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

This five-bedroom house backs onto the slopes of Table Mountain in Oranjezicht, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. Set on approximately three-quarters of an acre, the house is designed to mimic the landscape of the mountain, a prominent landmark, with a corrugated concrete roof and extensive use of wood and stone.

“The house is literally built into the mountain,” said Riaan Ackerman, an agent for Pam Golding Properties, which holds the listing. “The owners wanted it to be a bit of a sanctuary. They enjoy meditation and participate in health retreats. So it was basically about creating a retreat as a home.

Built in 2011, the house was among the first in the area to feature an “eco-pool”, a swimming pool that uses plants and micro-organisms, rather than chemicals, to purify the water, a said Mr. Ackerman. The pool is heated by solar panels, which are also used to provide backup power during blackouts.

The spa room on the ground floor of the house is at one end of the pool and the front can be opened to make it directly accessible to swimmers. It has a sauna, hot tub, shower and steam room with red Zellige tiles made in Zimbabwe.

A concrete staircase ascends to the glazed entrance of the house one level above. A hallway opens into the main living and dining room, a large airy space with a double sided fireplace and black granite floors. Glass walls slide to one side to open the room up to a dining terrace with retractable awnings.

On the other side of the room is a striking wall of backlit shelving that extends to the floor below. Stairs from the living room lead along the library to the downstairs yoga studio, which is flanked by two office spaces. This floor also has a theater room and a wine cellar.

A large kitchen is on the other side of the entrance hall. It features a long stainless steel island with integrated Gaggenau and Viking appliances. There is a scullery separate from the kitchen, as well as two guest bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. A staircase from the kitchen descends to the attached three-car garage, utility room and staff quarters.

On another level is the master suite and what the owners use as a children’s wing. The master suite has a wall of glass that opens to the outside, a wraparound wooden deck, a walk-in closet and a bathroom with a free-standing bathtub. The children’s wing has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a large common room.

The fenced property also has a separate cottage with one bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Both the chalet and the house have underfloor heating throughout.

Oranjezicht is a few minutes from Cape Town’s Kloof and Bree streets, lined with restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. The famous Camps Bay beach on the city’s Atlantic coast is a 10-minute drive away, and Cape Town International Airport is around 20 minutes away.

With approximately 290 kilometers of coastline and 4.4 million inhabitants, Cape Town is the largest city in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The high end of the housing market is booming, driven largely by European buyers

“Cape Town has become the flavor of the month,” said Sean Phillips, sales associate at RE/MAX Living. “We have more really affluent clients who are optimistic about how things are going in South Africa and feel confident about investing here.”

Nationally, sales transactions during the second quarter of 2022 increased by 32% compared to the same period last year, according to a market report from RE/MAX of Southern Africa. The average price of a single-family home was 1.42 million rand ($85,000), an increase of 8% from last year.

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

In Cape Town, entry-level activity – between 3 and 6 million rand ($180,000 and $360,000) – has slowed since last November when interest rates started to rise, Ackerman said. . Rates are now around 9%, which is high compared to the United States but not unusual for South Africa.

But most high-end international customers pay in cash and are unaffected by the rate hike, Phillips said. In the popular Camps Bay area on Cape Town’s Atlantic coast, properties in need of work start at around 10 million rand ($600,000), he said, noting that over the year elapsed, there were four sales at around 50 million rand ($3 million) in the Camps Bay area.

“It’s a beautiful four bedroom house with spectacular views, excellent finishing, home intelligence system, automated blinds, elevator,” he said. “It could be at the water’s edge or on the top floor.”

Sought-after locations also include Cape Town’s southern suburbs of Constantia and Upper Claremont, thanks to their proximity to schools, parks and wineries, said Knight Frank agent Richard Olotu. He also highlighted new luxury developments taking place in Cape Town’s central business district.

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

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

Americans are showing up much more frequently now that there are direct flights to Cape Town from the United States. Mr Phillips said he recently sold a property without seeing it to two doctors in Atlanta. Having previously visited Cape Town and lost a property they had bid on, they decided to act quickly when Mr Phillips gave them a virtual tour of another after returning home.

“They arrived about six weeks later and were pleasantly surprised with what they had purchased,” he said.

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

Foreign investors can only borrow a maximum of 50% of the value of the property they are buying. “But because of our high interest rates, most foreign investors aren’t interested in borrowing locally anyway,” he said.

A lawyer, called a notary, takes care of the transaction, in particular by ensuring the proper transmission of the deed. The seller chooses the carrier, but the costs are paid by the buyer. Total transaction fees vary depending on the price of the property, but typically amount to around 10% of the purchase price, Olotu said.

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

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

A transfer tax is charged on a sliding scale, starting at 3% for properties sold for more than one million rand ($60,000). The maximum rate of 13% is due on the part of a property above 11 million rand ($660,000).

Property taxes on this house are 16,500 rand ($990) per month, according to Ackerman.

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

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