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
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.”
A scenic view of Clarens.