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5 Mar

The 9 Circles of Hell of Flat-Hunting in Cape Town

For those of you who haven’t seen my braggy status updates and Instagram photos – I moved to Three Anchor Bay over the weekend!


I saw an ad on Gumtree on Thursday evening – I called, went to the viewing and 3 days later I moved in. I was very fortunate to find the place, because getting a place in Cape Town is HELL. I started looking last year in November and only found a place at the end of February.

I know people who found their place within a week, and then I know people who found it after 6 months. It takes even longer if you’re looking for a bachelor flat, because it’s just you – you have to look, call, follow-up, go to viewings and most importantly: you only have your salary to show.

Looking for a 2-bedroom/3-bedroom place is slightly less vomit-worthy, because there are three people trawling Gumtree and three salaries to impress owners or agents.

That said; I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to find a place in Cape Town. If you don’t have endless time or money, it will be a mission.

Here are the 9 circles of hell of apartment hunting in Cape Town.

Circle one: People who list ‘wanted’ ads

There’s nothing as disappointing as seeing a well-priced flat and then realising it’s some poephol who listed a “wanted” ad.

I hope you never find a flat. Kidding, just kidding…

Not really

Circle two: Ads with no contact number

Oh, thanks for only leaving an email address. I’m sure my email will stand out among the 90000 others you’re going to receive today.

Circle three: People who don’t respond to calls or emails

Look, I know it gets chaotic answering all the mails and calls, and I don’t actually expect you to respond after your ad has reached 1000 pageviews. That said, if your ad has only been up for a few hours, or even a day – YOU CAN TAKE MY CALL.

And let’s not forget those people who only let you know about a viewing one second before it is meant to take place. “Hi there, we’ll be having a viewing at 14h00 today. Please confirm if you’ll be able to make it.”

It’s now 13:45. No. I will not be able to make it.

Circle four: People who forget to remove their Gumtree ads

Forgetting your ad on Gumtree is the same as forgetting your child at the beach.

Please remove the ad once you’ve found a tenant – don’t give people false hope.

Circle five: Estate agents

The really great thing about being an estate agent is that you never have to worry about what you’re going to have for lunch, because you’ll always have a wide variety of souls to eat.

I’m not sorry.

Circle six: Group viewings

The history books have it all wrong. Darwin actually based his Survival of The Fittest theory on a group viewing in Cape Town.

There’s no camaraderie – don’t think that you can talk to anyone just because you’re in the same boat as them.

I made the mistake of trying to be nice to people at group viewings (luckily I only went to two) and in return I got the stink eye.

Circle seven: “Per day” adverts

Me: Oh, wow! This place is gorgeous! It’s only R4000 per month.
Gumtree: LOL, it’s per day, fool.

Circle eight: Geographically challenged advertisers

I saw three ads (by different people) advertised as Cape Town CBD.

They were all in Strand.

Moenie stront praat nie!

Circle nine: Euphemisms

Charming = SMALL
Recently renovated = One cupboard was fixed
Ample off-street parking = You’ll be able to park 2 blocks away
Popular apartment block = Noisy as hell

Yup. That concludes the 9 Circles of Hell.

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Some tips for those of you who are flat-hunting

Gumtree is king

I went through a phase where I thought I wouldn’t be able to get a place through Gumtree. I felt defeated because I kept seeing ads with 1500+ views. But Gumtree truly is the best place to look – it’s where I found my place. They recently launched this incredibly handy property tool, which shows you what the average price of a flat is in the area that you’re looking in.


It also shows you how the rental prices increase over time – something which is very useful if you’re looking to buy/rent long term. The tool also lists the properties in that area.

Tip: Bookmark your search term on your phone and check it whenever you have free time. I checked mine in queues, in the bathroom (that’s right) and on the train. You can also subscribe to a Gumtree alert, which will send you a digest of ads under your search term once a day.

Don’t ignore ads without photos

If the description sounds good, arrange a viewing. Talya over at Shades of Gold found her flat that way, and so did I. You are also welcome to contact the advertiser and ask for some photos. Just don’t expect an answer.

Use alternative search engines

If Gumtree isn’t working for you, try Trovit, Ekaya or Property 24.


Call – don’t email

Avoid emailing as much as possible. I know it’s difficult to call when you’re at work, and I also know that advertisers don’t always answer their phones. But your odds are still higher when you call.

Have your documents ready

Make sure that you have the following at all times:

  • 3 Months Bank Statements (Stamped by the bank)
  • A copy of your ID
  • Proof of residence
  • A copy of your latest payslip

If you can gooi in a few references from your employer/freelance employers/previous landlord – that’s great.


Finding a place in Cape Town is a bitch, but once you live here… It’s so worth it!

Good luck!

P.S. Stay tuned for a post about my place – it’s still a work in progress.

  • Talya

    I really don’t understand how Buzzfeed haven’t hired you to be their South African news correspondent yet?!

    March 6, 2015 at 8:01 am Reply
  • Lindsay


    Congrats Anja!

    March 6, 2015 at 8:27 am Reply
  • eden

    Been trawling gumtree every day for over two months now. The hell is real!

    March 6, 2015 at 11:28 am Reply
  • Perry

    Awe…I’ll just stay with my mum again for a bit longer

    March 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm Reply
  • karlien

    Is it horrible to ask what you are paying currently? I am thinking about hunting for single apartments 2016 (tired of flatmates due to growing up). I just want to know the basic damage? I live with other 2 people and pay R3000…

    March 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm Reply
  • Katherine

    Oh man.. I just read this twice! Was only pulled out of the “circles of hell” a month ago after three months of looking! Thank you for sharing… I will now be sending this to all my friends who had to listen to my whinging:)

    March 6, 2015 at 3:58 pm Reply
  • Tracy Jacobs

    Congrats on your new flat Anja. Love your writing, u always make me laugh

    March 6, 2015 at 6:37 pm Reply
  • Luzani Mothobi

    Congrats on making it through hell, lol!

    March 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm Reply
  • Kerry

    Why rent, when you can buy? If the only thing holding you back is your lack of confidence or understanding of the property market, take the UCT Commercial Property Broker online course to give yourself a good foundation, and then dominate in the property market

    March 8, 2015 at 11:11 am Reply
  • giovanno

    Hi I totes agree it’s a nightmare finding one but it’s all worth it when you do. I love your blog, saw it via a friends fb page. I’ve been on my own close to Cape Town cbd and looooove every moment. Guys don’t give up

    March 8, 2015 at 11:17 am Reply
  • Tharreshnee

    Congrats on your new place and thank you for keeping me entertained. love reading your posts

    March 8, 2015 at 7:09 pm Reply
  • Tamara Joubert

    Preach! This is spot on. I spent 2 months looking at the end of last year and I would liken it to the NYC rental market. If you find something you like you have to show up at the group viewings with a year’s worth of rent in a briefcase. And a pitch as motivation for why they should choose you because you better believe others have brought a briefcase too.

    March 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm Reply
  • Candice

    Yeah finding a place is super hard!

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

    March 17, 2015 at 10:16 am Reply
  • Danielle Weakley

    The nine circles of hell could learn A LOT … We move in three short weeks – cue the celestial choirs! – but it’s been mooooonnnnnths of anguish. Love your post

    March 18, 2015 at 7:19 am Reply

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