Pinetown is one of Durban’s oldest suburbs and among the most popular too. As Durban has grown into a mega city with millions of residents, Pinetown has successfully reinvented itself as a well-established middle market suburb that has taken full advantage of its location in the middle of the metro.
About 20 years ago Pinetown was quaint: a little city within a city, about 15 minutes from Durban’s CBD. It had a few high-rise buildings and a few shopping malls and did a roaring auto trade along the old Main Road. It had churches, libraries, sports fields and a civic centre.
None of that has changed, except that Durban has grown as if on steroids and Hillcrest, 15 minutes north of Pinetown, has exploded. Hillcrest used to be a country hamlet but now it has one gated estate after the next. It’s as if all of Durban’s well-heeled residents flocked to Hillcrest when security became an issue and secure estates came into vogue.
The boon for Pinetown is that the demand for its services has grown and the houses, flats and apartments left vacant by the wealthy were filled overnight by middle-class types with solid jobs in government or the industrial areas of Westmead and New Germany, on the fringes of the suburb.
Geography has a lot to do with Pinetown’s success. Historically it was on the old wagon route between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Now it’s in the middle of greater Durban, with easy access to the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg (and the popular Pavilion mall), the M13 which runs between the CBD and Hillcrest, and a four-lane highway that connects to Springfield Park, Durban North and the N2.
Climatically Pinetown is also blessed in that it is 300m above sea level and is often spared the sweltering humidity of Durban.
The Pinetown Cricket Club (established in 1873) is reportedly the oldest in South Africa and is located within Lahee Park, a well-resourced sports centre.
The suburb is serviced by numerous schools including Pinetown Boys’ High, Pinetown Girls’ High, Thomas More College, New Forest High and primary schools in Gelofte, Ashley and Sarnia to name but a few.
Shoppers are amply catered for by Knowles Super Spar, St John's Checkers centre and Sanlam Centre, which are huddled in a five-kilometer radius of the civic centre, library and bus and taxi ranks off the Old Main Road.
Dennis Williams has spent his working life as an estate agent in Pinetown, which he describes as a “friendly suburb with good amenities and lots of repeat business”.
Williams says he moves lots of stock under the R800k mark, which is corroborated by data from property specialists Lightstone.
According to Lightstone, the average price in Pinetown central in the last year was R916k, although a fair chunk of sales (32%) were in the R400k-R800k range with the average price of those transactions being R507k.
About 84% of the area’s stock, according to Lightstone, is sectional title. In 2004 the average price of a sectional title property in Pinetown was R164k. Now the average price is R447k.
Lightstone says 26% of recent buyers in Pinetown are aged between 18-35 years old and 35% are middle aged, between 50-60 years old.
This seems to fit with what Williams says: Pinetown residents either downscale to something smaller nearby or upscale to something bigger, also nearby, as they grow older.
“We get a lot of repeat business. People in Pinetown like to stay in Pinetown, whether they are retiring to a smaller pad in Cowies Hill or buying a family house in New Germany. It’s a vibrant area with lots of activity and job opportunities and there is space for all income groups.”
Williams says flats in Old Mutual Towers, which overlooks the M13, sell for between R450k and R550k and are popular. Houses up to the R800k mark are selling fast, generally to cash buyers who have realized a profit on selling another property.
“Houses in the R800k to R1,2 million range seem to be at a bit of a standstill at the moment.”
Williams says rental returns are also good in Pinetown. He owns five investment
properties: a house and four flats.
“I haven’t sold any of these because they do extremely well on rentals. The rentals are between R5000 and R6500 for a three-bedroom house and around R3000 for a one-bedroom flat. There are always plenty of takers for rental stock.”
There are plenty of takers and plenty of people for the different places within Pinetown. It’s a value-for-money, middle-market suburb that is attractive because of its diversity. The old boys of Pinetown Boy’s High are witness to this. Steve Atherton, the former Springbok rugby player, is an old boy, as is Kevin Perkins, aka Michael Naiker, one of South Africa’s top comedians.