. A staircase leads down from the kitchen to the attached three-car garage, laundry and staff quarters.

On another level is the main suite and the owners use it as a children’s wing. The master suite has a glass wall that opens to the outside, a wooden terrace, a dressing room and a bathroom with a freestanding bath. The children’s wing has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a large common room.

The fenced property also has a detached cottage with a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Both the cottage and the house have heating throughout the entire floor.

Oranješić is located minutes from Cape Town’s Kloof and Brae Streets, which are lined with restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. The famous Camp Bay beach on the city’s Atlantic coast is a 10-minute drive away, while Cape Town International Airport is approximately 20 minutes away.

With approximately 180 miles of coastline and 4.4 million inhabitants, Cape Town is the largest city in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The upper end of the housing market is dominated by European buyers

“Cape Town has become the flavor of the month,” says Sean Phillips, sales associate with RE/MAX Living. “We have very well-to-do clients who are impressed with the way things are going in South Africa and feel confident investing here.”

Nationally, sales transactions in the second quarter of 2022 increased by 32 percent compared to the same period last year, according to South Africa’s RE/MAX Market Report. The average price of a single-family home was 1.42 million rand ($85,000), up 8 percent from last year.

The Western Cape, which borders the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, is South Africa’s busiest and most expensive market, with an average price of 2.5 million rand ($150,000).

Entry-level activity in Cape Town – between 3 million and 6 million rand ($180,000 and $360,000) – has fallen since last November, when interest rates began to rise, Mr Ackerman said. Rates are now around 9 percent – ​​high compared to the US but not unusual for South Africa.

But most high-end international customers pay in cash, and will not be affected by the price increase, Mr. Phillips said. In the highly desirable Camp Bay area, on Cape Town’s Atlantic coast, he said properties in need of work start at around 10 million rand ($600,000), with four sales last year totaling 50 million rand ($3 million) in the Camp Bay area.

“It’s a nice four bedroom house with amazing views, great workmanship, home information system, automatic blinds, lift,” he said. “The water may be at the edge or on the surface.”

Areas in demand include Cape Town’s southern suburbs, such as Constantia and Upper Claremont, thanks to their proximity to schools, parks and wine estates, said Knight Frank agent Richard Olotu. He also pointed to new luxury developments in Cape Town’s central business district.

South Africa’s oldest and second largest city (after Johannesburg), Cape Town has long been an attractive investment destination for Europeans, in part because it is on the same time zone as Central Europe and provides a warm retreat during the winter. Paul Turner, owner of Engel & Völkers Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl.

Most of the foreign buyers are from Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, but there are also some from Italy, France and Switzerland, he said.

Americans are coming more frequently because there are direct flights from the US to Cape Town. Having lost the property they had auctioned off on a previous visit to Cape Town, Mr. Phillips decided to leave quickly after returning home on a visit from someone else.

“They came back about six weeks later and were amazed at what they bought,” he said.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in South Africa, and the buying process is straightforward, Mr Turner said.

Foreign investors can only borrow up to 50 percent of the value of the property they are buying. “However, due to our high interest rates, most foreign investors are not interested in borrowing locally,” he said.

A lawyer, called a conveyancer, handles the transaction, including the proper transfer of the contract. The seller chooses the shipping, but the payment is paid by the buyer. Total transaction fees vary depending on the value of the property, but generally come to around 10 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Olotu said.

Non-residents must pay tax on any capital gains when they sell property.

South Africa has 11 official languages; Afrikaans and English are widely spoken.
South African Rand (1 Rand = 0.06 USD)

Transfer tax is charged on a sliding scale, starting at 3 percent for properties sold above 1 million rand ($60,000). The highest rate of 13 percent is due to the property class above 11 million rand ($660,000).

Property tax on this house is 16,500 rand ($990) a month, Mr. Ackerman said.

Riaan Ackerman and Karin Coetzee, Pam Golding Properties, 011-27-21-276-3233

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