Finding a House

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.

  • Rent is paid monthly in advance.
  • Typically a deposit of one month’s rental is required on unfurnished properties, and two month’s rental on furnished properties. The deposit should be held by the Lessor, in an interest bearing account, the interest accruing to the Lessee. On termination of the lease, the deposit plus interest should be returned to the Lessee within a maximum of 30 days, less any agreed costs of cleaning, repairs etc.
  • Rentals typically escalate by 6% – 8% per annum. With the lowering of interest rates and decrease in SA’s inflation rates it is sometimes possible to negotiate the escalation rate down, rarely below 7% as South African landlords are wary of our historically volatile interest and inflation rates.  We understand that your housing allowance may not escalate annually at the same rate, if at all, and that such high annual escalations are not the norm in Europe and the US and understand that the high escalation rate is a source of aggravation. Unfortunately it is case of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” and needs to be factored into your budget.
  • A monthly Home Owners Association Levy is payable by the tenant / lessee for homes in gated communities and cluster home developments, and is paid monthly in advance. This levy can sometimes be negotiated into the monthly rental.
  • A monthly Security Monitoring Fee is payable for homes linked to private security firms. This applies typically to free-standing homes, and is payable directly to the company providing the service.
  • Utilities (water, electricity, refuse) are payable by the tenant in addition to the monthly rental, except for apartments and townhouses, where one or both may be included in the rental.
  • Telephones are never included in the rental and are always payable by the tenant.
  • Commission on any lease agreement is paid by the landlord to the real estate agent. Elliott Mobility does not accept commission or referral fees on properties.

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.

Moving Services:   Office Hours - +27 (0) 11 256 3000
After Hours - (+27) 71 453-0214