In­vestors re­dis­cover the dorp

Get­ting away from it all is be­gin­ning to take on a whole new mean­ing in cer­tain parts of the coun­try. Lea Ja­cobs takes a look at small towns that have boomed

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

WHETHER due to the hec­tic pace of the mod­ern world or just the need for a lit­tle peace and quiet, small towns through­out SA are grow­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally less pop­u­lar than the big­ger tourist desti­na­tions, peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing for them­selves the joy of liv­ing or hol­i­day­ing in smaller com­mu­ni­ties and pre­vi­ously lesser-known ar­eas are reap­ing the ben­e­fits.

St Lu­cia, in north­ern KwaZulu-Natal is a case in point. Sit­u­ated on the Ele­phant Coast in the iSa­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park, and de­clared a World Her­itage site in 1999, the area is steeped in nat­u­ral beauty.

Known as the eco­tourism Mecca of the prov­ince, the re­gion has a num­ber of at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing the largest pro­tected wet­land in south­ern Africa. Bus­loads of for­eign tourists are com­mon and the town has many B&Bs, guest­houses and self-cater­ing cot­tages.

Small by any stan­dards, there is a limited sup­ply of prop­erty in the area, which Lourens de Lange, of RE/MAX Her­itage, says is driv­ing de­mand.

“Recorded sales in the area over the past six months have been in­cred­i­ble. Our to­tal value of sales in mon­e­tary terms was the sec­ond high­est over a five-month pe­riod in the past five years.”

It’s not the only small town that has been dis­cov­ered. Clarens, in the Free State, is prov­ing to be a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for vis­i­tors from Gaut­eng, Dur­ban and Bloemfontein. Cen­trally sit­u­ated, the re­gion has much to of­fer, in­clud­ing fly fish­ing, moun­tain bik­ing and ski­ing in neigh­bour­ing Le­sotho.

“We started to see an in­crease in in­ter­est in prop­erty as far back as 2004”, says Anne Ma­ree, Pam Gold­ing Prop­er­ties area prin­ci­pal. “Dull­stroom had be­come over­com­mer­cialised and hol­i­day­mak­ers re­alised that the area of­fered sim­i­lar ameni­ties.”

Al­though she says that the area is mainly viewed as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, there are those that have made the town their per­ma­nent home.

Knowl­edge Fac­tory’s SAPTG statis­tics in­di­cate that 51 full-ti­tle and nine sec­tional-ti­tle sales have taken place over the past year. The high­est price paid for a full-ti­tle prop­erty was R2,6m, while the high­est price paid for a sec­tional-ti­tle unit was R1,02m.

“It’s a buyer’s mar­ket at the moment,” says Ma­ree. “To give an ex­am­ple, stands at The Ridge, a sought-af­ter area in the town, were sell­ing for as much as R820 000 dur­ing the boom. They are now sell­ing for R495 000.”

Pater­nos­ter in the Western Cape may have boomed, but it cer­tainly hasn’t lost any of its charm. Strict build­ing codes have en­sured that the town has re­tained the look and feel of a small fish­ing vil­lage.

“The num­ber of per­ma­nent res­i­dents has been in­creas­ing over the past few years,” says San­dele Wilkin­son, an agent with Fine and Coun­try. “We re­ceive re­quests weekly from those look­ing to re­lo­cate here.”

Wilkin­son says prices of beach-front stands are from R2,8m to R5,5m. Beach­front houses start at R5,9m. “In­vestors need to re­alise prices are high in the area and this trend will not change. The fact that we are sit­u­ated close to Cape Town makes the town an ideal get­away.”

Pic­ture: PAM GOLD­ING PROP­ER­TIES

A scenic view of Clarens.

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