A guide to house building in South Africa

A guide to house building in South Africa

Planning: The six things you need before you can start building a house

Before you start building a house, you will need the following:


Not a joke if you need to get a bond. Banks are very sticky with paperwork on a new build and there will be a significant outlay before they give you approval (a large deposit will also be necessary). Banks will likely only finance 60% of a new build and you will need to provide the rest.

Once approved, bank payments will be done based on work completed, in installments, after a bank inspection at key milestones (e.g. foundations/slabs/roofing). It’s key to plan cashflow very carefully. Banks will always be cautions and your draws are often less than you expect.

Cost: Endless bank, attorney and transfer fees. Check the fine print.


If you want your build to make economic sense (or have a good return on investment), it needs to be in the best location you can afford. Bar a steep incline, a very rural location or terrible soil conditions, your building costs stay roughly the same. It’s likely that your location (location, location!) will determine the ultimate value of the finished property. Check title deeds for any restrictions, while housing estates tend to come with strict building guidelines and height restrictions.

Cost: Limitless (including transfer fees that come with the purchase).


You might know exactly what you want to create on your site, but there is no question that a good architect will take your ideas to the next level. Absolutely necessary if you want to add value. Importantly, decide on a style you love, then choose the architect that specialises in that language.

A good architect is not cheap. They work on a percentage of final building costs. This can be anywhere from 5% to 15%. You can also appoint them on ‘plan only’ or ‘full project management’ basis. Some of the best insist on finishing the project. Having said this, there are some excellent ones that are willing to work on a fixed price for construction drawings.

Cost: Minimum of R200 000 + (you can also get a draughts person, but a good architect could be the best in the long run when you think what value they can bring to the final house)

3D projections

Estate and council approved plans

You will be required to submit a full set of drawings (SG diagram, floor plan, electrical layout, drainage, elevations etc.) to your local council. These can be done by an architect or draughts person. Remember, the better and more detailed your plans, the easier the build. (If building in an estate, it’s likely that you will have a vigorous approval procedure first).

Architects hire runners to submit plans to council as it’s time and labour intensive. Even if you’re not getting an architect, it’s best to get a runner – there are many technicalities and these guys know their way around. A plan can literally lie around for years because you left off one requirement.

Cost: Council submission is around R14 000, Runner: R3000 – R8000

On top of house plans, you also require structural drawings. This is actually the really important bit. It’s the structural engineer, and not the architect that ensures a safe, viable structure. Do not go cheap on this one. For council submission you will only require proof of the appointment of a registered structural engineer (they will provides a letter once you’ve appointed them and paid the first installment).

Cost: From around R50 000

Council is getting sticky on energy standards in homes. In most cases, double glazed windows are required and you will also need to submit your energy plan. Some architects can do this for you, or you pay a company to complete a rational design.

Cost: R0 – R20 000

To ease your submission follow all site guidelines and suburb regulations (check with council and on your title deed). Any wavers that require neighbor permission are almost certainly to cause you much pain and, more importantly, time. One departure on your plans requires you to get permission from every adjoining property. It can become a nightmare and should be avoided.

Cost: Huge saving, whatever way you look at it.

Water and Electrical connection

Once you have approved plans you apply for these at your local council. (Note: Even if your plot comes with ‘services’ you still have to apply to have them connected.)

This process can take months. It’s crucial you plan ahead so you have water and electricity on site once building commences.

Cost: Water – from R9000, Electrical – from R7000 (KZN as much as R27 000)

NHBRC registration

Any new build in SA requires you to have NHBRC registration (regardless of needing a bond or not). Officially it’s a form of insurance. Your appointed building contractor will also require registration. Failure to comply can result in major fines. (See further chapters for more detail.)

Cost: Percentage of you building cost, but maxes out at R36 000.

*Cost are roughly based on a 400m2, double storey structure in Johannesburg/Durban/Cape Town.

Once you have all of these (gasp), you are ready to build. It might seem a long list, but you basically tackle one at a time. As long as you are aware of the future cost implications, it’s not too bad. If you keep it simple, you can be done in anything from 4 – 8 months. It’s the council submission that’s out of your hands, but if you have no departures, and have proper plans with a good runner, it should take no more than 2-3 months.

For more information on NHBRC enrollment, click here.

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