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Buying Property in South Africa as a Foreigner

In South Africa, the laws governing the buying and selling of real estate actually are called laws governing the buying and selling of immovable property or land. At the present time, there are no restrictions on a foreign national buying and owning real estate in South Africa. Indeed, foreign nationals have bought and owned real estate — immovable property — in South Africa for generations.

Generally speaking, the buying and selling of immovable property or real estate in South Africa is governed by decisions of the courts of that country. The one area in which statutory law does play a role when it comes to buying and selling real estate/immovable property in South Africa is in the area of the ownership of mineral rights. When it comes to mineral interests that might be underneath the surface of a particular piece of property, that interest as a general rule belongs to the “people of South Africa.”

In other words, even though a foreign national may be able to buy real estate in that country, more often than not a foreign national will not be able to easily purchase a right to extract minerals from that real estate. (Of course, a contract can be entered into with the government that will grant an individual of business the right and the ability to withdraw minerals from underneath the surface of land.)

Because there are some tribes that exercise some degree of local autonomy in South Africa, some foreign nationals wonder what impact these more or less autonomous governing authorities might have on their ability to purchase real estate. Historically, local, tribal or customary law had little impact on the buying and selling of property in South Africa. However, in recent years, the national government has given some recognition to parallel lines of authority within the country.

Therefore, if a foreign national is interested in buying immovable property in an area that is included within an autonomous, that foreign national will need to make certain that he or she understands the particular regulations in that area that might have an impact on the purchase of real estate in that area. Because there are so many different local variants that might come into play depending on what region of the country a person is considering investing in real estate in, it is impossible to detail them all in this limited space. Therefore, a foreign national who is interested in purchasing real estate in South Africa will want to make certain that he or she has access to very capable legal representation.

The underlying real estate purchasing process in South Africa is simple when all is said and done. A tentative or preliminary contract is entered into between the buyer and seller. As in many other countries around the world, a deposit is made upon the property by the purchaser. The amount of the deposit is negotiated between the parties. Additionally, the terms of under what conditions a deposit might be returned are also negotiated between the parties to the agreement.

Following the execution of this preliminary contract, the buyer will embark on his or her efforts to find appropriate financing for the real estate. There are many different mortgage lenders within South Africa that deal regularly with a foreign clientele. With that said, it is also perfectly permissible for a foreign national to obtain mortgage financing from a firm located in that person’s country of origin. The government of South Africa is flexible as to where a person obtains his or her financing to fund a real estate or immovable property purchase in that country.

Once all of the requirements of the initial agreement have been satisfied, a final agreement of sale and transfer of immovable property is executed between the parties. It is at this juncture, when this agreement is duly executed, that ownership of the immovable property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. With this conveyance, a new title to the real estate is registered immediately with governmental authorities.

Again, it is important to keep in mind that there might be some slight variances in this procedure in some of the more autonomous regions of the country. However, with the assistance of capable legal counsel, a foreign purchaser of immovable property or real estate in South Africa will be able to maneuver through the legal requirements.

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