Top Cape schools boost the property market

The Western Cape came out tops in the country for matric passes last year, with no fewer than 27 schools obtaining a 100 percent pass rate for the fifth consecutive year.

Elkanah House in Parklands, one of Cape Town’s schools with 100 percent matric pass rate in 2015.

“The Cape is renowned for its excellent private and government schools – not just in the expensive suburbs, but in or close to just about every neighbourhood across the metro and the surrounding areas. This is one of the key driving factors for the housing market. Even buyers who move to the city from centres such as Johannesburg tend to be drawn to suburbs and areas with excellent schools,” says Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff group.

“The fierce competition for space in private and government schools ensures tremendous demand for homes close to or within the catchment areas of good schools. So much so, that buyers are often prepared to pay a premium of 20 percent to 40 percent for properties in these areas.”

He says the desire to live close to schools cuts across all demographics as most parents, regardless of their income bracket, now want to live within the catchment area of a good school. And the Western Cape has no shortage of good schools, particularly across the Cape Town metro and surrounding areas.

The 27 schools that obtained 100 percent matric pass rates are not just schools in the R5 million to R10m-plus suburbs, but also in the lower priced areas such as Parklands and Sunningdale in Blouberg, Strand in the Helderberg Basin, in Boland towns such as Paarl and Stellenbosch and even in country towns such as Bonnievale and Riversdale.

“It generally does not matter where you buy when it comes to the Western Cape as you are likely to be relatively close to a good school,” says Seeff.

The southern suburbs residential belt that stretches from Rosebank and Rondebosch to Tokai has about 160 schools in all, the highest concentration in the country. According to Seeff’s licensee for the area, James Lewis, it is no surprise that 10 of the schools with 100 percent pass rate are in this area.

Rondebosch has four of the 27 schools: Bishops, Rondebosch Boys’ High, Vista Nova High, Rustenburg Girls’ High, with Star International High School in neighbouring Sybrand Park.

Charmaine Scott-Wilson, agent for the neighbourhood says there are about 16 private and government schools in the Rondebosch area alone. Aside from the high concentration of schools, the University of Cape Town also adds to the strong demand for homes here.

“The strong demand for homes near schools or close to the university has resulted in almost no houses below the R3m price band being for sale. Even those priced to around R6m are snapped up quite quickly and seldom need to be advertised,” says Scott-Wilson.

“We struggle to keep up with the demand, especially during the early part of the year and it is still an excellent period for sellers here. Houses close to top schools such as Bishops can now sell for R8m to R12m. Given the excellent performance of schools in the area, we expect the market to remain resilient despite what is expected to be a rather challenging year ahead.”

Neighbouring Newlands is home to two of the top performing schools, Sans Souci Girls’ High and Westerford High. Aside from the schools and proximity to UCT, demand for homes and property values here are also influenced by the suburb’s proximity to the city and the Table Mountain views, as well as the village atmosphere and homes set in Oak-tree lined streets. It is now quite common for homes here to regularly sell for R5m to R15m. Here too, there are now almost no freehold houses priced under R3m and Lewis says it remains a good phase for sellers.

“Other top southern suburbs schools that have made the 100 percent pass rate list include Herschel Girls’ School in Claremont, Springfield Convent in Wynberg and Constantia Waldorf School,” says Lewis.

“The top performing pupil in the country was also a Capetonian from SACS (South African College Schools), in Newlands.”

“Pinelands is another suburb with a top school, Cannons Creek, and Pinelands High also boasted excellent results last year. There are also three junior schools and the suburb is very popular with family buyers, with younger buyers now moving here in greater numbers,” says Johan Meyer, licensee for the area.

“Pinelands still offers plenty of homes in the R2.5m to R4m price bands and about 60 percent of all sales over the last year were still below the R3m price mark.”

Another area where the prevalence of top schools is a major driver of the demand for property is the Blouberg area. According to Wouter Pentz, Seeff’s licensee for the area, it is not just the seaside lifestyle and excellent facilities and infrastructure that draws buyers, but families are particularly drawn to the top schools and facilities that cater for families and children.

“There are about 20 schools, including a number of private schools. Three schools in the area made it to the top pass rate list – Parklands College, CBD St John’s and Elkanah House.

“We believe demand is likely to remain strong as the area is still seen as very affordable despite the excellent price growth over the last few years. You can for example still find a nice family house for around R1.2m to R1.6m. There is also an excellent selection of new homes with good finishes that are still selling for under R2.3m.”

Aside from freehold homes, the area is renowned for its many security complexes that offer a selection of homes suitable for families. Luxury buyers too have plenty to choose from in the R5m to R10m range with homes close to the beach now priced to around R20m.

Pentz says that no matter which suburb you choose in the Blouberg area, you are likely to be close to a good school.

“The area is on the whole well suited to families with its excellent facilities. There are many green belt areas, sport facilities, a soccer club and just about every amenity that families could want. The beach area also has an outdoor gym similar to the one on the Sea Point promenade.”

Strand also has excellent schools with at least two making the 100 percent pass rate list – Natural Learning Academy and Valsbaai High.

Alten Vermaak, manager and agent for the Strand branch, says it’s the relaxed seaside lifestyle and top class facilities and infrastructure that draws buyers, as well as the relatively affordable homes. You can for example still find a comfortable family home for around R1.2m to R2.2m.

“Luxury home buyers looking for more space, luxury finishes and added extras such as a sea view or golf estate location also still have plenty to choose from as there is now a selection of homes priced to around R10m,” says Vermaak.

The Boland towns of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester also have top end schools that have made the 100 percent matric pass rate list. These are Boland Landbouskool, La Rochelle and Paarl Girls’ High in Paarl, Bloemhof and Rhenish Girls’ High Schools in Stellenbosch and Pioneer School in Worcester.

Five of the Cape’s country towns also made the list of top schools. These are Bonnievale, Heidelberg, Lutzville, Riversdale (Oakdale Landbouskool) and Porterville.

Aside from good schools, the Cape property market is also buoyed by a number of factors according to Seeff.

“Top of the list are the location, mountains, sea and vineyards. Cape Town City and surrounds are well run and administered with clean neighbourhoods and concerned citizens, many of whom take an active interest and contribute to additional safety measures such as local neighbourhood watches and the improvement district initiatives.

“For the Cape metro alone, about 6 000 property sales worth about R18 billion were recorded for 2015 according to the latest Propstats data. That is about 15 transactions worth about R50m every day of the year,” says Seeff.

“Although not immune to economic challenges and certainly set for a challenging year ahead, we expect the Cape property market to continue its solid performance. Popular areas, including those with top schools, are likely to continue experiencing strong demand and good prices for sellers, provided their price expectations remain realistic.”

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