To many South Africans, Hermanus is the ideal holiday town: it offers gorgeous scenery, plenty of outdoor activities, a host of quaint restaurants, shops and accommodation, and is located a conveniently short distance from Cape Town. Over the years, however, this little town has been evolving into much more than just a tourist hot spot, and permanent residences now outnumber holiday homes by as much as three to one.
“The Hermanus of today is certainly a far cry from the tiny village it used to be,” says Peter Greyling, the Rawson Property Group’s franchisee for the area. “We’ve seen exponential growth over the last few years, with real estate, business and tourism all flourishing and attracting high numbers of new residents looking for a better quality of life.”
Quality of life has always been relatively high in Hermanus, which is known for its well-maintained infrastructure and great amenities. These include junior and senior schools (including a Curro Private School), several retirement villages and care centres, a public and a private hospital and multiple shopping centres.
The growth in its permanent population, however, has triggered a wave of new development, and construction is widespread throughout the town and along its outskirts.
“Our municipality is extraordinarily well run, and there are always public works projects on the go,” says Greyling, “but we also have a lot of investment and development taking place from the private sector. The most controversial of these is the new Whale Coast Village Mall, currently being built in Sandbaai, but there are also huge numbers of private homes being built, school extensions taking place, and even an oncology centre under construction in Westcliff.”
The controversy surrounding the Whale Coast Village Mall taps into some common fears from long-term Hermanus residents – namely urban sprawl and decentralisation detracting from the existing village feel in the centre of town. According to Greyling, however, these fears are largely unfounded, and the continued growth of Hermanus should be viewed as a very good thing.
“The town centre will always be the heart Hermanus,” he says. “Our history, our geography and our tourism all revolves around that village core. Building new facilities on the outskirts of town isn’t going to detract from that – if anything, it’s actually a great way to preserve the existing atmosphere.”
Greyling reveals, that while anchor tenants like Woolworths and Checkers have taken premises in the new mall, they will also be retaining existing stores in the town centre, thereby maintaining the status quo while catering to the growing number of residents and shoppers, especially those coming to Hermanus from the western suburbs.
It’s not only shoppers who will benefit from the growth and development taking place in Hermanus, however. Greyling believes property owners will also be seeing healthy returns.
“We’re already well on our way to a sellers’ market,” he says, “with demand outstripping supply and prices on the rise. The new mall and the Curro extension happening in Sandbaai will likely make the western side of town even more popular, and property owners in that area will see good growth over the next few years.”
“We’re also seeing a lot of buyers choosing to build on vacant stands rather than buy existing homes,” Greyling continues, “and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge in demand for plots in Sandbaai’s gated villages in the near future.”
At present, vacant stands in Sandbaai close to Hermanus’ town centre cost upwards of R250 000, while seaside plots run as high as R5 million or more. A newly-built, three bedroom, two bathroom, single or double-garage home in a gated village will cost you between R1.5 and R2 million, while houses close to the seafront range from R3 million and up.
“There are still bargains to be had if you know where to look,” says Greyling, “but the market is very competitive. We have a lot of cash buyers, and most homes (especially those in gated complexes) sell at or near their asking price. As demand climbs, it’s going to become more and more important for buyers to be properly prepared – that means getting pre-qualified if you’re financing your purchase, and getting to know the market before you dive in.”
As for sellers, Greyling cautions against overpricing, recommending the services of an established and knowledgeable real estate agent to draw up a professional comparative market analysis.
“A well-priced home will sell within the first three months of being listed,” he says, “but overpriced houses tend to be on and off the market for years”.