While the Underberg area of the southern Drakensberg appears to be experiencing an increased interest in lifestyle properties such as farms and smallholdings, there is also an interest in local property in general.
The scenic country environment in the Underberg has attracted people from the bigger city centres, who are now relocating to the area. However Neil Prior, principal of leading local agency Homenet Underberg, points out that city buyers have to be prudent when relocating for lifestyle purposes because it is not that easy to sustain oneself in a small town, unless the person is retiring to the area.
Nonetheless there is a definite increase in interest in Underberg property, with the low crime being a definite draw card, he says.
The Underberg forms part of the Sani Saunter, which is admittedly not as well known as the Midlands Meander, but offers outdoor attractions such as hikes and walks. Other attractions include canoeing, off-roading, horse riding, camping, Sani Pass trips and the obvious attraction of snow when it arrives.
"This, coupled with the area's greatest recreational attraction, fly fishing, has made Underberg a popular lifestyle destination for locals, tourists and holidaymakers," says Prior.
So what about the investment potential of properties? Prior notes that there has been incredible growth over the past two years in the value of local property, with some appreciating by as much as 100%. "And the keen interest in Underberg properties across the board augurs well for the future," he adds.
Prior says home prices now start at around R750 000 and range up to R3m, while lifestyle smallholdings sell for up to R4, 2m.
A growing trend in the Underberg property market is subdivision, and there are many new homes being built in the area, although Prior says that subdivision of agricultural land is a lot more difficult because of the areas World Heritage status and sensitivity to environmental issues.
In terms of amenities, Underberg will soon house the new Underberg Village Mall, where plans are already afoot for a second phase. A project to improve the Sani Pass, connecting Lesotho with northern KwaZulu-Natal, was officially launched last year. R160m has been allocated to improve the road, which was previously only accessible to off-road vehicles.
Prior says that the tarring of Sani Pass is to be undertaken in phases, with the final phase to the top of the pass due for completion by 2010. "The first phase is already underway and I believe that once successfully completed, it will have a major impact on local tourism," he says.