The ris­ing star of Beth­le­hem

Finweek English Edition - - Property - JOAN MULLER

PROP­ERTY DE­VEL­OP­ERS are in­creas­ingly shift­ing their at­ten­tion away from well-de­vel­oped metropoli­tan ar­eas to small rural towns. Beth­le­hem in the east­ern Free State is one of the up and com­ing in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tions. The pic­turesque town has been ear­marked for what’s be­lieved to be one of the big­gest mixed- use de­vel­op­ments ever un­der­taken in the Free State.

JSE-listed prop­erty fund Orion Real Es­tate ear­lier this month ob­tained ap­proval for a R1bn wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment on a 47ha site at Gobles Folly, near Peer­mont Global’s new Fron­tier Inn Casino.

The project – to be de­vel­oped with joint ven­ture em­pow­er­ment part­ner Isaac “Blacky” Seoe – will com­prise a re­gional shop­ping cen­tre of 40 000sq m, lux­ury high-den­sity res­i­den­tial units, a re­tire­ment vil­lage, a three or four star ho­tel, restau­rants and other leisure and en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

Aldo Alberts, CEO of Orion’s de­vel­op­ment di­vi­sion, says ap­proval for the project fol­lows the re­cent lift­ing of a de­vel­op­ment mora­to­rium by Dih­labeng Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which in­cor­po­rates the towns of Beth­le­hem, Clarens, Fouries­burg, Paul Roux and Rosendal.

Other de­vel­op­ers are also plac­ing their bets on Beth­le­hem. Cape Town-based prop­erty group Pin­na­cle Point Hold­ings, in which Lazarus Zim’s Afribalm Re­sources holds a 26% stake, re­cently launched an up­mar­ket res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment in Beth­le­hem on for­mer farm­land over­look­ing Loch Athlone.

The project – Wes­sel­heim Se­cure Lifestyle Es­tate – will com­prise 222 free­stand­ing plots, five medium den­sity town­house de­vel­op­ments and a club­house with two ten­nis courts, squash courts, bowl­ing greens and a fit­ness cen­tre. Res­i­dents will also have ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties for wa­ter sports and fish­ing.

Pin­na­cle is known for its golf course de­vel­op­ments, such as Pin­na­cle Point Beach & Golf Re­sort (near Mos­sel Bay), Clarens Golf & Trout Es­tate (east­ern Free State) and Wedge­wood Vil­lage Re­tire­ment Golf & Coun­try Es­tate (Port El­iz­a­beth). How­ever, Dave McGre­gor, sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for the Pin­na­cle group, says it’s shift­ing fo­cus to res­i­den­tial lifestyle es­tates in Free State towns such as Beth­le­hem, Welkom and Bloem­fontein.

He says such lo­ca­tions have been by­passed by de­vel­op­ers dur­ing the re­cent hous­ing boom and now of­fer bet­ter growth prospects than cities. McGre­gor says rural towns gen­er­ally have a huge short­age of new hous­ing stock. Sup­ply pres­sure is fur­ther fu­elled by the on­go­ing mi­gra­tion of city dwellers to smaller towns and a grow­ing de­mand for week­end leisure prop­er­ties.

Latest hous­ing data from the Knowl­edge Fac­tory’s SA Prop­erty Trans­fer Guide (SAPTG) shows that prop­erty in­vestors who have al­ready bought into Beth­le­hem saw val­ues in­crease by a mas­sive 58% last year.

I n t e r e s t i n g ly, SAPTG’s data shows that av­er­age house prices in Beth­le­hem have now over­taken those of nearby week­end hot spot Clarens: av­er­age house prices in Beth­le­hem have surged to R600 000 com­pared to R580 000 for Clarens (see ta­ble).

Dull­stroom, in Mpumalanga’s trout tri­an­gle and an­other pop­u­lar get­away for well­heeled Gaut­engers, is still slightly ahead of Beth­le­hem in terms of av­er­age house prices at R628 500.

Data re­cently re­leased by home loan orig­i­na­tor Mort­gageSA con­firms that hous­ing mar­kets in SA’s rural towns are boom­ing. Mort­gageSA CEO Saul Gef­fen says there’s been a par­tic­u­larly strong surge in de­mand for mort­gages in min­ing re­gions in re­cent months. He be­lieves that comes on the back of ris­ing com­mod­ity prices and in­creased min­ing and ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties.

Gef­fen says spikes in de­mand have been most no­tice­able in re­gions such as the North­ern Cape, the Free State gold­fields and in towns around the edge of the Bushveld ig­neous com­plex.

Rural towns have a huge short­age of hous­ing stock. Dave McGre­gor

HOUSE PRICE GROWTH COM­PARED

Source: SAPTG

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