Western Cape vs Gauteng: Which province is sucking in more rich, foreign homebuyers?

Luxury buyers can expect to pay R37.5 million for an apartment on the Front Yacht Basin in Cape Town’s Waterfront. Picture: Seeff Property Group

Luxury buyers can expect to pay R37.5 million for an apartment on the Front Yacht Basin in Cape Town’s Waterfront. Picture: Seeff Property Group

Published Jan 4, 2024


It has long been accepted that Cape Town is the semigration capital of South Africa and a magnet for international property buyers, but it appears that Gauteng is not far behind when it comes to attracting foreign currency spend.

Real estate professionals say that while the Mother City is drawing in luxury homebuyers from Gauteng and abroad, South African expats are snapping up property in the country’s economic powerhouse.

Expats are returning to South Africa in droves and, contrary to popular opinion, they are not all settling in the Western Cape, states Rory O’Hagan, Chas Everitt International’s principal in Hyde Park and Sandton.

Expats heading to Gauteng

“A very large percentage is actually buying homes in Gauteng, and in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg in particular. We receive enquiries daily from South Africans of all ages who have been living and working abroad, sometimes for many years, but are now returning to Johannesburg to take up new corporate jobs or to establish new businesses.”

Most of these expats, he says, are highly-skilled individuals with years of experience. Their reasons for coming back range from being tired of unpleasant weather and missing family and friends, to fears about the fallout from the Ukraine and Middle East conflicts and the high and rising cost of living in Europe, the UK, and the US. There is also the realisation that they can purchase much better properties in South Africa with their euros, pounds, or dollars than they can in their adopted countries.

In addition, the wave of semigration to the Western Cape from Gauteng and other inland provinces continues to be reversed as return-to-office mandates gain ground.

“Frankly, many top executives and professionals are now also weary of the costs and inconvenience of commuting weekly between work in Johannesburg and family in Cape Town, while others admit that they have not adapted well to the Cape’s unpredictable weather and would prefer the Highveld’s sunny winters.”

Within Gauteng, the northern suburbs of Johannesburg are “definitely the most sought-after locations among returning homebuyers”. This is not only due to their proximities to Sandton and other commercial nodes but also because of the “exceptional” property value currently on offer in these areas.

“The Cape Town and Johannesburg markets often find themselves at different stages of the property cycle and while semigration has played a role in causing prices in Cape Town’s most favoured areas to rocket over the past three years, those in Johannesburg have simultaneously moderated...”

O’Hagan says sellers in the luxury sector are now often willing to accept 30 percent or 40 percent less than what their properties were listed for. And returning expats are diving into the sub-luxury sector between R5 million and R10 million as they realise just how much house they can buy for their money in Johannesburg.

Luxury buyers snapping up homes in

On the other hand, the Seeff Property Group reports that South Africa’s luxury property market above R20m enjoyed another good year in 2023, although mostly in Cape Town as Gauteng buyers spent more on such homes. While only about a handful of sales were concluded at the upper end of the market in the Johannesburg and Sandton luxury areas, Gauteng buyers purchased several high-end properties in the Mother City.

Luxury properties purchased by Gauteng buyers on the Atlantic Seaboard were mostly at the Waterfront and in Bantry Bay and Camps Bay. Prices in these areas range from R20m to R40m for houses and up to R43m for apartments.

The Group states that Camps Bay has been “incredibly popular” with upcountry and international buyers. Clifton achieved the highest prices with an average freehold selling price of R50m and three sales above R50m – up to R150m.

Overall, there were at least 100 sales over R20m concluded across the Cape Town metro, with a total value of over R3bn. Although slightly down compared to last year, it is still more than double what was sold in the 2019 pre-pandemic year. Sales to international buyers across the Cape Town metro top the R3.3bn mark.

Ross Levin, licensee for Seeff Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl, says 60 percent of all high-value sales above R20m were concluded on the Atlantic Seaboard, with both villas and apartments in high demand.

Bishopscourt and Constantia in the Southern Suburbs also enjoyed a record number of R20m+ sales, notes Francois Venter, Seeff’s lead agent for luxury sales in these areas.

“There was also the odd house sold above R20m in Claremont and Newlands in the southern suburbs last year.”

While many disheartened South Africans may wonder why foreign nationals would want to come to this country, Levin explains that international buyers are not too concerned about the economy or politics as they buy here for the fabulous lifestyle and excellent value. In fact, about 30 percent of the high-end sales were to international buyers.

Most international sales were in Camps Bay, particularly to buyers from the UK and Germany, says Nadine Jocum, a Seeff agent in Camps Bay, noting that international buyers “love the natural beauty of the mountain and sea and close proximity to the other beautiful suburbs of Cape Town, the Waterfront and CBD, and the wine farms”.

There were also more sales to buyers from the USA (mostly in Clifton and Llandudno) and Russian buyers in Clifton, Bantry Bay, and Fresnaye, Levin adds.

Based on PropStats data, Seeff reports that these were the top five Cape Town suburbs for super luxury sales above R20m in 2023:

1. Camps Bay, Atlantic Seaboard – 24 sales

– Highest house price paid: R41,7m

– Highest apartment price paid: R32,5m

– International buyers from the UK (4), Germany (4), Netherlands (1), and Poland (1)

2. Bantry Bay, Atlantic Seaboard – 10 sales

– Highest house price paid: R60m

– Highest apartment price paid: R24m

– International buyers from the UK (1) and Russia (1)

3. Constantia, Southern Suburbs – 10 sales

– Highest house price paid: R70m (Silverhurst Estate)

– Highest apartment price paid: R24m

– International buyers from the UK (1)and Russia (1)

4. Clifton, Atlantic Seaboard – 9 sales

– Highest house price paid: R150m

– Highest sectional title price paid: R53m

– International buyers from the UK (2), Russia (1) Mauritius (1), and USA (1)

5. Bishopscourt, Southern Suburbs – 8 sales

– Highest property price paid: R90m

– International buyers from Germany (1), Portugal (1), and Switzerland (1)

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