Aida opens in eastern Free State

Aida has opened a new office in Bethlehem that will also serve consumers in the burgeoning eastern Free State property markets of Clarens and Fouriesburg.

Clarens, the crown jewel of Free State tourism, is currently one of the top property growth points in the country, says Brent Heyns, owner of the new franchise. "The spectacular scenery and views of the Maluti mountains, combined with the village's trout industry and established artists' colony, make Clarens a popular breakaway, particularly for tourists from Gauteng," he says.

Indeed, Gauteng investors are a driver of the local property market and their interest now extends to surrounding farms, which has seen prices rise to between R18 000 and R23 000/ha. At these prices, typical Clarens farms of between 400 and 800ha would not be viable for agricultural purposes and buyers are mainly lifestyle investors, Heyns says.

There is healthy demand for units in golf estates and good stock at the R2m mark. Renovated sandstone homes in the centre of town are in demand, but are seldom offered for sale. Undeveloped stands in the village are selling at around the R700 000 mark.

Heyns, a practising attorney specialising in property conveyancing, notes that Bethlehem is the main commercial centre for the eastern Free State and says the residential market here is stable, with prices of solid family homes averaging around R800 000.

Fouriesburg, about 40 km from Clarens and Bethlehem, is poised for tourism growth, he says, even though housing stock is limited and prices have risen steeply over the past four years.

"Stands that sold for R13 500 in 2004 are now selling at around R280 000, but the local council is expected to release new stands shortly, which will relieve the pressure on stock."
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