Eastern Cape agents geared for bumper season

The Eastern Cape, frequently touted as the last of the great "undiscovered" property jewels of South Africa, is looking forward to a bumper festive sales season.

Representatives of the ERA property group predict strong demand from numerous quarters and for all manner of property from vacant plots to upmarket freehold homes and townhouses, with prices that range from the distinctly affordable to what could be expected to be paid in the big metropoles.

Perennially popular Port Alfred is a case in point. ERA Drostdy Estates' Steve Birt says there's been a lot of activity and in the build up to the festive season, some R172-million worth of property was sold at the resort, approximately equidistant between PE and East London.

"There are still relatively inexpensive properties in Port Alfred with plots starting at around R200 000 and houses at about R800 000. Stock is reasonably freely available, comprising mainly freehold homes, but also with a good selection of security complexes and retirement villages.

"The shopping mall at the town has been upgraded, the marina is still the best in the country, the climate is great, the beaches are pristine and the area's Settler history is a great tourist attraction" he says.

At exclusive Kleinemond, about 15 kms from Port Alfred, prices are higher and there is less stock. A property in the area recently sold for R5-million. On the other hand, prices are more affordable at the inland village of Bathurst in the heart of Settler country.

Increasingly popular as an artists' colony and home to the famous "Pig and Whistle" pub, Bathurst put its name of the map with an advertising mantra along the lines of "There's no thurst like Bathurst" during a previous drought period.

Here houses are available from about R400 000 up to R1-million and plots from about R75 000 to R300 000 says Birt.

Pippa Steele-Gray at ERA Kenton Estates also expects a good sales season in Kenton itself, as well as at Bushman's River Mouth , Boknes Strand and Cannon Rocks.

There is heavy holiday season booking and that usually precedes good sales she says. Stock shortage is a problem. Realistic pricing is the answer but some sellers are holding out for their asking prices.

Nonetheless good value is still to be had. Prices at Kenton for example range from just under R600 000 to about R1-million for stands with homes starting at about R1-million, going up to R4,75-million.

Most is freehold. "Carriage Cove" a 12 unit security complex is arguably the best value right now with prices starting at R1,4-million for a two bedroomed unit.

Roy Taylor of ERA Sun Properties East London expects up country buyers to be doing a lot of "shopping" in the city over the Christmas season. The market has cooled slightly he says, but remains soundly under-pinned by significant infrastructure investment such as Daimler Chrysler, the harbour upgrade and the Industrial Development Zone.

"There's plenty of optimism in the local economy right now and this spills over into the property market." A number of new developments will be launched in the New Year and the market caters for everything from first time home owners to retirees."

Still the centre of property gravity in the Eastern Cape however, is the Nelson Mandela Metropole (Port Elizabeth), which has undergone a radical transformation in terms of market perceptions and pricing in recent years on the strength of a thriving industrial and commercial macro economy, tourism and lifestyle perceptions.

Vanessa Sutherland of ERA Port Elizabeth puts prospects for the festive season into perspective saying: "We are anticipating a busy time and will be staying open throughout the holidays.

"Local buyers still constitute most of the market, but we have seen buyers coming from as far afield as Cape Town, Kimberley, Upington and Wellington for example, so it's difficult to be definitive about the buyer mix.

"The success of the season depends very much on available stock and where interest comes from. We detect strong interest in land at the moment, reflecting perhaps, opportunities for new development.

"There's also a marked upswing in demand in nearby Uitenhage and Despatch, both of which are benefiting from affordability within easy reach of mainstream PE.

"The beachfront areas of Humewood and Summerstrand are now very much the top end of the market while there's a lot of activity at the lower end. Areas such as Sydenham, Kensington, Upper Central and Lower Mount Croix are enjoying a revival as the market increasingly recognises their value. Also there's a lot of hype surrounding the 2010 World Cup soccer stadium all of which should contribute towards a good festive sales season."
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