Durban property - big "cath up" in 2005?

Durban is likely see house prices appreciate strongly in 2005 as the city plays "catch up" with the Cape Town and Johannesburg property boom. Barak Geffen of Sotheby’s International Realty says this area has experienced an increase of almost 40% in the past two years

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: How far is Durban behind Johannesburg and Cape Town, in percentage terms?

BARAK GEFFEN: To get exact percentages, I can’t say - but over the last two years Durban has shown a growth of 40% year-on-year, and we are not seeing that kind of growth in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Is it the Durban Metropolitan area that you are talking about?

BARAK GEFFEN: I’m talking about the middle to upper areas of the residential real estate market.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: What about the North Coast and South Coast?

BARAK GEFFEN: Yes, definitely. In fact, even the Garden Route has had a phenomenal growth period over the last twelve months - so all coastal areas are flying at the moment.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: I can’t quite understand - areas like that weren’t as well priced as the Atlantic seaboard in Cape Town. Is it really catching up at this very moment?

BARAK GEFFEN: Yes, I think it is. I think that Cape Town does offer one of the most unparalled, unrivaled lifestyles among capitals of the world, but with the developments that are taking place in the Durban Metropolitan area - and that includes Mount Edgecombe Country Estate and Zimbali, as well as the Point waterfront development - all these things add to Durban becoming much more lucrative, especially seeing that the political instability has calmed down.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Yes, that is a major factor. As you say, it is becoming more stable - although it still does have more of an unstable reputation than the Western Cape. Durban itself has sort of become dowdy, or is perceived to have become dowdy compared to Cape Town - is the city doing anything to address that?

BARAK GEFFEN: Durban city itself?

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Yes, and the surrounding areas as well. I think of places like Amanzimtoti, whilst it’s on the beach, it hasn’t got that same chic as areas as Cape Town.

BARAK GEFFEN: There is a mountain in Cape Town which is difficult put up in Durban - because it’s one of the features that has always been in Cape Town. There have been improvement programmes over the last few years in Durban. The North Coast has seen the most phenomenal growth - in the Umhlanga, Balito and Umdloti areas.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: One of the things that Durban has got going for it is - as you point out in your report - is the beautiful warm waters (unlike Cape Town where you have to be resuscitated after putting your ankle in for two minutes). Is that something that should be marketed to the international community?

BARAK GEFFEN: A lot of people would like to come to beaches in which they can swim - not just being able to lie in the sun. That is a big draw card.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: And access to Johannesburg - surely people are going to wake up to the fact that you are not going to have to spend a day-and-a-half, with an overnight stop, driving, or spend a fortune on a flight to Cape Town?

BARAK GEFFEN: Yes, I think the flight time is reduced. I live in Cape Town and I fly a lot to Johannesburg - when you look at it as a two hour flight it is one thing, but with the travel time, and the packing time, it’s a five hour trip either way. Durban is a much shorter trip.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Give us your hot spots in Durban?

BARAK GEFFEN: I would say Balito and the North Coast. Umhlanga will continue, but what we’ve seen around the country is that the upmarket areas have increased so rapidly that the surrounding areas on the periphery are now catching up. That would be any areas that are surrounding the periphery of areas that increased rapidly over the last year or two...

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Jonathan, do you think Durban will ever catch up with Cape Town in terms of property prices?

JONATHAN ROGOFF: I think Durban is probably going to attract more of the locals, whereas Cape Town is much more of an international hot spot. The internationals are probably the guys who are driving those property prices in Cape Town, and that’s what has kept that market buoyant. You haven’t seen the foreigners come into the Durban market as aggressively...

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