Conserving our National Heritage

Owning a heritage building appeals to many property investors, especially those with an appreciation for history, handcrafted interior fittings and timeless architecture.

With its wealth of historically important buildings, Cape Town is one of South Africa’s prime heritage property markets. Property investors in the Mother City are in a great position to own a piece of our country’s architectural heritage – as long as they understand the many responsibilities that they will inherit.

What is heritage status – and which commercial buildings does it apply to?

Many prospective property buyers are surprised to learn that not every old office building has heritage status.

The National Heritage Resources Act sets out specific guidelines that municipal governments must follow when they give a building heritage status. Here are some of the most important criteria:

  • Every building older than 60 years automatically receives heritage status
  • There are three heritage status grades:
    • buildings of national importance (grade 1)
    • those of municipal importance (grade 2)
    • local or community importance (grade 3).
  • Once a building has received heritage status, it becomes part of the National Estate and is considered to be of historical value to the country as a whole.

A heritage building may be freely bought and sold, and investors enjoy full rights of ownership as they would with any other commercial property. However, when it comes to repairs, maintenance and renovations, there are specific guidelines that must be followed.

Maintaining and renovating a heritage building – dos and don’ts

Heritage building owners who wish to carry out renovations will first need approval from their local municipality.

This process differs from the usual approval of building plans in one key aspect: the building’s original appearance should not be altered by the renovations if at all possible.

One of the challenges that heritage building owners often face when doing renovations is using modern building materials on a structure that was built half a century ago or more.

  • Older roof rafters are often not uniformly cut to size, while masonry, plaster mixes, and foundations differ substantially from those built more recently.
  • Property owners will need to consult with an architect who is experienced in dealing with heritage buildings and appoint a contractor who is able to match materials and building methods to the original structure.

A rewarding property investment

If you have a taste for all things historical, and would like to own a piece of Cape Town’s architectural heritage, we’d love to assist you in making this unique property investment. We regularly feature heritage buildings in our diverse portfolio of premium office space in and around the Mother City.

If you’d like more information on owning a heritage building, feel free to contact us. Our team of area specialists are on hand to assist you.