Why you should invest in the inner city of Pretoria and Johannesburg

Why you should invest in the inner city of Pretoria and Johannesburg

By Brian Sango

Indeed over the years there has been a huge dark cloud over this area as an investment opportunity. Well this read will certainly keep you at ease and address most of your concerns regarding investing in the Inner City of Johannesburg or Pretoria.

As with anything in this world, you will very seldom succeed without doing your home work and researching the opportunity in detail. Many people looking to buy their first investment property in the inner city suburbs (or CBD) of Joburg and Pretoria may have heard about the lucrative positive cash flow opportunities and incredibly high tenant demand, however they immediately run for the hills after hearing one or two ‘nightmare tenant’ stories from some sceptical and misinformed investor who developed false and negative views of the area due to one or two rumors he had once heard.

Any experienced inner city property investor will tell you that dealing with tenants in these inner city suburbs is no different to dealing with tenants in any other area of South Africa (in fact inner city tenants are in many ways easier to source and manage). As with any successful rental portfolio it all boils down to the initial tenant screening process, followed by efficient and effective management.

One of the biggest questions we get asked is “who is going to be collecting my rent every month and managing my property?”. We are proud to say that we are affiliated with one of the largest and most reputable letting agencies in South Africa who specialize solely in these inner city areas, and have been managing our client’s portfolios over many years with great success. Let’s uncover some of the biggest myths when it comes to investing in the inner city….

MYTH : “I’ve heard that inner city tenants are a lot more risky than your middle to upper end ‘leafy suburb’ tenants”

No matter where your investment properties are located in South Africa, if one fails to perform a thorough background check as well as an affordability assessment on your tenant, well then you’re asking for trouble no matter where you invest in S.A.

The CBD / inner city is no different, the exact same principle applies. It really is a pity that so many misinformed investors out there have been led to believe that you are less likely to receive your rent every month from a CBD / inner city tenant compared to that of a tenant in the middle to upper end ‘leafy suburbs’. After many years of investing in the CBD, we (as well as our clients) have found this to be quite the opposite.

Tenants earning steady income vs those that are self-employed:
Your middle to upper end tenants are in fact more risky than your average inner city tenants, one of the many reasons is that most tenants in the middle to upper end market are small business owners. Due to the nature of small businesses, regular financial ups and downs are experienced due to the instability of small businesses in general (a staggering 95% of all small businesses fail within their first 5 yrs).

In addition, your middle to upper end tenant’s business need only have one ‘bad’ month which could result in your rent being paid late (or not paid at all). This compared to inner city tenants who are typically earning a steady income as most are working for large corporate companies and government organizations. An inner city tenant’s salary/income is therefore far more secure than a self-employed tenant.

Multiple rent contributors vs one single contributor

In addition to the above, in the middle to upper end market your entire rental payment is typically being paid by one single bread winner in the house hold, as opposed to CBD / inner city tenants who typically share their rental payment (for example 3 ways) on a monthly basis (eg. in the case of 3 young professionals sharing).

This means that in order for the inner city tenants to deafult on the full rental payment, all of the contributing tenants would need to default on the exact same month, and chances of this happening are extremely slim. Whereas with the middle to upper end tenant it simply takes the only contributing individual to default and your entire rental (which is typically a far larger sum of money) is lost in full.

Higher rentals in the middle to upper end market can result in a bigger knock for the investor if your tenant defaults

The worst aspect about your middle to upper end tenant defaulting is that we aren’t talking about a mere R 3500 inner city rental which is being lost, we are talking about a rental payment of between R 8000 and R 35 000 which is being lost. Aside from the larger rental amount that you are losing out on, you are left with a far bigger bond installment to now pay out of your own pocket as typically the property was bought for at least 4 times the price of your average CBD / inner city flat.

CBD / inner city suburbs offer a far higher rental demand

Another beneficial factor about the inner city suburbs is that the rental demand is incredibly high due to these tenants wanting to be close to the work place. It is not uncommon for letting agencies in the inner city to source a good paying tenant within 48 hrs of advertising a particular flat.

This compared to the middle to upper end market whereby you might be waiting anything up to 6 months to secure a qualified tenant. The reason for this lengthy tenant sourcing period in the middle to upper end market is that only a minority of the South African population can afford to live there, this leaves the lower end market (CBD / inner city) with an extremely high and vibrant demand for rental housing.

After considering the above aspects, which tenants sound more risky to you?

Other Factors Making The CBD Such a Lucrative Investment

With an estimated one million people commuting to work in the Johannesburg CBD each day, these inner city properties represent not just a gap in the property market, but rather a yawning chasm. And with the government pumping millions and millions of Rands every month into these Inner city areas to rejuvenate and uplift them on a monthly basis, well what more could an investor ask for.

The Inner City projects have been, and are continually extremely successful in servicing the demand for tenants and city living residents, and have shown tremendous capital growth.

Areas are being cleaned up and buildings rehabilitated on a daily basis. In 2001 you could have purchased an Inner City apartment for as little as R25 000, these days it is difficult to find a flat in a well managed block for under R200 000.

Some of the biggest property investors in South Africa currently own huge volumes of property in these inner city areas and have experienced capital growth and rental returns like no other areas in South Africa.

We (IMAGINE), as well as our clients have too been investing in the inner city for many years now and we have never looked back. If capital growth and extra-ordinary positive cash flow is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

Brian Sango is a Zim, SA based Property Acquitions Consultant specialising in Johannesburg Inner City (Braamfontein, Berea, Hillbrow, Bellevue, Yeoville, Jhb Central, Marshalltown etc) and has worked for the Cape Town property market for many years. Many of his clients now hold property portfolios of more than 3 sectional title flats as it has proved to be a great investment for them. For more information email Brian on brian@imagineproperty.co.za