To a greater degree possibly than any other residential precinct in South Africa today, Brackenfell, the suburb 30 km north of Cape Town off the N1, has changed and improved its image.
This is the opinion of Lucas van Vuuren, the franchisee for the Rawson Property Group’s Brackenfell Arauna franchise, which has for some four or five years now been among the top five Rawson Property Group franchises nationwide.
Evidence of this upgrading process, said van Vuuren, can be seen throughout Brackenfell – at, for example, the new beautifully decorated and more sophisticated Hypermarket which has now been able to attract such tenants as a flagship Food Lovers’ Market, a Cattle Baron restaurant and a large Virgin Active gym.
Evidence of the upgrade can also be seen in the greatly improved landscaping and plantings on the suburb’s main boulevards and, said van Vuuren, in the standard of the new developments now coming on stream, while existing homes are also being maintained in a far better condition than ever before.
For an estate agent the success and growing popularity of the area in which he works are usually welcome trends because they lead to higher prices – and van Vuuren estimates that Brackenfell’s year-on-year price increases are now running at ± 10%. For example, one home which sold last year for just over R1 million was recently resold at R1,175,000.
High demand and popularity can, however, also in a relatively short space of time cause serious stock shortages. This has certainly been the case at Brackenfell, said van Vuuren.
“Previously we could have as many as 100 or more homes on our stock lists. These days at any given stage we have only 40 to 45 – and we have to work extremely hard to get them.”
When a home does come available for sale, he said, it will usually sell, if correctly priced, within two or three days – and the entire sale process takes only around six to eight weeks to be concluded.
“Being in a sellers’ market,” added van Vuuren, “can lead to almost ludicrously high demands from sellers, but it has to be admitted that some sellers (relatively few) have achieved prices that we thought were impossible.”
Is Brackenfell’s popularity experienced in all price brackets?
Van Vuuren said that the greatest stock shortages and the greatest demand are currently in the R1,1 million to R1,4 million price categories and in the R950,000 to R1,1 million brackets. Homes sold here are usually two and three bedroom and freestanding. Brackenfell does have some apartments available but these are not quite so much in demand although they are attracting exceptionally favourable rentals.
The good news, added van Vuuren, is that demand for the more expensive homes – those priced close to R2 million – has been noticeably stronger this year and several sales have been made at prices close on R2 million. These, he said, are quite often driven by the desperation of those who would like to find less expensive homes but cannot and are therefore prepared to adopt austerity measures and pay higher.
The general trend towards buying, said van Vuuren, is considerably assisted by the fact that his franchise has this year been achieving ± 70% success rates on their buyers’ bond applications.
Asked to explain Brackenfell’s popularity, van Vuuren said that it is still primarily the result of offering exceptionally good affordable value – despite the price rises.
Also making Brackenfell popular, said van Vuuren, are its highly central position and its good schools. Brackenfell High School is, in fact, the largest secondary school in the Western Cape and Brackenfell Primary School and Bastion Primary School have particularly good reputations. Coming soon to Brackenfell will be a Bastion High School, a Curro Primary and a Curro Castle Nursery School.
Sales in areas adjacent to Brackenfell, said van Vuuren, have also moved up several notches. At Kraaifontein, where Lucas’ franchise is managed by Werner van der Merwe, it is still possible to buy a two storey family home in good condition in a price range of R600,000 to R900,000.
A question he is very often asked these days, said van Vuuren, is “how long will these bullish conditions last?”
He is, he said, completely optimistic that no real slow down will be seen this year but if and when interest rates rise, more homes will inevitably come onto the market – and they will probably sell slower.
“That stage has definitely not yet been reached. Even if it does come about in 2015, Brackenfell property will remain as good an investment in the South African property sector as it is possible to find.”