“What will you do for work when you get there?”
“What school(s) will the kids be in?”
“How often will you come back to the States?”
“Where will you be living?”
These four questions usually make up the meat of the interrogative gumbo that we were served before we left the States. Of the four one has been really (really) hard to answer. I’d like to give you the chance to guess which of those it might be, but you probably only have a few minutes to read this and may not be in the mood for games today. Besides, the title of this post has most likely given you an indication.
Housing has been incredibly difficult to procure in this part of South Africa. When folks back in Atlanta would ask me where we were going to stay and my reply was a nonchalant shrug, I wasn’t being glib. I literally didn’t know! When Marshall and Stone first arrived in the country ahead of us, they were “homeless” for about 2 weeks. They stayed with friends in Port Elizabeth, shuttled between one bed and breakfast to the next before finally finding a house for rent, albeit it for a short term lease. Sensing our desperation and seizing on the opportunity, our previous real estate agent drew up a contract that was designed to squeeze us for every cent she could shake out for the homeowner. She was NOT working in our best interest. There are plenty of homes for sale in Plettenberg Bay, but the rental market is a desert. Despite the ridiculous clauses in our contract (including, but not limited to forcing us to hire a housekeeper of the homeowners choosing and increasing our rent once the agent saw the sum of our income) we took a house in River Club because we needed a place to stay. River Club is a swanky subdivision in Plett wherein the houses remain vacant until the holiday season save for the retirees who live there year round. We just moved out of there on the 30th.
But…Malaka? Didn’t you guys JUST get to South Africa at the beginning of June? How are you moving out of one house to another after just 30 days?
Did you not just hear me say our rental agreement was crazy? The lady who owns the home was willing to lease the place up until October at the latest. We, on the other hand, will be here for a little longer; A few years, at least. So when another property came open we had to give a 2 week notice and high tail it out of there before someone snatched it up!
All over this city, there are For Sale signs in front of stately and modest homes alike. Some have been on the market for years. It appears that homeowners are reluctant to do long-term leases for a number of reasons:
- A few bad renters have created a stigma for the renting population, driving the myth that 90% of all renters are “bad people who destroy your property because they have no regard for it” (I heard a woman in town rattle off this non-scientific statistic) and therefore it’s better to sell.
- The majority of homeowners are of the staunch opinion that they can get more bang for their buck if they charge $500/week during the 3 month holiday season rather than $800/month for a year long rental.
- In some cases there is prejudice against rentals of a certain ethnicity.
Personally, I found it hard to believe this final point, but the individually recounting this tale did so with such earnestness that I found it hard to conjure up a reason as to why they would lie about it. Fortunately, there isn’t too much of that blatant racism going around. Instead, certain real estate agents and the homeowners collude to rob you unjustly.
Finding a place to live – a house that would accommodate our family of six comfortably – has been no easy task. That’s why I think it is imperative that I give a HUGE shout out to Christine and Ingrid at Century 21 for their professionalism and the attention to detail over the past few weeks. They’ve really come through for our family in a crunch time situation. If you’re visiting Plett and need accommodation, you should definitely call them first!
Don’t ask where you can mail letters and packages to us. Getting a mailbox in this town is 7 times more difficult than finding a house!