Perched on a ridge overlooking Durban’s city centre, with views all the way to the Indian Ocean, lies a sought-after collection of suburbs known as Berea. Home to some of the oldest and stateliest Victorian and Edwardian houses in Durban, the area also boasts a diverse selection of Art Deco and modern freehold homes, sectional title estates and apartments.
With its broad range of property options and central location, Berea has always appealed to a fairly wide target market. Families enjoy the convenience of the great schools in the neighbourhood, business people appreciate the easy commute to the city and students love the proximity of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This wide-reaching appeal means Berea attracts a steady stream of buyers in various price brackets – a fact that has ensured steady growth over the years.
“Property prices in Berea have always been on the rise,” says Mahomed Jooma, a sales agent at the Rawson Property Group’s Berea franchise and the group’s top agent in KwaZulu-Natal for 2015. “Even now, with looming interest rate increases and other economic pressures affecting consumers’ buying power, demand is higher than supply, and properties in our area are still experiencing growth.”
According to Jooma, the most sought-after properties in Berea at present are lock-up-and-go apartments, with buy-to-let investors particularly active in the under-R750 000 range (below the transfer duty threshold). “With the fall of the rand and our accelerating inflation, property investment can be a good hedge against the devaluation of financial assets,” he points out, “which makes buy-to-let a very attractive option, especially if you can get away without having to pay transfer duty.”
Demand for two and three bedroom apartments for personal use is also extremely high, with the R800 000 to R1.5 million price range seeing the most activity. The full spectrum of properties across the various suburbs in Berea varies far more dramatically in price, however, Jooma has made sales from R425 000 all the way up to R12 million.
“Larger homes in prime positions, with big grounds and great views, can definitely reach eight-digit asking prices,” he says, “but my average sale last year was just under R3 million.”
While the Rawson Property Group’s Berea franchise reports a very positive start to the year, and Jooma’s own sales figures ranked twelfth across all Rawson agents nationally, things are expected to slow down over the course of 2016. “Capital growth in Berea – and across the country – is unlikely to be as high as it was in 2015,” says Jooma.
“Interest rates will inevitably take a toll on buyers, and the market will very likely see a decrease in activity. I’m not too concerned, though – I think we just need to change our focus a little. 2016 is going to be about helping people finish the race, not about winning the race like in previous years.”
For sellers hoping to sell well in 2016, Jooma strongly advises choosing an experienced agent with access to state of the art tools, training and technology. “Proper pricing, marketing and negotiation skills are going to be more important than ever,” he says.
“Buyers are already taking advantage of sellers whose properties have lingered on the market more than thirty days, and that’s going to get more and more common as time goes by. To avoid this situation, it’s imperative that you get your pricing and marketing strategy right.”