Ladysmith may be most famous for its historic battlefields from the Second Anglo-Boer War, but this subtropical highland town is much more than just a memorial to days gone by. A bustling commercial hub for the region, Ladysmith not only serves the surrounding farming communities, but also has a strong industrial sector that has, over the last few years, been bolstered by Eskom’s Ingula Hydro-Electric Pumped Storage Scheme.
The effects of Ingula on Ladysmith life in general have been fairly subtle, by all accounts, with most residents largely unaffected by the project. The property market, on the other hand, has seen a few changes thanks to the influx – and subsequent departure – of investors that Ingula brought.
“Our central location meant we had quite a few executives and professionals working on Ingula relocating to Ladysmith over the course of the project,” says Avril Moothi, the Rawson Property Group’s franchisee for the area. She describes the town as a down to earth and unpretentious place, with a simple, unspoiled atmosphere supported by good local infrastructure. “Our wealth of day-to-day amenities and comfortable lifestyle made it an obvious choice for people new to the area.”
With Ingula construction tapering off, however, many of the investors who bought property in Ladysmith at the outset of the project are now moving on to new pastures, and the houses they were living in, or renting out, are hitting the market.
“This has created a greater-than-usual supply at a time when demand is actually declining,” says Moothi, who attributes the general downward trend to the same economic factors affecting the rest of the country.
“The cost of living and increasing interest rates are making it harder for buyers everywhere to qualify for property financing, and sales prices in general have taken a knock,” she explains. “Very few sellers in Ladysmith are getting their asking price these days, but this is particularly apparent in the high-end market, where we’ve seen sales as low as R 350 000 below asking price.”
While this is unlikely to be entirely due to Ingula’s departing investors, their effect on the supply-to-demand ratio certainly won’t help the situation. This might not be the best news for sellers in Ladysmith, but it does provide some interesting opportunities for buyers looking for bargains.
“Properties in Ladysmith range anywhere from R300 000 to R4 million and more,” says Moothi, “but our highest demand at present is in the R 850 000 to R 900 000 range. For that price, you can find a three to four bedroom home on a 900m2 erf, in moderate condition, located close to all the amenities in a popular part of town.”
Also on offer are numerous farms, smallholdings and vacant stands, all of which offer excellent opportunities for development. The question is: are these opportunities likely to pay off in the current economic climate?
“I think Ladysmith has great potential to capitalise on the tourism market in the region,” says Moothi. “We’re a very convenient midpoint stopover for drivers between Johannesburg and Durban, and we have a prime position at the foothills of the Drakensburg Mountain Range, on the banks of the Klip River. We already have our Boer War Battlefields, memorial and museum drawing visitors to the area – and we could very easily become a favourite base for exploring the greater Drakensburg region as well.”
“Our market may be heading towards tougher times,” says Moothi, “but there’s always light on the horizon and we will be working hard to help our sellers and buyers make the most of every silver lining.”