Aida National Franchises has opened yet another office in South Africa's burgeoning rural property market, this time in Frankfort in the north-eastern Free State.
The franchise, which includes the Frankfort and Villiers districts, has been acquired by Dewald van der Merwe, a registered property valuator, who cut his teeth in the estate agency industry at Aida's highly successful Kempton Park office.
Aida National Franchises CEO Jan Davel says it is pleasing that Aida agents are becoming empowered to open their own franchises and take the brand to rural areas that can benefit from the professional property services Aida offers.
Van der Merwe, who was raised in Frankfort, says the local property market is benefiting from the resurgence of the popularity of a rural lifestyle. "Clarens and Dullstroom are two prime examples of this trend, but many would-be buyers now view these particular towns as over-exploited. To a lesser degree, the same can be said for Parys, long a prime destination for retirees from Gauteng.
"In fact, many homeowners who formed part of the vanguard and moved to the platteland a few years ago are now selling up in those towns and scouting for property in our franchise area."
The twin attractions of north-eastern Free State towns are lifestyle and price. "Rand for rand, you can buy twice the property here that you can in Gauteng, for instance. Here R500 000 still buys a basic family home, although demand is starting to push up prices," he says. "And the pace of living is much slower. We enjoy wide open spaces, scenery that stretches seemingly forever, and fresh air without a hint of pollution."
Demand for residential property has also spurred sub-division of properties and Frankfort is experiencing a building "boom", with prices for small sub-divided stands of about 300sqm intended for cluster housing now starting at around R90 000.
"This has created an opportunity for building contractors - a scarce species at the moment - and I expect building activities to increase even more once the mooted ethanol plant and a new mine between Frankfort and Tweeling becomes a reality."
The new Aida office has premises in the old Frankfort Hotel, which has been converted into a guesthouse with office space at ground level. Aida Frankfort will initially field four agents and will include agricultural land in its portfolio.
Van der Merwe notes that no land claims have been registered in his franchise area, where farms sell at between R4000 and R6000/ha, depending on location and improvements.