As South Africans grapple with poor levels of service delivery countrywide, an increasing number of people are moving to areas with a strong track record of good municipal management, say property experts at Chas Everitt.
The group said this is most evident in the recent property sales records along the Western Cape coast that fall into the Overstrand and Cape Agulhas municipalities.
These two local authorities were recently named as the best performers on the News24 Out of Order Index, and are also among only seven of more than 280 local authorities in South Africa to have achieved a clean audit for more than four years, according to the Auditor-General’s 2019/20 report.
Overstrand, which includes the towns of Hermanus, Gansbaai and Kleinmond, has registered clean audits for the past eight years, and Cape Agulhas has done the same for the past seven years.
“And homebuyers have actually been voting with their feet and moving here from all over the country for some time now,” said Strepies van Wyk, principal of Chas Everitt Cape Agulhas, which operates in Struisbaai, Napier, Arniston and L’Agulhas as well as Bredasdorp.
“This is not about politics, it is about the benefits of living in well-run towns, where public funds are used to maintain and improve infrastructure, security and the overall quality of life for residents.”
These benefits have become increasingly important to property owners and buyers, and are a much bigger factor in home purchase decisions now than before, van Wyk said.
According to the latest statistics from property data company Lightstone, there have been scores of property transfers in the Cape Agulhas towns over the past 12 months, with a total value of more than R969 million. Similar trends are being seen in other well-run municipalities.
In Arniston, the average property transfer amounted to R2.285 million.
“In the past year especially, we have experienced an exceptionally buoyant market and property price increases of up to 25% in some areas. We have sold several well-priced properties within a day of listing them, and we are now seeing increasingly rare seafront stands selling for R5 million and more,” van Wyk said.
“Ocean views are definitely at a premium here, and most buyers relocating from inland choose a coastal location. But there are also some excellent and more affordable buying opportunities inland, and just a short drive from the sea, and sales in these areas are also increasing rapidly now.”
Buying vacant land
Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group, says that the accelerated switch to remote working over the past two years and the resulting ‘great migration’ from big cities to smaller country and coastal towns is also driving a significant increase in the number of people who are buying stands and building their own homes, particularly in small coastal towns.
Many small towns simply do not have enough homes, or the right kind of homes, to meet the requirements of a large number of city buyers coming in, Kotzé said.
“As a result, we are seeing a huge increase now in the demand for building stands, especially in popular coastal areas, and quite a number of new estate developments close to smaller, more rural towns.
“However, finding the right stand is probably more complicated than most people think. Affordability is of course important – and one of the biggest reasons a lot of remote workers are leaving the cities for areas where land is generally cheaper. But there are also several other factors that prospective stand buyers really need to take into account before they start planning their dream home.”
Kotzé said some of the most important considerations include:
A steeply-sloping stand on a mountainside or shoreline may provide a dream view, but you need to be prepared for the fact that there are significant extra costs involved in excavating, piling and building on such a site, and in the measures necessary to ensure the safe drainage of stormwater.
“There may also be a risk that your beautiful outlook could also be lost – and the value of your property diminished – as the trees in the grounds of the house in front grow taller, or if the owner of that property gets council permission to add more storeys or even to build a high-rise block of apartments,” said Kotzé.
When you view an existing house, said Kotzé, it isn’t difficult to spot the signs of damp that indicate poor soil drainage. But there are few easy clues to future problems when you are buying an empty stand.
“In general, however, we would recommend that buyers avoid low-lying land where water will gather – no matter what assurances a developer or builder might give them about modern construction techniques and materials obviating the risk of rising damp. Once again, any need for special materials will make building even more expensive than it already is.”
The stand buyer also needs to consider the possible effects of future development in the surrounding area, and what type of properties their neighbours will be allowed to build, he said.
“You should also take care to find out about plans for any new shopping centres, schools, medical facilities or offices close by that could mean a lot more traffic in the area, as well as any new road development or expansion.
“All of this activity is to be expected as a small town grows to accommodate more residents, but you probably don’t want to live close to it if you moved specifically to get away from congestion and noise.”