What are the basics involved with developing commercial property?

What are the basics involved with developing commercial property?


How to develop vacant land

Brokers have the experienced and skills to help you achieve your goal. Before you consult with a broker or a developer there a few issues you need to check before you go ahead.


Make sure that the property is zoned for the type of project you’re considering. Zoning is the grading of properties in terms of what it can be used for and what can be built on that property. Zoning schemes are imposed by Provincial Legislation and administered by Municipalities.

South Africa’s laws require that the property must be zoned correctly (the property may only be zoned to develop a hotel. If the property is zoned incorrectly, you have to apply for rezoning. Each local authority has different parameters in order to rezone property.

Title Deeds

In addition to the zoning regulations, development is also controlled by conditions of title. These conditions are set out in the Title Deed of each property, and can restrict the way in which a property may be developed. Any development of land that ignores this legislation and its regulations can result in prosecution in terms of the applicable legislation.

The zoning regulations as well as the property description, and details of the size, orientation and other details can be obtained from the local municipally office and Building Control can provide information regarding the National Building Regulations. If a proposed development needs to be rezoned the application is a formal procedure.

As it can be a complex procedure. It is best to consult a professional town planning consultant or other professional such as a land surveyor or a lawyer.


There are costs to worry about as well. These include preparing the application, i.e. professional fees, the application fee charged by the council and the cost of drawing up plans. Depending on the type of application, obtaining a decision may take as long as 12 months. After the application is submitted, it is circulated to relevant Council departments and agencies for comment.

Get professional help

“If you are not experienced in property development, get a professional to help you. For example, when building, it is likely that you may need consulting engineers on site, and an expert is required to make this kind of decision. I would recommend that you employ a professional team to run the project.

“This way all you are left to worry about is the finance,” says Edward van der Linde, chief consultant, Linprop Property Consultants in Johannesburg

Looking at a Shopping Mall?

Demographics, including the area’s income level, are crucial in developing commercial centre. Foot-traffic is the key to the success of any shopping centre or business centre. So, as a developer, before you do anything, you have to complete thorough research.

Find out more about what people (your future tenants and shoppers) want in the centre, i.e. do they need a supermarket, laundry or pharmacy? Go to any centres nearby and talk to shop owners and find out what they think, how much rent they pay and what they feel is missing from the centre their business is located in. Once you have completed this research and feel that the project is worthwhile, it’s time to take the next step.