Throughout South Africa, estate agents are reporting a steadily growing demand for homes in quiet, low crime, country towns and, quite often, this has had an almost alarming effect on prices – pushing up their values at rates that no one would have predicted 10 to 15 years ago. This trend, says Schalk Liebenberg, the Rawson Property Group’s franchisee for Malmesbury, has been evident in a number of Overberg and Swartland towns – notably Greyton, Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel – but it has not yet affected Malmesbury.
The Malmesbury district was first settled in the early 1700s by stock farmers. Today the town has roughly 35,000 inhabitants and, as the hub of thriving wheat, wine, sheep and poultry farming operations, is often described as the capital of the Swartland.
Here, says Liebenberg, central town homes have shown almost no price rises for several years and it is therefore possible today to buy for a price somewhere between R800,000 and R1,5 million, large, solid, well built homes, possibly dating back to the 19th century or the first 20 years of the 20th century. These, he says, often incorporate the features that have made Victorian and Edwardian homes so popular to this day: Oregon pine floors, solid wood doors, cast iron fireplaces, Aga wood burning stoves, Victorian tiling, brass chandeliers, stained glass windows, shady stoeps and extra rooms such as studies, sculleries and work rooms.
“Almost daily,” says Liebenberg, “we are visited by potential buyers keen to own such traditional Malmesbury homes. The problem is, however, that in a great many cases they simply do not earn enough (to qualify for a R1,5 million home today, he says, the buyer, without a big deposit, would have to pay a monthly repayment of approximately R13,000 per month and it goes without saying that relatively few people, especially younger people, are able to afford this.”
Liebenberg and his team have recently sold such attractive older houses in Victoria Avenue (for R1,550,000) and Alphen House on Sarel Cellier Street (which fetched a price of R1,400,000). Here again, he stresses, he feels that buyers achieved real bargains.
“About half of the 100 homes that the Rawson Malmesbury team has for sale today are priced above R850,000 and I can say, with complete sincerity, that almost without exception they represent good value with excellent long term appreciation possibilities. Similar houses, for example in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, are going for three or four times as much.”
One current and one on-going development, adds Liebenberg, will help to raise Malmesbury’s profile and popularity considerably. The new development is a multi-million retail centre to be sited on the former show grounds. This, it is now known, will have 30,000 m2 of trading area and will be able to accommodate around 90 retail outlets, of which 75% will be national, not trading in Malmesbury currently. Construction will start in August 2014. The developer here, says Liebenberg, is also responsible for another major step-up in Malmesbury’s life, the nearby Mount Royal Golf Club and Country Estate, which currently has nine holes and which is about to be given a further nine as well as a luxurious club house, pro shop and other developments.
The Rawson Malmesbury team is one of the agencies closely involved with Mount Royal and has recently been able to offer erven from 600 m2 to 800 m2 in size for bargain prices. It is also possible, with this developer, to sign for a plot and plan single or double storey home, of which a large variety, all in the same country house style, are offered.
A third new development in Malmesbury is the construction of a dual carriageway. This is making good progress and will, Liebenberg calculates, probably be finished in about 18 months. It will, he says, completely eliminate the traffic congestion currently experienced on the road to Cape Town. To date the new freeway has progressed well past Melkbosstrand and it is on the way to Malmesbury.
Recently, says Liebenberg, most of the residential sales action in Malmesbury has been confined to the R500,000 to R800,000 price bracket and much of it has taken place in Malmesbury’s satellite towns such as Kalbaskraal and Chatsworth. Here, he says, homes can be had in a price range of anything from R200,000 to R600,000 – again good value for those buying at the lower end of the scale.
Liebenberg says that shrewd property buyers, especially if they have a liking for the country lifestyle, should be looking at Malmesbury’s central town properties, which are not only very attractive but at today’s prices offer excellent value and great long term price appreciation potential.