Cape Town’s top three student-friendly suburbs

Heading off to college or university is a rite of passage for many young people, but it can bring a few challenges with it – like finding a suitable place to live.

Fortunately for students heading to Cape Town, there are many student-friendly neighbourhoods that offer a wide selection of accommodation to suit most budgets and lifestyles.

Rawson Property Group takes a look at three of the most popular options.

Rondebosch, home to the University of Cape Town (UCT), is often first choice when it comes to student living.

“It’s the most central suburb serving UCT and Varsity College, as well as some departments of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a number of other colleges like AFDA and Damelin,” says John Birkett, the co-franchisee for the Rawson Claremont franchise, along with Steve de Villiers.

Being so close to UCT in particular has resulted in much of Rondebosch’s infrastructure being developed with student life in mind. The suburb has more student-friendly apartment blocks than any other area in Cape Town, as well as textbook, computer, printing, cellphone and grocery stores, not to mention the gyms, adventure and sports centres, restaurants, fast-food outlets, pubs and cafés.

“One-bedroom and bachelor flats are definitely the most popular here,” says Birkett, “but there are also plenty of two to three bedroom apartments suitable for sharing, and multi-bedroom houses that operate as digs for three to eight people.”

Birkett and de Villiers say that students looking for housing in Rondebosch tend to have fairly high standards these days, and landlords hoping to rent a “dump” to youngsters will likely be disappointed.

“More and more students are willing to pay for high-end accommodation,” says de Villiers, “and even in digs people want new, fitted kitchens and en suite or private bathrooms. Parking is also important, as is good security.”

Rentals in Rondebosch start at around R4 800 a month for a bachelor flat, and up to R21 000 for a luxury three-bedroom apartment. Rooms in digs rent from R5 000 to R7 000 a month.

“Buying is also a great option in Rondebosch,” says de Villiers, “and parents who buy in their student children’s first year and sell at the end of fourth year can see capital gains of up to 50 percent on their property. That can either help pay back the money spent on school fees and accommodation, or you can add the property back into the rental pool and let it earn income while it continues to appreciate.”

Bachelor flat sales in Rondebosch average at R750 000, one-bedroom apartments at R1.2 million, two bedrooms at R1.5m and three bedrooms at R1.75m. Apartments in the newer buildings are generally more expensive than the average, but the returns and rentals are exceptional.

Observatory is another excellent choice for student accommodation, because of its proximity to AFDA, Damelin, and UCT’s Medical School, and for its relatively affordable range of housing options, and its vibrant atmosphere.

“Observatory’s Lower Main Road is a hub for students,” says Craig Gilfillan, the Rawson Observatory franchisee. “The cafés, restaurants and bars attract people from all over Cape Town, and there’s a constant buzz of social activity in the area. There is also a Spar and a Pick n Pay within walking distance, so it’s very convenient for students.”

Packed with quaint row-houses and broekie-lace-clad cottages, Observatory lends itself mainly to commune-style house-shares and digs.

“There are a few hostels like the YMCA, and a couple of backpackers,” says Gilfillan, “but those are mostly used by foreign students during short-term studies. The newer developments and apartment blocks are popular, but not as common as the typical Observatory cottage.”

Sharing a house is more affordable than renting a flat, and a room in Observatory will cost between R3 500 and R5 000 depending on factors like cleaning services, furnishings and WiFi. Almost all Observatory houses lack secure off-street parking, however, and this can be a cause of concern, especially for women.

Parents who want to invest in property in Observatory for the duration of their children’s tertiary education can expect to pay R1.8m for a basic four-bedroom house, or R1m for a two-bedroom flat.

“Sales have slowed in recent years because of the increase in prices,” says Gilfillan, “but Observatory is still a good place to invest, and parents should see decent returns over the long term.”

Students attending colleges in Cape Town’s CBD might find Rondebosch and Observatory a bit far to commute. According to Alisdair Crofton, the Rawson Cape Town CBD franchisee, the best options for these students are suburbs like Zonnebloem, Woodstock, Vredehoek, and the CBD proper.

“Traffic is a big factor in town, so proximity to your campus is important,” he says. “CPUT students find Zonnebloem and Woodstock convenient, whereas Michaelis students might prefer Vredehoek or Cape Town central.

“When it comes to facilities, the CBD has it all, from grocery stores and shopping centres to restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, thrift stores and boutiques. The area is also much closer to Cape Town’s beachfront than southern suburbs like Rondebosch and Observatory.

“The available accommodation in the area is equally varied, with houses, flats and granny-flats all on offer. There is no particular style,” says Crofton, “It’s a mix of everything. Apartments are generally more affordable, however, and are definitely the most popular with students.”

Apartment rentals range from around R5 500 for a one-bedroom flat to R9 000 for two bedrooms, and house rentals start at R15 000.

“Safety is important to students in the area, and 24 hour security is a major selling point,” says Crofton. “A lot of the older houses and apartment blocks don’t offer secure parking, and flats with off-street bays are highly sought after.”

Crofton says that buying in the CBD is a great investment and can be a good alternative for parents of varsity-aged children. Prices for a one-bedroom apartment with a parking bay are around R800 000. Bond repayments on that would be slightly higher than a typical student rental, but this is offset by the capital appreciation and future earning potential of the property.

All three Rawson Property Group franchisees agree that private accommodation is preferable – and often more affordable – than staying in a college residence. Students can expect more space, more privacy, and more peace and quiet to study, and won’t have to resort to fast food to escape the legendarily bad hostel fare, they say.

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