What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is very suburban - think Reston, but with electric fences and security gates. Embassy housing is on compounds and stand-alone houses. Compounds can be smaller homes with smaller yards but are often newer and more secure. If you need live-in quarters for a nanny/housekeeper, say so in your housing questionnaire as not all houses have them. One interesting trend is that employees tend to be relegated to the smaller compound houses, even at the more senior levels. Commute times range from 15-25 minutes, and no houses are really that much more or less conveniently located to shopping, etc. than any others. - Jan 2020
In my opinion, housing is largely demoralizing. Some houses are close with large yards, pools, and large bedrooms. These seem to go to families with at least three children (no matter position/rank). We have a small (1,600 sqft) three bedroom house for four people with a nice yard. It's a 45 minute to 1.5 hour commute to work each way. Traffic is terrible in my opinion. The house is close to the Pretoria campus of the American School. My child's commute is about 10 minutes to school. Most people live closer to work, and have about a 20 minute commute. Their children have about 30-45+ minutes (longer to get to JoBurg campus)--many are picked up around 6:00 to 6:15am and return from school around 4:30-5pm (or later). I do not feel the house has adequate storage (only a 6'x10' storage area) and no quarters for staff or space for guests. There seem to be many issues with the houses. There are problems with electrical malfunctions and leaking roofs seem to be common and it seems to take many requests to get problems fixed. Compounds tend to share a common driveway/entry and then have small private yards with fences between the houses for privacy. Some compounds cram 6 houses on a lot where there used to be just one. There seems to be a large diversity/disparity in housing based partly on family size and when you arrive (early in the transfer season is better). - Dec 2019
Pretoria is a small city (400,000) and most of the embassy housing is within 15 minutes of the embassy, in Waterkloof, Menlo Park, or Monument Park. A few houses are further out. Houses are split between stand-alone and compound (3-6 houses sharing a common gate). - Mar 2019
Nice house with a pool, but the pool can only be used for about 4 months of the year. - Jun 2018
We love our house. It is a stand-alone with a small splash pool. Housing here is generally spacious and well kept, with gardens and pools, sometimes stand-alone and sometimes in a compound (you can express your preferences to the housing board of course). Most houses have quarters for live-in staff as well. GSO is very responsive to service requests.
Most expats live in Waterkloof, Menlo Park, and Brooklyn, which are all convenient to restaurants and shops and parks. My commute is 10 minutes. Lynnwood and parts further east are closer to the American school, but your commute is 20+ minutes each way to work. - Jan 2018
Housing here is pretty nice other than you can feel like you are in prison. There are electric fences on top of concrete walls around all housing units and bars on all windows. Doors have 3-6 locks on them and everyone takes a different key. Many of the housing units even have 24/7 guards posted at the main gate entrance. As for location, many are near local stores and the farther out houses are about 30 minutes or less commute time to the Embassy. Some are only 10 minutes away. There is a difference with how houses are constructed here compared to the U.S. They attempt to keep electrical outlets away from water sources so there are usually no outlets in the bathroom and your kitchen sink may be in the attached room called the scullery. All walls are concrete with limited electrical sockets and light switches that may require some trial and error to figure out what turns on and off with that switch. - Oct 2014
Housing is great here. Large houses in the suburbs of Pretoria. Most expats live in Brooklyn, Waterkloof, Waterkloof Ridge, or Menlyn Park. Shops are nearby, but due to security concens and the lack of sidewalks it is necessary to drive. The Embassy housing pool has both "stand-alone" houses and compound housing. The stand-alone houses are sometimes bigger and have much bigger yards, many with pools. Compounds consist of gated communities with a guard and anywhere from 4-10 houses. A few gated communities have pools, and yards are small. Houses are huge and almost all have maids' quarters and ample storage space. The commute time is great -- about 10 minutes for us. The longest commute takes about 25-30 min. Traffic is not bad at all here. - Jun 2012
Suburban housing mostly for embassy personnel now tending to be compound. Compounds have 3-6 houses, with electric fence and a 24hr guard. The guards really help to deter criminals. - Dec 2009
We have a lovely old single-family home with a large yard and swimming pool. There are several different neighborhoods where embassy people are housed and they are all nice. The embassy has been trying to bring newcomers into cluster/compound houses for security reasons and will move people in single-family units if they request and there is availability. Architecture is unique here and the older houses have personality. Newer houses have the benefit of modern comforts (heated floors, fancy kitchens,etc), but will have smaller yards and there have been numerous complaints about shoddy building materials. Most commutes are about 15-30 minutes. Pretoria is an easy city to get around in; traffic is never terrible unless you are traveling from Pretoria to Johannesburg or vice versa. - Aug 2009
The Embassy is moving people onto compounds with 24-hour guards and will probably get rid of most of the stand alone houses in the housing pool. Unfortunately, the compounds often do not have very big yards, play areas for kids or swimming pools. Some of the compounds have newly built homes and tend to have a number of U.S. Embassy families living on the same compound. - Feb 2009
Single houses - USG owned properties in poor condition, leased housing poorly maintained by landlords. Compound housing is small, and often shabby. Do not come for the housing. Those days are gone here. - Oct 2008
For the Embassy it is a mixed bag. Trend is to force newcomers into compunds, with little or no regard for family size or housing standards. Most compounds have small living spaces and little or no green spaces. Stand alone houses are of good size, but many of the government owned properties are in disrepair and there is no budget to fix them adequately. In short, it is a crapshoot on your housing, but expect the worst and you won't be disappointed. - Sep 2008
Both compound houses and stand-alone houses; no apartments. Houses tend to be smaller than one expects for Africa. - Jun 2008