Rezoning your home can boost its value, make you a big profit

Rezoning your home for commercial or mixed-use can increase its value. Picture: On Shot/Pexels

Rezoning your home for commercial or mixed-use can increase its value. Picture: On Shot/Pexels

Published Aug 20, 2023


Rezoning your property for commercial, mixed-use, or agricultural purposes can increase its value and also mitigate any risk in the current market uncertainly.

Your home can improve its value to developers and make it more attractive to buyers.

Rezoning involves changing the designated use of your property as defined by local ordinances from one category – in this case, residential, to another.

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It can be a lengthy and frustrating process, but buyers and developers will pay more if it has already been rezoned.

Like many across the globe, South Africa's property market is currently facing a period of uncertainty due to the ongoing impact of global geopolitical shifts and the aftermath of the pandemic, and although traditionally a stable investment, residential property can be subject to market fluctuations.

Rezoning, however, can allow property owners to diversify their portfolio, mitigate risk, and potentially achieve a more stable return on investment, says Paul Stevens, chief executive of Just Property.

“With many areas in traditionally single-erf suburbs earmarked for higher density the opportunity exists to improve a property’s value to developers. Similarly, getting a large property cleared for subdivision can also make it more attractive to buyers and developers.”

Generally, he notes, sellers in this position can stand their ground on pricing, as long as it is market-related.

Capitalising on urbanisation and commercial growth

Urbanisation is driving demand for commercial and mixed-use properties in South Africa's major cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, so if a property is in the structure plan to be rezoned for business purposes, generally this does add value.

Rezoning a residential property on the edge of, or in, a business node to commercial can present opportunities for business operations, rental income from businesses, or even selling the property at a higher price due to its increased utility and demand, he adds.

Answering the call for affordable housing and social services

In many of South Africa's urban and peri-urban areas, there is a pressing need for affordable housing and social services, so rezoning to multi-unit residential or community services could provide a socially conscious and economically viable solution to this problem. Property owners can also potentially benefit from government incentives intended to encourage such developments.

The rise of the remote work culture

Stevens says the global shift towards remote work has led to an increased demand for co-working spaces and home offices. Rezoning a residential property to mixed-use could therefore allow a portion of the property to be utilised for commercial purposes, thus meeting this new demand.

Agricultural revival and sustainable living

The push for sustainability and food security has led to a renewed interest in small-scale farming, particularly in peri-urban and rural areas. Rezoning a property for agricultural use could prove beneficial in this regard, tapping into a market that's likely to grow in the coming years, he says.

What’s involved in rezoning your property?

While the benefits are many, changing your zoning classification can be a long, complex process which can take up to two years, or even more in some cases. The process incurs expenses, including advertising and documentation costs, professional service charges, application fees, and the transportation development levy to be paid to the municipality, Stevens warns.

“It is possible to take on the rezoning process yourself but be prepared for a tedious process. Commercial brokers and residential property practitioners can provide advice and liaise with town-planning consultants and the Council, but drawing on the expertise of seasoned lawyers, architects, or town planners is recommended.”

He explains that the initial stage involves contacting the town-planning department of your local municipality to ascertain whether your property is situated in a zone designated for high-density development or falls into a business zone. If not, it will be necessary to file for a zoning deviation.

The property owner or their consulting professional should submit a proposal explaining the necessity for changing the property's zoning. It's advisable to highlight the positive impact this change could bring to the area – such as the benefits of the proposed new use – and its possible benefits for others.

"You'll need to engage with the public and announce your plans in local newspapers and the provisional Gazette, giving sufficient time for potential objections to be made.”

If you receive approval from Town Planning, the application is then forwarded to the City Council for consideration. Be aware though, that you may well receive objections from your neighbours and the broader community – it is also possible that Council will not approve your application.

“So do not proceed with any development until you’ve ticked all your boxes.”

Is it worth it?

Stevens says buyers prefer to purchase property that is already rezoned because, as you can see, it is a lengthy, sometimes frustrating process. And for that reason, they are prepared to pay more for a property that has already been rezoned or had its application approved.

“Property owners who are prepared to go through the pain themselves, can make a significant profit on their original purchase price,” he says, adding that rezoning could present a strategic opportunity in the face of South Africa's evolving property market landscape.

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