Where you live while on assignment here may well be the single most important factor in determining whether your stay in South Africa is an enjoyable experience. Many considerations enter into the decision of where to live. For families with children, proximity to good schools may be paramount. For others it may be the commute time or convenience to the work place, and for everybody security will be a primary consideration
Elliott Mobility's knowledgeable and experienced Relocation Consultants are the most effective source of housing assistance, providing you with the widest possible choice of homes to suit your lifestyle requirements and budget. They will provide a thorough overview of housing styles, cost, appropriate neighbourhoods, and typical lease/purchase practices. Because they do not earn commissions from real estate agents or property owners, they will give you completely impartial advice, and detail the pros and cons of particular neighbourhoods and properties, assisting you to make an informed selection and negotiating the best deal.
Do not take the first possibility you may be shown – or even the second or third! Familiarise yourself with various types of housing available and how the locals and other expatriates live so that you can evaluate the options you are considering according to local norms. As an example, the climate in South Africa is superb and most families enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, making a large covered patio highly desirable.
When reviewing possible homes, be sure to note the following:
Are major appliances included? Typically ‘unfurnished’ homes in Johannesburg have fitted built in kitchens but do not include appliances - only the cookers (oven and hob) remain as fixtures and occasionally, built-in refrigerators.
Fitted cupboards and size of rooms – most modern homes in Johannesburg have fitted cupboards (closets) in bedrooms. The bedrooms in particular, may be smaller than what you are accustomed to, and may not be able to accommodate your bedroom furniture such as free standing wardrobes and large dressing tables.
Are curtains / window treatments included? Typically curtain rods/tracks are installed and existing blinds will remain, but curtains (drapes) are not included unless negotiated as part of the deal.
Heating and cooling systems – upmarket modern South African homes often have under floor heating systems installed. This is not the case with older homes however, which rely on open or gas fireplaces, free standing heaters and possibly fixed ‘skirting board’ heaters for warmth in winter. Although the winters are short, South African homes are not well designed for the cold (large windows, tiled floors etc.), and expatriates often find their homes too cold for comfort. If possible and your housing allowance stretches to it, try to select a home with under floor heating and most importantly one that is north facing, capturing the winter sun.
Few homes in South Africa have central air conditioning (or central heating for that matter). The odd home may have an air conditioning unit installed in the main bedroom but more typically will have ceiling fans installed. Joburg is not an especially hot place and, and if not present fans may be one of the things you would like to negotiate into the lease. Summer months can be warm, and ceiling fans are an effective way of keeping cool especially in the evening.
Damp and leaks – though most homes are relatively new, many suffer from rising damp and it is important to keep an eye open for evidence of damp – typically bubbling plaster work at the base of walls. If you are certain a house with damp is your choice, make sure that it is recorded in the lease that the damp will be attended to prior to lease commencement. Addressing damp problems once you are in residence is extremely messy, frustrating and takes time. The same applies to leaking roofs and skylights.
Important Note:Once you have selected a home, application for hook-up of utilities and telephones is a priority as the installation of these services; especially telephone can take weeks.
Water & Electricity
Electricity (220 Volts) and water are supplied via local municipalities and on the whole are fairly reliable. However, particularly in winter, the city experiences occasional power outages due to excessive demand, and also occasional water cuts due to burst pipes. Piped natural gas is not available (except in the older suburbs close to the Johannesburg CBD). Some homes have gas cylinders installed for gas cookers, barbeques and heaters.
There are separate billings for electricity and water. Meter readings recording consumption appear on the bills which are payable monthly in arrears. Some cities have introduced prepaid electricity meters which are recharged in much the same way as mobile phone airtime. If available some landlords will have these prepaid meters installed. Many rental properties in Cape have these meters.
We recommend that electricity and water accounts be opened in your own name so that you can keep track of consumption and payment, however in some instances the landlord insists on the account remaining in their name and will bill the tenant monthly in arrears. The billing systems of the local authorities are somewhat chaotic and it can often take months to transfer the account and receive your first statement. In either case, the tenant is responsible for payment from lease commencement to lease termination date and needs to budget accordingly.
Elliott Mobility can assist in opening the account on your behalf and additional information will found in our Practical Guide.
There is typically a small monthly sewerage and refuse removal charge. Where possible, this should be negotiated into the monthly rental as although the charge is small, it is administratively onerous to keep track of and pay.
Weekly refuse collection is organised by the local council. Refuse must be placed in appropriate bags or bins and deposited at the front entrance on specific days.
Garden refuse is collected only by arrangement (at an additional charge).
Recyclable waste is not collected. Bottles, jars, newspapers etc. may be deposited in containers at shopping centres and other locations.