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House Hunting in South Africa: Carved Right into a Mountain in Cape Town

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This five-bedroom home backs onto the slopes of Table Mountain in Oranjezicht, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. Set on about three quarters of an acre, the house is designed to mimic the landscape of the mountain, a outstanding landmark, with a wavy concrete roof and ample use of wood and stone.

“The home is literally built into the mountain,” said Riaan Ackerman, an agent with Pam Golding Properties, which has the listing. “The owners wanted it to be a little bit of a sanctuary. They enjoy meditation and happening health retreats. So it was very much about making a retreat as a house.”

Inbuilt 2011, the home was among the many first in the world to have an “eco-pool,” a swimming pool that uses plants and microorganisms, somewhat than chemicals, to purify the water, Mr. Ackerman said. The pool is heated by solar panels, that are also used to offer backup power during outages.

The house’s ground-level spa room is at one end of the pool, and the front will be opened as much as make it directly accessible to swimmers. It has a sauna, hot tub, shower and a hammam with red Zellige tiles made in Zimbabwe.

A concrete staircase ascends to the house’s glass front entrance one level above. A hallway opens to the principal living and dining area, a big, airy space with a double-sided fireplace and black granite floors. Glass partitions slide away on one side to open the room to a dining terrace with retractable awnings.

On the opposite side of the room is a striking wall of backlit bookshelving that extends to the ground below. Stairs from the front room lead down the length of the library to the ground-level yoga studio, which is flanked by two office spaces. This floor also has a theater room and wine cellar.

A big kitchen is to the opposite side of the entry hall. It has an extended, stainless-steel island with built-in Gaggenau and Viking appliances. There’s a separate scullery off the kitchen, in addition to two guest bedrooms with en suite baths. A stairway from the kitchen goes right down to the attached three-car garage, laundry facilities and staff accommodations.

Up one other level is the first suite and what the owners use as a children’s wing. The first suite has a glass wall that opens to the skin, a wraparound wood terrace, a dressing room and a rest room with a free-standing tub. The kids’s wing has two bedrooms with en suite baths and a big shared room.

The fenced property also has a free-standing cottage with a bedroom, kitchen and bath. Each the cottage and the home have underfloor heating throughout.

Oranjezicht is inside minutes of Cape Town’s Kloof and Bree streets, that are lined with restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. The favored Camps Bay Beach on the town’s Atlantic coast is a 10-minute drive, and Cape Town International Airport is about 20 minutes away.

With roughly 180 miles of coastline and 4.4 million residents, Cape Town is the most important city in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The upper end of the housing market is booming, driven largely by European buyers

“Cape Town has change into the flavour of the month,” said Sean Phillips, a sales associate with RE/MAX Living. “We’re having more really well-to-do clients which are upbeat concerning the way things are getting into South Africa and are feeling confident about investing here.”

Nationally, sales transactions throughout the second quarter of 2022 were up 32 percent over the identical period last 12 months, in response to a market report from RE/MAX of Southern Africa. The common price for a single-family home was 1.42 million rand ($85,000), a rise of 8 percent over last 12 months.

The Western Cape, which has borders on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, is South Africa’s most energetic and costliest market, with a median asking price of two.5 million rand ($150,000).

In Cape Town, entry-level activity — between 3 million and 6 million rand ($180,000 and $360,000) — has slowed since last November, when rates of interest began to rise, Mr. Ackerman said. Rates at the moment are around 9 percent — high compared with the U.S. but common for South Africa.

But most high-end international clients pay in money, and are unaffected by the rise in rates, Mr. Phillips said. Within the highly desirable Camps Bay area, on Cape Town’s Atlantic coast, properties in need of labor start at around 10 million rand ($600,000), he said, noting that up to now 12 months, there have been 4 sales at around 50 million rand ($3 million) within the Camps Bay area.

“That’s a pleasant four-bedroom home with spectacular views, excellent workmanship, a house intelligence system, automated blinds, an elevator,” he said. “It may very well be on the water’s edge or on a top floor.”

Sought-after locations also include Cape Town’s southern suburbs, namely Constantia and Upper Claremont, due to their proximity to varsities, parks and wine estates, said Richard Olotu, an agent with Knight Frank. He also pointed to recent luxury developments going up in Cape Town’s central business district.

Cape Town, the oldest and second-largest city (after Johannesburg) in South Africa, has long been a horny investment destination for Europeans, partly since it’s in the identical time zone as Central Europe, and offers a warm retreat during their winter, said Paul Turner, the owner of Engel & Völkers Atlantic Sea Board and City Bowl.

A majority of foreign buyers come from Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, but there are also some from Italy, France and Switzerland, he said.

Americans are turning up far more regularly now that there are direct flights to Cape Town from the U.S. Mr. Phillips said he recently sold a property sight unseen to 2 doctors from Atlanta. Having previously visited Cape Town and lost out on a property they bid on, they decided to maneuver quickly when Mr. Phillips gave them a virtual tour of one other after that they had returned home.

“They arrived about six weeks later and were pleasantly surprised with what they’d bought,” he said.

There are not any restrictions on foreign buyers in South Africa, and the buying process is easy, Mr. Turner said.

Foreign investors may only borrow a maximum of fifty percent of the worth of the property they’re purchasing. “But due to our high rates of interest, most foreign investors usually are not eager about borrowing locally anyway,” he said.

A lawyer, called a conveyancer, handles the transaction, including seeing to the correct transfer of the deed. The vendor selects the conveyancer, however the fee is paid by the customer. Total transaction fees vary depending on the worth of the property, but they typically are available at around 10 percent of the acquisition price, Mr. Olotu said.

Nonresidents must pay a tax on any capital gain after they sell a property.

South Africa has 11 official languages; Afrikaans and English are widely spoken.
South African rand (1 rand = $0.06)

A transfer duty is charged on a sliding scale, starting at 3 percent for properties selling for greater than 1 million rand ($60,000). The highest rate of 13 percent is due on that portion of a property above 11 million rand ($660,000).

Property taxes on this home are 16,500 rand ($990) a month, in response to Mr. Ackerman.

Riaan Ackerman and Karin Coetzee, Pam Golding Properties, 011-27-21-276-3233

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