No decline for Graaff-Reinet property market

While many country towns are in decline as residents relocate to bigger centres for economic reasons, Seeff Country managing director, Ian Badenhorst says that the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet is bucking this trend.

Business is growing as is the town's resident population as retirees and those looking for a quiet country environment increasingly relocate here.

Sales volumes in the town has grown steadily year-on-year since the economic slump to about 82 property sales last year. This year, 60 units have already sold amidst rising demand from out of town buyers and for agricultural properties. In 2007, the average house price was just R349,000, today it is around R655,000, but homes are selling for up to R1,45 million he says.
Located about two and half hour's drive from Port Elizabeth, this regional capital of the Karoo lies on the banks of the Sunday's River and is surrounded by the beautiful Camdeboo National Park. It serves a large agricultural community known for its production of fine mohair, stud cattle and sheep. It boasts good infrastructure with superb schools, medical and religious conveniences, sporting and recreational facilities and a strong sense of community. Many high caliber leaders and business men such as GT Ferreira, Dr Anton Rupert, Beyers Naude, Robert Sobukwe, JLB Smith and more hail from this town.

As the fourth oldest town in the country, it boasts a wonderful selection of heritage architecture that range from Cape Dutch to Victorian and Georgian say agents Andrew and Lynette McNaughton. Aside from more than 220 heritage sites, the town also still boasts a selection of heritage homes such as a renovated three bedroomed Karoo cottage with original yellow wood finishes, a flatlet and swimming pool for just under R1 million.

While tourism, business and retail facilities (such as Spar which is building a second outlet) are growing, there is a strong focus on preserving the architectural heritage. For example, Shoprite has just opened a new enlarged shop, but the building design has retained the old Cleghorn and Harris facade in Caledon Street.

In addition to an increase in older buyers looking for retirement homes, the agents say that artists, writers and even IT professionals looking to escape to a quiet town, but with modern facilities are now relocating here. The nearby villages of Nieu Bethesda and especially Aberdeen are also popular choices.

Despite the growth, property prices remain very affordable. Houses are currently selling for between R600,000 and R1,5 million, although there has been a few sales of up to R2,5 million, advise the agents. Of the 25 properties sold by Seeff in the town in just over a year, close to 40% were to out of town buyers including homes that recently sold for R1,2 million and R1,45 million. There is also good interest in agricultural properties. Farms are selling for between R3,802/ha (R18,4 million for 4,839ha) and R3,994/ha (R16,55 million for 4,143ha recently sold).

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