Younger generation of home buyers heads for the hills - to mountain getaways

Situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain Range, the scenic Underberg area of KwaZulu-Natal is attracting a younger generation of home buyers – some of whom grew up in the area and now wish to return to their roots, while others are young families seeking to live here permanently while the major breadwinner works on contract abroad.

Says Angela Walker, area principal for Pam Golding Properties: “It’s encouraging to see younger people wanting to relocate here, including local farmers’ adult offspring who have now qualified at university or an agricultural college and are returning to take over the reins of the family business. Farming remains the backbone of the local, close-knit community and continuity of this nature is positive for our local economy. Having a younger generation move into the area also further enhances our appealing ‘village’ atmosphere where the emphasis is on family values and healthy outdoor activities. Many of the traders in Underberg are support businesses for the farmers, or those in the tourism industry, and in these sectors we also find sons and daughters returning to work in the family business.

“In addition, quite a few families live here while the husband works abroad, some living in the main residential area and others on smallholdings. A convenient Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg flight from Oribi Airport in Pietermaritzburg makes it easy for business commuters. There are a number of schools in the area, such as the Sani Pre-Primary which is affiliated to Underberg Primary School, Noah’s Ark Pre-Primary, Faithway Christian School from pre-primary to grade 12 and the new Underberg High School, a private school from grade 8-12. Some send their children to boarding school in Pietermaritzburg or the Midlands. There is a local medical doctor, Spar store, pharmacy, public library, country club and other well supported clubs which include tennis, bowls, wildlife, art, hiking, fishing, cycling and running,” she says.

Walker says the area offers good value for money with a ‘getaway’ property with a small cottage in Himeville or Underberg starting from R600 000 set on over 4000 square metres overlooking the Himeville Nature Reserve and farmlands. Smallholdings surrounding these two villages start from around R1 million for vacant land to around R1.5 million for land with a cottage or house, while attractive houses suitable for families or retirees range from about R750 000 to R3.4 million.

“We find a number of buyers are seeking well priced plots of land where they can build a modest cottage as a base from which to explore and enjoy the area for getaway weekends or holidays. “Last year (2012) we sold plots of land in Underberg and Himeville offering excellent value for money priced between R140 000 and R450 000, depending on size and location. A stand in a quiet residential area with a spectacular view to the Drakensberg commands a much higher price, but having said that, the least expensive plots are still available in very acceptable locations, for example, fairly close to the centre of Underberg and with less or no mountain view. Provided purchasers stick to modest improvements, the property is likely to achieve a sound return on investment in the longer term. Most buyers intend to build a weekend cottage, others may hold onto the land until the market improves and perhaps resell at a higher price.”

A particularly appealing property currently available and ideal for an artistic or creative type family, or just a country retreat is on the market in Underberg, marketed by Pam Golding Properties at R2.4 million. Located in sought after Ridge Road, the 4711 square metre property includes an exceptional garden, comfortable and modernised country home with three bedrooms (one en suite), entrance hall, living room/dining room and open plan kitchen with fitted appliances, study, a square, walled courtyard, laundry, self-contained one bedroom, one bathroom flat, guest suite and spacious work studio or office complex comprising four large rooms with endless possibilities for use. Another appealing property which has a self-contained cottage which the present owner uses as an art studio due to its ideal natural light is a four bedroom, two bathroom home with a view directly to the Drakensberg. This property is priced at R1.29 million. A picturesque home in prime position in Himeville includes a beautifully designed garden, views of the mountains and four bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus numerous other appealing features, which is on the market for R2.85 million.

Walker says for retirees there are a number of well-suited properties including a double-storey house in the security complex, Mountainairs Village, with uninterrupted views to the mountains. This two bedroom, two bathroom home is priced at R1.145 million. In The Meadows security complex - with its own clubhouse, tennis court, swimming pool and two trout stocked dams - is a newly completed four bedroom, two bathroom, single storey house priced at R1.67 million, while exceptional value for money is a single-storey, three bedroom, two bathroom cluster house in Himeville Heath, priced at just R850 000 and ideal for retirement, family life or a holiday home.

Smallholdings or getaway properties currently on the market include a three bedroom two bathroom cottage close to the Drakensberg Gardens Hotel and the uKhahlamba Wilderness site, priced at R1.595 million, and a spacious three bedroom home with separate one bedroom cottage and rondavel with a small dam, priced at R1.8 million.

PGP’s Underberg office also covers the Kokstad area, via resident agent Ed Jenkins. “The Kokstad property market remains relatively strong, despite the still challenging economic trading conditions. However, this is arguably the fastest growing town in KwaZulu-Natal and as a result is experiencing a lack of quality housing stock at present,” he says.

“The residential market can best be described in two categories, firstly the town market where prices for homes at good addresses range from R750 000 to R2.75 million, with rental prices from R2500 per month for one bedroom properties to R10 000 per month for larger properties. The second is the rural market, comprising smallholdings priced from R1 million upwards and farms ranging from R2 million,” adds Jenkins.

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