Eastern Cape farms in demand

The search for a less frenetic lifestyle is leading to an upsurge in the demand for farms in the Eastern Cape.
This trend is particularly evident in the area surrounding Port Alfred, says Helen Purdon, manager at the local Harcourts estate agency. "Demand for farms in the R1m to R3m price range has surged this year and several transactions have been concluded in the past two months," she says.
Mark White, specialist agricultural agent at Harcourts Port Alfred, says that in most cases it is purely a lifestyle decision. "Many buyers are tired of the rat race and yearn for a return to the land where they can live at a slower pace and make enough money to pay their bills."
Some of the huge attractions to the area include the moderate climate and year-round rainfall. Because of this, and the sheer diversity of the habitat, it means that farmers have a great variety of enterprises to choose from. “While game, cattle, dairy, pineapple and chicory production historically make up the back-bone of the farming area in Port Alfred, we are finding farmers venturing into enterprises such as the planting of fruit, macadamia nuts, peppadews, bamboo and vegetables very successfully.
“The trend in farming today is to try and add value to the produce that you produce. And This area, being largely a frost-free, gives farmers the opportunity to do so,” he says.
The area around Port Alfred also offers a wide choice as far as habitat and farm size are concerned. White says units of between 10ha and 6000ha are available but that farms in the R1m to R2m price range are currently the main targets of lifestyle buyers. However, farms priced at up to R4m are starting to attract attention.
"The best buys at the moment are farms around Bathurst, just outside Port Alfred. Units here have excellent resale value because they are close to amenities in town as well as the beach, while still offering peace and solitude."
Meanwhile, Purdon says, the residential market in Port Alfred proper has been improving since the start of the year. "Sales have increased fourfold in the past two months. Nervous buyers who were sitting on the sidelines are now committing to transactions, probably because the market has become more balanced thanks to sellers being more aware of realistic asking prices."
Holiday homes are once again in demand, particularly among Gauteng buyers and farmers from the Bloemfontein area. Up to 60% of transactions are cash deals, which further points to the fact that buyers have been holding on to cash while waiting for the market to turn before investing in property, she says.
Homes under the R1m mark that need renovation or modernisation are popular and about 80% of new owners revamp their new acquisitions. "Buyers still find it much cheaper to buy and renovate than to build," notes Purdon.

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