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Heritage comes at a cost

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Owning a structure that is more than 60 years old means you cannot make changes without permission

The idea of owning a home in a heritage zone is, for many buyers, added excitement in the home-buying process. But being the owner of such a home does come with its own downsides, agents say.

The National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 states that any home older than 60 years is, technically, a heritage home, and according to the act: “No person may alter or demolish any structure or part of a structure which is older than 60 years without a permit issued by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority.”

This means owners of properties older than 60 years get in touch with their relevant Provincial Heritage Resources Authority before they can go ahead with any structural changes to their homes, says Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive Re/Max of Southern Africa.

Depending on the significance of a heritage property, which is decided upon by the provincial authority, owners may be able to apply for grants or loans to help them afford the upkeep and maintenance costs of the home.

“For those who hope to own one of these homes, South Africa is rich in heritage properties if you know where to look. “Areas such as Kimberley and Grahamstown, to name but a few, are great areas to begin your search,” Goslett says.

While most historic buildings and the Cape Dutch wine farms of the Winelands/Boland area are beyond the reach of many buyers and investors, there are still opportunities to buy and invest, Seeff agents say.

These are sought for a variety of reasons, from residential to businesses, boutiques, restaurants and guesthouses.

Areas, where you can invest in historic/heritage property, include: 

  • Constantia
  • City Bowl 
  • Stellenbosch/Franschhoek/Paarl 
  • Tulbagh/Wellington/Worcester
  • Swellendam (Overberg)
  • Ladismith/Oudtshoorn (Klein Karoo)

The idea of buying a heritage home appeals to a discerning buyer, says Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate. “Heritage homes have a timeless appeal. When you invest in property that has been declared a heritage site, you are sometimes not buying the latest fixtures and finishes but rather contributing in your small way to the legacy of a home.

“You are buying a piece of history which, in many cases, is South African Cape Dutch and in doing so you are including yourself and your family in the property’s history.

“These homes, if properly maintained, are an outstanding financial investment.” Greeff says heritage homes have a higher-than-usual property value due to their official status as historic architecture.

Renovating a historic property on one of the higher heritage tiers, however, can mean navigating specific limitations on design, workmanship and even building materials, warns Tony Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group.

For this reason, he says, it is never a good idea to buy a heritage home with major renovations in mind unless you have taken that cost into account when making the purchase. 

However, Clarke says not all heritage properties are hiding flaws behind their elegant facades. In fact, he says many historic homes are better maintained than their modern counterparts.

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