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Going off plan

Apr 10, 2019 | Featured, Property News

Modern urban and gated developments are luring buyers who benefit from convenience, customisation and cost savings by buying off plan

Content provided by partner Business Day HOMEFRONT magazine


Many property buyers prefer to purchase a new home over a second-hand property. A key drawcard is that this allows them to choose their finishes and sometimes even the entire layout and stand. Buying townhouses, homes, apartments and retirement units off plan is becoming increasingly popular.

This type of property has several financial and practical advantages. “Sectional title purchases generally allow buyers to choose from a selection of finishes. When it comes to freehold purchases, many estates give you the opportunity to choose between a panel of architects and other professionals to build your home,” says Rainmaker Marketing director Stefan Botha, the marketing spokesperson of developers including Balwin.


The older convention of a plot-and-plan sale means that a buyer purchases a plot, draws up plans and building quotes and applies for finance. Western Cape agency Harcourts Platinum says once finance is approved, the buyer takes transfer of the plot and enters into a building contract with a builder.

As the building progresses the builder is paid out in stages or draws funds, either from the buyer or the bank, until the property is completed. Harcourts says the benefit of such a purchase is that buyers can build the house to a budget, with their desired finishes.


The negative is that the buyer has to carry the cost of servicing a bond while the property is under construction. In addition, manage the whole process: the builder, handle payments, resolve unexpected issues and carry the risk of delivery. With off-plan purchases, financial benefits include not having to pay transfer fees. Off-plan costs are also fixed, unlike when building your own house.

“Building with your own contractors can cause escalating costs,” says Jessica Hofmeyr, sales, rentals, marketing and operations executive at Century Property Developments. “With an established developer, the off-plan process is less stressful than building your own home.”

Dealing with reputable developer members of the National Home Builders Registration Council may also trim costs. “This ensures a guarantee of three months for general defects, one year for roof problems and five years for structural guarantees,” says Westbrook Property Developments MD Clifford Oosthuizen.

1. Apartments

Off-plan apartments are popular, with more South Africans chasing a lockup-and-go lifestyle in luxury developments such as Tree Tops Houghton in Johannesburg. Featuring a luxury penthouse, lap pool, gym, garden and entertainment area, the complex comprises one-, two- and three bedroom apartments starting at R1.65m.

Listed developer Attacq has partnered with development company Tricolt to launch the first high-rise luxury apartments in Waterfall City — Ellipse Waterfall. Kent Gush Properties is selling this off plan. Its luxury apartments start from R1.49m for a one-bedroom unit and several duplex penthouses, which feature private rooftop gardens and heated swimming pools.

Each apartment comes with modern finishes, eco-friendly features, high ceilings and high windows with Johannesburg skyline views. Ellipse Waterfall amenities include concierge services, 24-hour security, a business centre, restaurants, a gym and a spa.


Cape Town, too, offers ample off-plan options. “We have off-plan apartments available at TENONQ in Sea Point and FORTY ON L in Bo-Kaap. These offer compact apartment living and shared amenities such as entertainment decks, gyms and pools,” says BLOK MD Jacques van Embden.

The Aster in Oranjezicht, at the foot of Table Mountain, has 21 off-plan units. The development by Horizon Capital Residential is smaller than most. “It offers excellent security, a roof terrace and swimming pool,” says MD David Sedgwick. Apartments sell from R1.95m.

The winelands is also worth exploring. Pam Golding Properties’ Bosmans Club in Stellenbosch comprises 46 apartments priced from R1.4m. Accommodation in this university town is always in demand, which results in good investment opportunities. “In 2015 a 70m2 two bedroom unit in our Andringa Walk development sold for R2.85m. In 2016 such a unit fetched R3.75m,” says Louise Varga, Pam Golding Properties Stellenbosch area manager.

2. Townhouses

There is a healthy appetite for plot-and-plan townhouses in Gauteng. Zotos Property Group reports excellent sales for developments such as Westside and Solmeri in Bryanston and Monarch on Kings. The latter development in Bedfordview comprises 11 stands, where buyers can add a personal touch to their homes.

