South Africans are moving to these 1940s ‘middle neighbourhoods’

 ·22 Oct 2022

There has been a spike in people leaving big metros across South Africa, but not everyone wants to move out of the city to conventional suburbia – instead, they are opting for a “middle neighbourhood.”

“Although many people want a little more space and less congestion these days, for any number of reasons, including proximity to work or friends, the convenience of city living and retaining some of the big city feel, some prefer not to move too far away,” said Cobus Odendaal, CEO of retail group Lew Geffen Sotheby’s Realty.

Primarily built before the 1940s, the middle neighbourhood property landscape is usually a mix of small-erf single-family homes and buildings with multiple units with multifamily housing options, high walkability scores and good amenities, which include shopping, and restaurants, said Odendaal.

“These are typically areas where the housing is generally still affordable, and the quality of life is good enough that new homeowners are willing take the risk of buying into the neighbourhood even though they can’t be sure if its trajectory will be up or down, over time.”

Odendaal said that middle neighbourhoods include areas like:

  • Johannesburg: Melville, Rosebank
  • CapeTown: Observatory, Woodstock, Walmer Estate, Mowbray

These suburbs offer the right balance of urban amenities and elbow room, and where investment is already being seen to make a difference in the quality of the areas, said the CEO.

He added that young professionals, especially, are drawn by the hybrid lifestyle, which allows for a balance between office and working from home as well as being in close proximity to all the amenities they need.

Although there is a shortage of small family homes, Odendaal said that singles and professional couples are better catered for as some office blocks, which still have an alarmingly low occupation rate, are being revamped and equipped into residential units.

“Renovation to existing residential units is also happening slowly but surely, and we are seeing a steady and sustainable upliftment.”

There are a number of challenges, however, among them old and inadequate infrastructure, crime, a lack of reliable and decent transport and traffic congestion, especially on ‘office days.’

Renovation trend

According to Tina Malyon, an area specialist for the group, there has also been a general increase in the renovation of homes since the pandemic, as many people are now working from home.

“A decade ago, these suburbs were often overlooked as the domain of students, and the arty set and, whilst many properties are still student accommodation, there has been a steady rise in first-time buyers and young professionals moving into suburbs like Rosebank, Observatory and Mowbray.”

“This has also precipitated new commercial development, which, in turn, attracts more buyers to the area and we anticipate that once the new Amazon headquarters in Observatory is completed, there will be an influx of new investment.”

“Long regarded as the Academic Belt because of its proximity to UCT, these suburbs have always been popular with students who enjoyed their walkability and vibrant lifestyle but, with the influx of professionals, the quality of restaurants and amenities is improving all the time,” said Malyon.

She added that access to public transport is also not the issue it once was because Uber has become residents’ transportation of choice.

BusinessTech looked at what you could get in these areas:


2 bedroom house for sale in Melville – R1,695,000

3 bedroom house for sale in Melville – R2,999,999


3 bedroom house for sale in Rosebank – R5,900,000

Walmer Estate

4 bedroom house for sale in Walmer Estate – R7,995,000

2 bedroom house for sale in Walmer Estate – R2,750,000


3.5 bedroom house for sale in Mowbray – R2,595,000

4 bedroom house for sale in Morway – R4,400,000


2 bedroom house on auction in Woodstock – R1,950,000

2 bedroom house for sale in Woodstock – R3,495,000


2 bedroom house for sale in Observatory – R2,100,000

2 bedroom house for sale in Observatory – R3,350,000

Read: New corruption laws proposed for businesses in South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter