The South African cities where it costs the most to build a house

While Cape Town and parts of Johannesburg appear to be far ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to expensive houses in leafy or seafront suburbs, they are not necessarily home to the biggest properties on the market, or the most expensive to build.

This is according to a new Stats SA building report, which found that on average eThekwini (Durban) has the largest homes when measured by square metre, and also carries most of the highest building costs.

Over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016, the average floor area for a dwelling in South Africa’s third-most populous city was 233 square metres. In comparison, property in Cape Town seems unusually small – at an average of only 106 square metres.

This changes when it comes to townhouses and flats – as seen in the graphic below – but one things remains consistent: eThikwini sticks to the top.

A closer look at the data shows that the city has approved building plans for large numbers of smaller-sized residential units (between 30m2 to 80m2), in particular in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.

Construction costs

Construction costs in eThekwini are also the most expensive – but only for houses and apartments.

Tshwane takes the top spot for townhouses, with prices averaging R8,575 per square metre to build a townhouse in the capital city, according to data for 2016.

Buffalo City, which includes the coastal city of East London, recorded the lowest costs for townhouses and flats during the same period.

Flats have grown increasingly popular in South Africa’s cities over the last couple of years, even outstripping the construction of townhouses.

For every 100 plans rubber-stamped for houses in 2013, 26 plans were approved for apartments. In 2016, this ratio had increased to 59, StatsSA’s data found.

The demand for townhouses has also increased, but not as much.

In 2013, the ratio of townhouse plans approved for every 100 dwelling-house plans was 25 – climbing to 33 in 2016.

The increasing demand for flats has occurred in nearly all of the eight metros, but particularly in Tshwane, Cape Town and eThekwini.

Despite the rise in apartments and townhouses, free standing houses still dominate the residential landscape.

According to the 2016 Community Survey, 64% of households in metro areas lived in formal houses, while 2.6% lived in townhouses and 5.4% in flats.

Read: These are Cape Town’s 10 best-selling neighbourhoods

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The South African cities where it costs the most to build a house