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
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