The once-sedentary residential market of Highlands North where buyers were known to put down roots and stay for years, has seen a lot more activity of late due to its excellent value, the availability of fixer-uppers, its central location, proximity to good schools and the introduction of the Rea Vaya rapid bus transit system.
This is according to Howard Hoff, Area Specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, who says one of the biggest appeal factors is that houses are generally on double stands of 1 000m², and ranging in price between R1.3 million and R3.7m, if correctly valued sell very quickly.
“Most popular are the original homes which require renovation, but these are now becoming scarcer with most of the remaining houses owned by older people who don’t want to move out the area or are not ready to retire.”
The post-war face brick homes that were once a common feature have been transformed slowly over the years, but Hoff says this process has now accelerated.
“The current crop of renovations is mainly being undertaken by a new breed of renovator; they are well-financed, fast-moving young builders who buy cheap, dilapidated old homes and spare no cost in bringing them onto the market with the latest trends and finishes”.
“This has resulted in notable growth at the top end of the market where you can buy a spacious fully-renovated modern family home with four to five bedrooms and three reception rooms for between R3m and R3.7m.”
Despite the recent surge in development, this has mostly been confined to renovation and there are very few sectional title properties in the area.
Says Hoff: “Unlike most suburbs in the north of Johannesburg, in Highlands North very few properties are demolished as people prefer to buy and renovate to suit their requirements.”
He adds that although most houses are still on large plots, some of the beautiful old art-deco homes are on half or quarter acre stands, making them ideal for buyers seeking a lower maintenance option.
Lew Geffen, Chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty says: “Highlands North has retained its distinctly suburban atmosphere and is still a quiet suburb with minimal traffic and commercial activity, populated by family homes with established gardens”.
“It is therefore increasingly attracting family buyers and, whilst the property landscape hasn’t changed, the demographic has become more representative of the rainbow nation with a mix of mainly Indian, black and Jewish residents.”
Geffen adds that because most investors buy in the suburb to be near the schools and shopping facilities in the area, the rental market is relatively slow with only a small percentage of properties available for letting.
Hoff says that the fact that demand has exceeded supply during the past decade has to a large extent buffered the market in Highlands North from prevailing market trends.
“The 2008 credit crunch never really affected this market; there has been a steady flow of enquiries and a slow flow of reluctant sellers as owners tend to live in their homes for between 15 and 20 years”.
“And, although house sales have slowed a little this year and prices have not moved up as briskly as they usually do, forecasts for Highlands North remain excellent as demand is still high and there is extensive ongoing renovation in the area.”
Hoff adds that the suburb’s additional drawcards also ensure that the market remains active, especially the mid-level homes of under R2.5m.
“Highlands North is situated centrally to the CBD, Sandton, Rosebank and OR Tambo International Airport and it enjoys easy access to the Gautrain pick-up points in nearby Melrose Arch”.
“Residents also have a wide choice of top class retail options, including the Norwood Shopping Precinct, Hypermarket Centre and Balfour Park Shopping Centre, as well as a range of sporting facilities in close proximity and ample parks and recreational facilities on the doorstep.”