In recent years some people, particularly Zimbabweans working outside the country, have been highlighting how the cost of building or purchasing housing in any one of Zimbabwe’s major urban centres seems to be a little bit too expensive when compared to property prices in the rest of the region—especially when you consider that some of those countries are doing way better economically than Zimbabwe and hence should be the ones with the higher property values.
Today we will use figures and see how property prices in Zimbabwe actually compare to those of one of the country’s most prosperous neighbours, South Africa. Harare and Johannesburg were chosen as each of their countries’ representative metropolitan areas and their property prices were surveyed. It is important to note that Harare covers a total area of 960 square kilometres and has a population of 1.5 million people. Compare these figures with Johannesburg’s population of 5.7 million and an area of 1,645 square kilometres.
Types of property used for the comparison
In this article, we are only going to focus on two of the types of residential property which are common to both countries—namely houses in high-density suburbs (more commonly known as locations or townships in SA) and townhouses in lower-density areas. These are usually on different ends of the real estate price spectrum.
Suburbs in Zimbabwe’s urban areas can generally be grouped into three categories depending on how closely packed the housing units are to each other. There, therefore, exist high, mid and low-density suburbs. In Zimbabwe, who lives in which kind of suburb depends less on historical factors than it does on personal income, socioeconomic status and even personal preference.
Unlike Zimbabwe, which is much less racially diverse, most of the development of South Africa’s denser housing communities were largely influenced by the apartheid system which specifically demarcated certain areas for settlement by specific races with black South Africans usually getting the short end of the stick.
In Harare, houses up for sale in high-density suburbs withstand areas not exceeding 300 square-metres were surveyed. The retrieved listing prices ranged from around 14kUSD to 60kUSD with the median and most quoted prices lying somewhere around the region of 30kUSD. The general trend is for the prices to increase with the size of the stand, the number of bedrooms (and hence the overall number of rooms) and the general state of the house with newly-built, extended or renovated homes fetching higher prices. The majority of the houses listed for sale had 3 or more bedrooms.
The surveyed properties in South Africa which were most comparable to their above Zimbabwean counterparts in terms of land size (300 square metres and less), number of rooms, neighbourhoods and general building structure have a price range which lies between the rand equivalent of 20kUSD and 50kUSD. Those with 3 bedrooms or more have prices which start from around 30kUSD.
Townhouses located in more affluent suburbs were chosen as the representative properties for upmarket housing in each of the two countries because, unlike other types of high-value real estate, they (and their amenities) are easier to compare to each other.
Listings for townhouses in Harare with 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms were surveyed and the prices were found to lie between 125kUSD and 850kUSD with list prices hovering between 200kUSD and 300kUSD being the most numerous. The size of the indoor floor and outdoor spaces, in addition to the number of rooms and bedrooms in these townhouses, also plays a major role in determining their valuation.
Some of the listings surveyed included properties in highly affluent suburbs such as The Avenues, Avondale, Greendale and Borrowdale. The first of these (The Avenues) is a mixed purpose suburb in the city which consists of apartments, commercial buildings and diplomatic missions. It is located only a kilometre from the central business district. The last one, Borrowdale, is considered by some to be the most prestigious urban residential area in the whole of Zimbabwe.
The Johannesburg townhouse properties with 2 or more bedrooms which were surveyed ranged in price from around 63kUSD to 800kUSD. However, only less than 20% of all the listings surveyed had price tags which exceeded 220kUSD.
Harare vs. Johannesburg townhouses
When the survey of properties in both cities was limited to those with floor sizes not exceeding 300 square-metres; those with only the modest of outdoor spaces and those with exactly three bedrooms, it was discovered that Johannesburg asking prices for such townhouses lay between a low of around 75kUSD and a peak figure of 275kUSD for premium ones. In contrast, the asking prices for similar properties in Harare are around 200kUSD. The lowest asking price for such townhouses in Zimbabwe’s capital is around 150kUSD.