Reminiscent of the picturesque English countryside yet with a far more appealing climate, the lush KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is ever-popular among home buyers, reports Barbara Becker, Pam Golding Properties area principal in the Pietermaritzburg, Hilton, Howick and Nottingham Road areas.

“With an increasing number of visitors attending show days we’re seeing a discernable change from the previous air of caution towards buyers ready to commit, with well-priced homes moving in a shorter period of time. However, buyers remain selective in their choice of properties. Currently good sized family homes in the price range from R800 000 to R1.3 million are most in demand as parents place a higher priority on living as close as possible to schools rather than the workplace,” says Becker.

She says with its private schools, accessibility from Johannesburg in four-and-a-half hours and just an hour-and-a-half from Durban, the security and country lifestyle offered by the KZN Midlands have high appeal for those seeking to invest in properties – particularly as prices have stood their ground and retained value through the economic downturn.
“We are finding that the lesser priced properties are those attracting interest in the current market, with increased activity in the price range under R2 million for vacant land, residential properties and smallholdings. Over the past year we have also seen increased interest and sales in regard to farms - priced from R6-R60 million - due to land being the investment of choice in times of economic uncertainty.  Most interest has been in beef and dairy farms, with some interest shown in timber farms.”

A springboard for the popular Midlands Meander, and only 10-15 minutes from Pietermaritzburg and close to Midlands Mall, Hilton is a tranquil refuge for residents of all ages with its crisp, fresh air and unique country atmosphere. Parents of pupils attending the four top private schools in the area boost local property sales by investing in second homes. Evidence of increased local investment is the doubling in size of the landmark Hilton (Protea) Hotel with its attractive Tudor facade and string of local and overseas musicians who either perform or frequent the local watering hole, Crossways. Homes in Hilton range from R950 000 to R5 million for freehold homes, while those in estates are priced between R2.5- and R5.5 million.
Slightly further inland Howick offers home buyers good value for money with three bedroom, two bathroom homes available for under R800 000 and those with four bedrooms and three bathrooms and swimming pool for approximately R1.35 million, while vacant land in gated estates is priced from R200 000. With a new private hospital Howick is within 15-20 minutes commuting distance of Pietermaritzburg, making it easily accessible for those working in the province’s capital city.

Says Becker: “Gated estates – whether golf, game or simply residential – remain popular in the Midlands for their secure and appealing lifestyle. In recent years the Midlands and especially Nottingham Road has experienced unprecedented growth with the development of Gowrie Village and Gowrie Farm, providing purchasers with excellent returns on investment. In Gowrie Village stands are priced from R300 000 to R750 000 and houses from R2.3-R4.3 million, while at Gowrie Farm sites are priced from R850 000 upwards and there are currently only two houses on the market there at present priced at R5 million and R5.4 million.

“Other developments such as Siteka Country Estate and Eaglecrest Wildlife Estate have held their appeal for upmarket buyers. We currently have a number of homes available in these developments, ranging in price from R2.3-R7 million. All 15 sites at Siteka have been sold, with three houses currently available priced from R5.3-R6.975 million. This estate is set on 162ha and includes two dams and a runway. At the 75ha Eaglecrest Wildlife Estate 30 of the 38 sites are sold, with re-sales available, with sites priced from R500 000 to R1.3 million and the only house currently available is marketed at R3.4 million. Residents on this estate have traversing rights over a further 1200ha of game farm.”
At Victoria Country Club Estate in Pietermaritzburg vacant stands are available from under R400 000 and a few homes, priced between R2.5- and R4 million, while at the 280ha Intaba Ridge development, also in the capital, in the first phase of 100 stands, plots are priced from R315 000 and homes from R1.289 million are available for a limited period only. At the 220ha KwaWula Estate near Howick homes still available for purchase range from R2.5- to R5.5 million.

Adds Becker: “We are looking forward to the imminent construction of Spring Grove Dam in Rosetta, just an hour from Pietermaritzburg, and the positive impact this will have on the area and the property market by attracting more people into the area. This is due to the fact that this new, holding dam for Durban, will allow leisure activities.
“There is room for further development in the Midlands however being an agricultural area, local government is selective in regard to these as well as subdivisions.”

PGP’s Nottingham Road office is marketing arguably one of the most appealing hospitality destinations on the Midlands Meander – The Lodge @ Currys Post, which is being sold as a going concern for R8.5 million.  Just 30 minutes from the Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg this popular establishment is set on 40ha in an elevated position with spectacular views of the Karkloof Mountains and valley. It includes a tastefully furnished and upgraded main lodge with 10 en suite bedrooms, old English pub, swimming pool, conference room, bowling green/croquet lawn, lawn tennis court, double-storey three bedroom cottage with potential for a wellness spa, four bedroom double-storey thatched home, two bedroom manager’s cottage, several outbuildings including stables, helipad, landing strip and aeroplane hangar.

Issued by Gaye de Villiers

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