A much sought-after townhouse development in the Western Cape is Acorn Creek Lifestyle Estate. Situated near Somerset West, this tranquil eco friendly estate by MSP Developments was designed to harmonise with its natural surroundings. “Many people are scaling down and want the ideal lock-up-and-go scenario, knowing that if they are away for business or a holiday, their property is safe,” says development sales manager Werner Scheffer.

3. Freehold

Developed by Century Property Developments, Blue Hills Equestrian Estate in Midrand takes the off-plan concept further by allowing buyers to design their freehold home from scratch. “Each house has its own look and feel,” Hofmeyr says. “The average home is more than 1,000m2 and costs more than R12m to build.”

In Port Elizabeth, the Amdec Group is working on the last phase of The Ridge. Once completed in May this year, this residential estate in Amdec’s Westbrook development will comprise 150 freehold homes, a medical facility, retail spaces, a school, business park, parklands and cycling lanes.

“Choosing to buy into an estate should be about more than just the bricks and mortar,” says Oosthuizen. Prices range from R1.197m for a three bedroom home to R1.539m for a four-bedroom unit.

4. Estates

Estates such as Paardevlei Lifestyle Estate in Somerset West by Balwin and Buh-Rein in Cape Town’s northern suburbs have gained traction, particularly among off-plan buyers. MSP Developments’ Buh-Rein caters for all market segments and offers various off-plan options enveloped by a sports field, family restaurant, cycling/jogging paths and open-air gym.

Gauteng offers plenty of off-plan estate options, including The Polofields Waterfall. Developed by Balwin, the estate’s apartments feature practical finishes, are fibre-ready and provide a range of amenities including a lifestyle centre, yoga deck, spa, gym and outdoor cinema.

La Como Lifestyle Estate and Serengeti Estates, both near Kempton Park, and The Hills Game Reserve Estate in Pretoria East are also worth investigating. Century Property Developments’ The Hills Game Reserve Estate comprises three- and four-bedroom homes featuring a double garage and garden.

“Our building packages have worked well as our homes typically sell within three weeks of being on the market,” says Hofmeyr.

5. Retirement

KwaZulu-Natal, with its beaches and beautiful coastline, is a top destination for retirees seeking an off-plan home that provides lifestyle comfort, and peace of mind. Lazuli Lifestyle & Retirement Estate on the North Coast offers sites overlooking a green belt with walking paths and terraced dams.

Demand for retirement homes in this province is so substantial that Evergreen Lifestyle is building nearly 1,850 off-plan units there, including 750 in Zimbali. Brand marketing director Arthur Case explains that SA’s off-plan retirement demand is a mixed bag. One group is ready for off plan because they have time to plan, while the other needs to move into a retirement village fast due to illness or life-changing events.


The Western Cape features many outstanding retirement estates that offer off-plan units such as Groot Parys Lifestyle Estate in Paarl and De Plattekloof Lifestyle Estate near the Tygerberg Hills. Demand for units in the latter estate is growing, which results in solid gains in value, says Imagine Property consulting MD Claudius Combrinck.

“We are in a buyers’ market, which is an optimal time to secure property,” says Combrinck. “Developers are aligning their offerings to attract buyers. There is no better time to buy.”

Gauteng retirees who seek an urban retirement lifestyle have ample options. The Retreat Retirement Estate in Pretoria East by Craft Homes offers houses and apartments surrounded by gardens and amenities such as a clubhouse, healthcare and frail care centre. Prices range from R899,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to R2.25m for a three-bedroom house.


  • Plots on low-lying land may flood during storms and plots on steep slopes result in additional excavation, piling and retention costs.
  • Ensure surrounding plots are also zoned for residential. You don’t want to live next to the clubhouse.
  • Avoid corner plots that back up on to noisy main roadways.
  • Ensure the development has architectural height restrictions to prevent your view from being blocked by future homes.
  • Irregular shapes make it difficult to site a home correctly and achieve maximum use of garden space.

Source: RealNet estate agency group MD Gerhard Kotzé.

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