In real estate terms, Witbank in Mpumalanga – also known as eMalahleni or the “place of coal” – really has a lot going for it, according to local Rawson Property Group franchisee Andre Jordt.
“The town is of course surrounded by more than 20 collieries and a number of power stations, including Duvha, Kendal and the new Kusile station, and it continues to house thousands of employees and executives of local and international mining and manufacturing companies as well as the power station contractors,” he notes.
“Their real estate needs vary from small rental properties and starter homes for newly-empowered first-time buyers, through townhouses and family homes for middle-range employees to luxury and super-luxury homes to top executives and company owners, and rising demand has supported large-scale new development in all these categories over the past few years”.
“But Witbank is no longer just the capital of SA’s coal mining and power generation industries. The economy has diversified substantially in recent years and this has really helped to buffer the local property market against fluctuating commodity prices and the changing employment requirements of local mines and related industries.”
For a start, Jordt says, the town has benefited from the fact that two national highways, the N4 from Pretoria and the N12 from Johannesburg, merge here to form the “Maputo Corridor” route that goes to Komatipoort on the border and then all the way through Mozambique to the coast.
This has brought in additional manufacturing and warehousing business related to experts and the long-haul transport industry. And since the route has also become the preferred route for Gauteng and foreign holidaymakers heading for the Kruger National Park, it has also spurred the establishment of many tourism-related businesses, including craft shops, cultural attractions, restaurants and guesthouses. The Ridge Casino and its associated hotels and entertainment venues have also become a popular stop-over for travellers on this route.
“In addition, Witbank is home to the huge Highveld Mall, currently the biggest shopping centre in Mpumalanga, which has 180 retail and food outlets as well as a large movie complex. There are also several other modern centres and the retail sector has also become a significant local employer.”
Meanwhile, he adds, the town has also become a regional education hub, boasting more than a dozen primary schools, six public and private high schools and a campus of the Tshwane University of Technology. There is thus a large contingent of educators resident here and in real estate terms this has also made Witbank more attractive to families from the surrounding towns and countryside – and increasingly from further afield too as the job opportunities here have diversified and multiplied.
“And finally, the affordability of property in Witbank, its easily accessible modern amenities, its proximity to several natural attractions and its excellent medical facilities, including two private hospitals, have made it an increasingly attractive option for retirees”.
“So it is not really surprising that the local real estate market has remained buoyant in the past year, despite the problems experienced by local mines and related supply companies. For example, figures from property data company Lightstone show that in the lower priced suburbs of Duvha Park and Tasbet Park, for example, there have been almost 200 sales in the past year, with sectional title prices averaging R375 000 and those for freehold homes averaging R670 000 in Duvha Park and averaging R750 000 to around R850 000 in Tasbet Park and its extensions.”
However, Jordt says, for first-time buyers and investors, there are still many new two bedroom townhouses available in these areas at prices around R450 000, three bedroom apartments at prices from around R490 000 and three bedroom houses for around R530 000. These are especially attractive options for buyers who qualify for FLISP subsidies.
By contrast, prices at the top end of the local market generally range from R2 million to around R4,5 million, for which one can buy a luxurious four to five bedroom home in suburbs such as Die Heuwel, Hoeveld Park, Reyno Ridge, Ben Fleur and Bankenveld – “while the current asking prices for super-luxury waterfront homes in the Bankenveld and Wild Side estates on the Witbank Dam range all the way up to around R20 million,” he says.
“Fortunately, though, there are many options open to middle-income families and retirees looking for larger homes that are still priced between R800 000 and R2 million, including a wide choice of newly-built or older three bedroom, two-bathroom homes in suburbs like Marelden, Die Heuwel, Del Judor, Model Park and River View. Prices vary depending on the age of the property, condition, location and stand size – and for R1 million, one might even be able to find a three bedroom apartment or townhouse in the more upmarket area of Ben Fleur.”
Jordt says that with the Kusile power station project now back on track, and more contractors coming into Witbank again, he expects the local market to hold steady at current levels or even improve over the next few years.
“However, it must also be said that because there has been so much new development in Witbank over the past few years, there is currently a large amount of stock on market. This means buyers are in the driving seat at the moment and that home sellers need to price very carefully in order to be competitive in the market. And the best way to do this is to work with a qualified real estate professional who knows the market really well and keeps up with the latest shifts and buying trends.”