South Africa offers an attractive option for foreign real estate investors. The exchange rate works in favour of many non-resident investors, and there are virtually no restrictions on purchasing property as a non-resident in this country, making this one of the most accessible investment markets for foreigner buyers.

If you’re hoping to appeal to this market, partner with a real estate brand with a large global presence to ensure the broadest possible network of international referrals and leads. All the other complexities should be taken care of on your behalf by your chosen real estate practitioner and transferring attorney.

Who chooses the transferring attorney?
As with any real estate transaction, the seller is responsible for appointing the attorney, who usually comes recommended by the agent. The transferring attorney then sees to the transferring of the property into the name of the new owner and liaises with the seller and buyer to ensure all documentation is received and that the transfer goes ahead smoothly. 

Does the transfer take longer when selling to foreigners?
Once all the necessary documents are received, the transfer process should not take longer for non-residents; yet, it often does because of the complexity of the transactions and the fact that the conveyancer/s may not have the necessary level of experience in dealing with all the issues involved in the transaction in a pro-active manner. This tends to lead to months’ worth of delays. When selling to an international buyer, it is very important to choose a conveyancer who is well versed in dealing with the affairs of foreign clients. 

What are some of the most common mistakes to avoid?
Any documents that are signed overseas will need to be signed before a Notary Public whose signature might need to be further authenticated. The documents can also be signed at the South African Embassy or Consular Office in that country. This can be costly and time-consuming. It is often better to give a special power of attorney to a friend or family member who lives in South Africa to sign documents on the seller or buyer’s behalf. For those without local friends or family, it is advisable to appoint the conveyancer acting on the seller’s behalf.

Foreign sellers and buyers who are married will need to have their spouse assist with the signing of the transfer (in the case of the seller) and mortgage bond (in the case of the buyer) documentation.

Final advice
In order to avoid any unnecessary delays, it is vital to partner with a global real estate brand whose agents are trained to handle international transactions and who have partnerships with conveyancers who are specialised in international investments. Selling to foreign buyers does not need to be any more complicated than selling to local buyers provided you have partnered with a real estate practitioner who knows how to handle these kinds of deals and who can recommend an attorney who has the relevant knowledge and experience.

*Legal advice according to Michelle van Wyk, partner at Bisset Boehmke McBlain.