Area Review : East London

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

East London has to be one of the nicest smaller cities in South Africa to raise a family. It’s not too big and it’s not too hectic. The schools are good, sport is a treasured pastime and there are some fantastic institutions, like the Friesland Café in the seaside suburb of Quigney, where they make the best milkshakes in South Africa.

Sadly, though, East London can’t seem to shake its nickname “Slummies”. It’s an unfair moniker because the city is far from a slum. Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, it has some lovely, historic buildings.

But if anything sums up the pace of property in East London it has to be Quigney.

Orient Beach, East LondonMore than two decades ago talk of Quigney’s redevelopment was all the rage. Yet nothing has changed in that time. The lovely row houses there are in dire need of a revamp. Occasionally you can see someone has spent some money renovating a beautiful, old wood and iron house, but these are few and far between.

Private Property spoke to an East London agent who asked not to be named. “I’ve been in East London for 20 years and in all that time everybody has been speaking about the redevelopment of Quigney, but it just hasn’t happened,” the agent said.

“In Port Elizabeth in the South End, which was similar to Quigney before they redeveloped it, you can’t get a place for less than R2 million now.”

Quigney is close to the main beach and the CBD. It’s noisy and colorful and has an odd mixture of professionals and working-class people. Most outsiders regard the suburb as unsafe. Property has held its value there though, which is largely true for the rest of the city.

The agent says house prices have barely dropped in the last year. “We’re selling less because of the banks, but East London property has held its value well. This is probably because the city is a bit hemmed in by the sea and the infrastructure is quite old, so there’s not much space for new developments.” East London City Hall

Xoliswa Tini is an independent estate agent in East London who is shaking up the market, which she describes as neither good, nor bad. “There is movement and we have buyers.”

Tini says prices range from R250 000 for a decent three-bedroom house in Mdantsane township, to R1 million for a three-bedroom house with a swimming pool and double garage in Beacon Bay. There are bigger, fancier houses in Beacon Bay and suburbs like Nahoon, Bonnie Doon and Gonubie, where prices of between R2 million and R4 million are not unusual.

According to property experts Lightstone, Gonubie is ranked as similar to La Mercy in Durban; Vorna Valley in Johannesburg and Rouxville in Cape Town. In the last year there were 41 transfers of property in Gonubie with an average price of just over R1 million. Of those, 12 were in the range R400 000-R800 000 and 14 were in the range R800 000 to R1.5 million.

Industry in East London is under some pressure, including big employers like the car maker Daimler Chrysler and Da Gama Textiles, so East London property prices aren’t likely to rise any time soon, but they aren’t expected to drop too much either.

In the words of our estate agent: “East London is a sleepy hollow. It’s a picturesque, laid back city. It’s lovely for family life and children. You can have a nice home with a sea view here, but you have to accept that you are four steps behind the rest of the country. A new development in Joburg will sell out in six weeks. East Londoners have to touch and feel a thing before they believe it’s real.”

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