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River Club – the secret garden of the North that delivers return on investment

The peaceful tree-lined enclave of River Club, located within Greater Sandton and nestled in the heart of Johannesburg’s most expensive suburbs, has seen the average value of sectional title properties increase by more than 90% in just six years.


ROOM TO GROW: With five en-suite bedrooms, a separate play room and self-contained staff accommodation, this spacious home in northern Johannesburg’s exclusive River Club is ideal for a busy, growing family. Situated on a quiet corner stand of 1 790m² with three garages, an established irrigated garden and many extras, it is on the market for R7.8 million.
 
And as large, modern designer houses also slowly change the face of the suburb, properties in this haven of tranquillity just a short distance from the bustle of Sandton’s powerhouse CBD are increasingly in demand from buyers with budgets from around R2 million to R10m.
 
Among the reasons the River Club residential market is so active is that there has been minimal commercial development in the suburb, and while substantial upmarket houses still dominate the property landscape, the slow but steady increase in sectional title developments has primarily been of the cluster or townhouse nature rather than imposing blocks of flats.
 
This is according to Sue Alison, Area Specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, who says: “Although it hasn’t changed the character of the suburb, Deeds Office reports clearly reveal a growing number of sectional title properties in River Club, with higher sales volumes reflecting the demand for these homes.
 
“In 2009 only 29 sectional title properties changed hands at an average sale price of R1.2m. Last year 44 sales in this market segment were recorded at an average price of around R2.3m – nearly double the average price just six years previously.
 
“Sectional title developments have made the entry level to the River Club market far more accessible to first time buyers,” says Alison, “and the suburb is becoming increasingly popular with young families.”


FAMILY ESTATE OR DEVELOPER’S DREAM: This original three bedroom home is set on a generous 5 185m² plot in a prime location overlooking the exclusive River Club Golf Course; a spacious, prime property in this Johannesburg suburb. A little TLC will transform this expansive home with four reception rooms and a separate cottage; alternatively it is ideal for single home or sectional title redevelopment and is on the market for R10 million.
 
She adds that River Club offers buyers a selection of freestanding properties in varying price bands, from unrenovated older houses starting at around R3m, to modern design masterpieces in the R10m-plus bracket.
 
“The mid-level older houses that can still occasionally be found for between R3m and R3.5m offer savvy buyers the opportunity for a quick and excellent return on investment because once they’re renovated, they can fetch up to R6m.
 
“However, we find that the bulk of our clients interested in these properties aren’t investment buyers. They are people who modernise the houses then generally live in them for several years, raising children close to the area’s excellent schools and enjoying the secure, suburban lifestyle.”
 
Alison adds that the upper end of the market has also shown notable growth in recent years “with the top end of the bar continually being raised and some properties now realising prices in the R10m-plus price band.”
 
According to Deeds Office figures the average sale price of all properties in River Club proper in 2015 was just under R4.5m, with average prices in the extensions varying between R1.625m and R8m.
 
“This disparity in average values in the extensions is created by the number of sectional title properties in each area, as well as the types of houses. Certain extensions have a higher concentration of sectional title developments, such as around Panner’s Lane and Borrowdale Road, which are especially popular with younger investors.”
 
Alison says that the positions of areas within River Club, as well as the type of properties on offer, also contribute to the vast difference in average prices.
 
“The freehold homes surrounding the Golf Course are more expensive and especially sought after as they overlook the pristine course and boast scenic views with dams, bridges, trees and thriving birdlife.”
 
Lew Geffen, Chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, attributes River Club’s growing popularity to multiple strong appeal elements that tick more key boxes than many other areas.
 
“Residents enjoy peace of mind and peace and quiet, as the suburb is predominantly boomed and, cushioned by its affluent neighbours, is buffered from noise from the N1 and N3 circle of major roads.
 
“However, River Club still offers close proximity to strategic the commercial nodes and top retail centres in the area, which ticks an increasingly important box for home buyers in the face of escalating traffic congestion in Johannesburg.”
 
Geffen adds that another key draw-card is that suburb offers myriad recreational facilities, from safe parks and biking and hiking trails to a horse riding school at the popular Field and Study Centre and the exclusive River Club Golf Course, which is regularly rated among the top 10 in South Africa and is known to have some of the best finishing holes in the country.
 
“If it weren’t for the high profile of the golf course, many people would probably not even be aware of the small low key suburb in which it’s situated.”
 
Alison says that one of the suburb’s greatest and most unique appeal factors is its strong sense of community and village feel, with clean tree-lined streets where children still play outside and residents are greeted by name when they stroll into the neighbourhood eatery, Luigi’s.
 
“The adjoining park is a very popular meeting place where neighbours gather for a chat while their children play. It’s also where many community events are organised and where residents rally together to improve their environment and make a difference.
 
“For instance, The Clean Spruit group organises regular clean ups of the Braamfontein Spruit on River Club’s northern border and Park Run offers weekend fun runs from The Riverside shopping centre; a great way to exercise outdoors safely and meet new faces in the community.”
 
Although there is still a small amount of land available for development in River Club, it’s becoming a scarce commodity. And as is happening in most other northern Johannesburg suburbs as a consequence, older homes on sizeable plots are increasingly being demolished to make way for small cluster developments and, in some instances, designer homes.
 
Geffen concludes: “River Club offers a very desirable lifestyle in a peaceful and scenic environment, which is now very rare in Johannesburg. With its broad range of properties it is likely to ride the wave of the current economic slump better than many other suburbs.”


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