European pensioners ‘look to SA’

14 February 2013

Pensioners, especially those in southern Europe who are seeing their pensions and other benefits erode as a result of austerity measures introduced by the European Union, are looking at some unusual parts of South Africa to resettle.

One of these areas is the West Rand in Johannesburg, which includes Florida, Roodepoort and even the old mining town of Randfontein.

Fred Steffers, managing director of Krugersdorp-based Apex Property Brokers said he had numerous enquiries during November and December from Europeans who were on holiday in South Africa and who were looking to resettle.

“Obviously the well-heeled crowd are looking at the western Cape including the Winelands and the Natal south Coast,” he said.

“For the hard-pressed Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese nationals, something that offers substantial better value for money and is at the same time affordable, has brought the West Rand into sharp focus.

“Offering some of the lowest prices per square metre for upmarket properties anywhere in the world, we have been marketing houses and town-houses in areas like Noordheuwel, Featherbrooke and Chancliff in Krugersdorp while properties in Constantia Kloof, Ruimsig and Helderkruin in Roodepoort have been moving rapidly,” Steffers said.

‘A preferred destination’

There are several reasons why South Africa has become a preferred destination for these pensioner immigrants, he said.

“First of all the visa requirements are fairly lenient and as long as an pensioner immigrant can prove that they have an adequate visible means of support and that they will not become a burden to the state, visas are usually fairly easily obtainable.”

The fact that there are sizeable Greek and Portuguese communities already in the country provides a ready-made support system.  The fact that South Africa is a nation of immigrants means that they are usually welcomed with open arms,” he said.

The fact that bonds are fairly easily available if the buyer is able to ante up a sizeable deposit is an additional factor that makes the country an attractive proposition as is the fact that interest rates are at historic lows.

Steffers said the foreign demand for properties is growing at an exponential rate but is important to note that owners need to price their homes at realistic prices.

“The fact that European immigrants are getting around ten Rand for every Euro they bring into the country over and above the fact that properties in South Africa have historically been priced substantially below their European counterparts makes South Africa a very attractive destination.

‘The same infrastructure’

“In most cases, we are able to offer much the same infrastructure in terms of shopping and recreational facilities as their home countries. In additional, retirement villages are springing up all over the place for a time when these individuals may need additional care and support,’ he said.

Overall prices range from just over R1-million to properties in the R3-million to R4- million range.

“We see many much more modest properties – mostly in older suburbs – selling for substantially lower prices.”

Apex Property Brokers have not made any attempt to advertise in Europe and all business has been through word of mouth.

A positive fact for foreign buyers is that house prices, according to almost all indices, are at best flat with a similar outlook going forward.

There has also been solid interest from buyers in other African states who see South Africa as a safe haven with a stable democracy free of wars and revolutions.

At the top of the list are buyers from Nigeria and Uganda with solid interest from Francophone countries like the Ivory Coast, Steffers said.

There has also been solid interest from foreign buyers in properties like guest houses and rural estates.

“We have recently listed two properties along the banks of the Magalies River in Magaliesburg which offer fantastic opportunities for developers looking to establish boutique hotels or guest houses.”