Stun­ner in top-end area

The grand old lady of Jo­han­nes­burg has had a facelift. Lea Ja­cobs takes a look at re­cent hap­pen­ings in Houghton

Business Day - Home Front - - HOME FRONT -

HOUGHTON Es­tate, or Houghton as it is bet­ter known, houses some of SA’s most fa­mous per­son­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing Nel­son Man­dela. Famed for its beau­ti­ful homes sit­u­ated on quiet, leafy streets the area has changed over the years. Al­though many stately homes re­main, the de­sire for se­cu­rity has be­come ap­par­ent and nu­mer­ous se­cure clus­ter de­vel­op­ments have sprung up in place of many of the grand old homes of yes­ter­year. Light­stone sta­tis­tics back this up and re­ports in­di­cate that mod­ern Houghton com­prises 56.29% free­hold homes, 38.74% sec­tional ti­tle de­vel­op­ments and 4.9% es­tates.

And this is not the only change that has taken place over the years. Ron­ald En­nik, CEO of En­nik Es­tates, says the well-wooded sub­urb has emerged as the neigh­bour­hood of choice for a diver­sity of post-democ­racy prime res­i­den­tial prop­erty in­vestors who have been mov­ing house north of the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD.

“Houghton — and specif­i­cally Lower Houghton — has mor­phed into what could now be the most cos­mopoli­tan top-end sub­urb in SA,” says En­nik.

Once de­scribed by Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per as “the rich- est, most Jewish, most lib­eral con­stituency” in SA, Houghton has deep roots in the coun­try’s trans­for­ma­tion. Its late iconic MP He­len Suz­man was for many years the sole anti-apartheid voice in the pre-democ­racy Par­lia­ment.

“While Lower Houghton to­day re­mains a wealthy area with a stil­l­large Jewish pro­file, there has been a seis­mic shift in its de­mo­graph­ics,” says En­nik. “There has also been a change in the dy­nam­ics of its once staid and pre­dictable res­i­den­tial prop­erty mar­ket. Al­though the trans­for­ma­tion has been un­der way for some time, it be­gan to gain firm trac­tion when Nel­son Man­dela first bought in the neigh­bour­hood in the 1990s — and has gath­ered mo­men­tum since.

“One of the most sig­nif­i­cant byprod­ucts of the process is an in­creased tempo in buyer in­ter­est, which is pro­vid­ing wel­come (and prof­itable) sell­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for ‘empty nesters’ and other tra­di­tion­ally long-term Lower Houghton home­own­ers who now wish to move on,” says En­nik.

“Given the higher de­mand, they can more read­ily un­lock the value of their homes by sell­ing and down­scal­ing if they so wish — ei­ther within Houghton or else­where. Fur­ther­more, they should be able to bank or in­vest a sig- nif­i­cant profit in the process.”

The first (Vic­to­rian- and Ed­war­dian-style) homes were built in Houghton in the late 1880s and, for more for than a cen­tury, the sub­urb re­mained syn­ony­mous with large stands, tall trees and her­itage homes, says En­nik Es­tates con­sul­tant Daniel Onay, who is a spe­cial­ist mar­keter of Lower Houghton prop­er­ties.

“The sit­u­a­tion to­day is quite dif­fer­ent,” says Onay, who has bro­kered sales in the area to­talling more than R75m this past year.

“The trend in Houghton is in­creas­ingly to­wards com­mu­ni­ty­type de­vel­op­ments which are hap­pen­ing by way of restora­tion and con­ver­sion, sub-di­vi­sion as well as by de­mo­li­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment — all made pos­si­ble by the of­fi­cial sanc­tion of the city of Jo­han­nes­burg’s Re­gional Spatial De­vel­op­ment Frame­work.”

He says de­mand for clus­ters and town­houses is run­ning high.

“For ex­am­ple, an 850m² clus­ter on a 1,000m² stand in Lower Houghton’s 1st Av­enue was re­cently on of­fer at R11m and was sold to a ‘new­comer’ buyer at a price close to that. Sim­i­larly, a 59m² sec­tional ti­tle unit in a new de­vel­op­ment was bought for R440,000 in 2008 and was sold in 2012 for R665,000 — a pre­mium of more than 5%,” says Onay.

While the up­turn in de­vel­op­ment has been wel­comed, Houghton ward coun­cil­lor Marcelle Ravid says that there is no free rein for in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers to do as they please.

“Sub-di­vi­sion sizes are closely watched by the Lower Houghton Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which will ob­ject to ap­pli­ca­tions be­low 1,000m2 on an acre in the core of the sub­urb.

“Ac­cord­ing to the by-laws, prop­erty own­ers are obliged to main­tain their prop­er­ties in good or­der. The Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion is vig­i­lant in its mon­i­tor­ing of aban­doned prop­er­ties in Houghton to en­sure that they

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