Your home might be old, but does that automatically make it a heritage property? Well, according to the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999, if your home has been around for more than 60 years, technically speaking, the answer to that question is yes.

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 rule exists in the interest of preserving parts of our past for the benefit of succeeding generations.

In short, what this means for you as a homeowner of a property older than 60 years is that you will need to get in touch with your relevant Provincial Heritage Resources Authority before you can go ahead with any structural changes to your home.

Those who own heritage properties have a responsibility to follow the required guidelines as set out by the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA). To review these guidelines, a copy of the National Heritage Resource Act can be found on the SAHRA website.

Summarising what you will find in this act
There are three grades of classification. Grade I heritage resources have national significance, such as Robben Island or the Sterkfontein Caves, and are protected by SAHRA. Grade II heritage resources are those which fall part of the national estate but are considered significant within a provincial context, like St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, and are protected by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority. Finally, Grade III, the category under which most heritage homes fall, are any other resources that are worthy of conservation. These are also guarded by a provincial authority.  

Depending on the significance of the property, which is decided upon by the provincial authority, you may be able to apply for grants or loans to help you afford the upkeep and maintenance costs of the home. Considering this, you might want to know if there are there any other ways apart from age that could classify a property as a heritage site. According to the act, any person may submit a written nomination to SAHRA explaining why their property should be declared a national heritage site, or, in more likelihood, to the provincial heritage resources authority to be declared a provincial heritage site.  

The relevant authority will then decide if the property or land has any cultural significance by considering if it there is any aesthetic, architectural, historical, scientific, social, spiritual, linguistic or technological value about it. But, once a site has been declared a heritage site, the relevant authority may then enforce regulations pertaining to heritage sites under its control and will hold homeowners liable to serious penalties for making alterations without their permission and not complying with any other relevant regulations.   

Homeowners who purchase heritage properties need to consider the fact that they are purchasing a piece of South African history and need to make sure that they treat the home with the level of respect it deserves.

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, Grahamstown and Bo-Kaap, to name but a few, are great areas to begin your search. Alternatively, you could reach out to your nearest RE/MAX Office to help you in your search.

Heritage Resources Authorities:
South Africa:

Eastern Cape:

Free State:


KwaZulu Natal:



Northern Cape:

North West:

Western Cape: