Old spacious homes with large gardens, swimming pools and garages are the norm in Durban North, the sought-after suburb that is ever popular with both the well-heeled and the upwardly mobile, particularly those with young children. Donovan and Angela Vernes bought their Durban North family home in 2004 for R1.2m. The Vernes’s house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a double garage. The property also has a granny flat on its generous erven. Although the house needs a little work, Angela says the couple bought it because it was great value for money – and it’s in Durban North. “One of the main reasons we decided on property in Durban North is for close proximity to good junior schools. There’s Chelsea, Virginia, Glenashley and La Lucia – plus a lot of really good preprimary schools, such as Christopher Robin and Headway. “Durban North is also very convenient. It’s close to the city and has excellent shopping and entertainment facilities.” Think Pick n Pay Hypermarket, La Lucia Mall and Umhlanga’s Gateway “Theatre of Shopping” (said to be the largest shopping centre in Africa – complete with a skate park, “wave house” and “The Rock”, which offers the world’s highest indoor climb). For those who like their adventure outdoors, the beach is just down the drag and so is Beachwood Mangroves Reserve and Umgeni River Bird Park. “But I think what’s very attractive about property in Durban North is that people look after their homes. Residents really care. So you raise your children among people who subscribe to the same sort of lifestyle as you do,” says Angela. This pride of place is evident all around. For the most part, properties are immaculately maintained as are the tree-lined streets. And so it’s no wonder that return on investment in Durban North is so strong. Last year when the Verneses were contemplating a move to Australia, they received an offer of R2.5m for their home. The move wasn’t to be, so they’re staying put for now. Angela says that crime is a concern, and crime levels in Durban North are high. On the upside, though, the suburb has an active community policing forum and a large number of Sun Cell Watch subscribers who are committed to fighting crime in their neighbourhoods. Grant Gavin, co-owner of RE/MAX Panache in Durban North, says that the demand for property in Durban North is strong. “The Broadway precinct has seen huge development over the past year and a half. The area has also been upgraded, with plenty of old houses converted into business premises for firms of attorneys and doctors’ practices etc.” Grant says that value for money is the area’s biggest selling point. “There has been a move towards gated-estate living, for which you pay a premium. But for the same price you can get stand-alone home in Durban North, which has always been a very sought-after suburb.” He says the average Durban North home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a swimming pool and a garage on “a nice-sized” plot [1000sqm]. Such a property will set you back around R2.1m. Grant is spot on. According to municipal valuations, the average house in Durban North is valued at R2 099 264m. According to Deeds Office data, 90 properties in Durban North changed hands this year. Of those, 79 were freehold – 96% of market stock in Durban North is freehold – and 11 were in sectional title schemes. There are about 2300 properties in Durban North. Only 97 are in sectional title schemes. The average selling price of a freehold property over the past year was R1.9m and the average selling price of a sectional title property in 2009 was R1.2m. Grant says sectional title properties in Durban North are in high demand, with two-bedroom properties going for about R1.4m. There were 11 sales in the greater-than-R3m price band in Durban North this year – the average selling price being R4.8m. Grant says the market in Durban North is picking up nicely, though there is a shortage of stock in certain price bands, particularly above R2m. Having grown up in Durban North and lived there for eight years, Grant knows the area intimately. He says good schools, quality of life and proximity to the city are all big draw cards for those electing to live in Durban North. Mike Stanley, who owns Stanley’s Property, is an independent estate agent who specializes in property in the Durban North area. He describes the suburb as “wholesome” and with much to offer. He says the only thing that it’s short of is frail care residential facilities – Milldene Park Retirement Village being the only one of its kind. Mike says there is a lot of stock on the market in Durban North but a lot of it is overpriced by about 20%. “The normal time for a well-priced house to sell is one month. Of course in a brisk market, it can take a week. But if it’s priced too high, it can take a year.” It seems that you can’t go wrong buying to let in Durban North either. “The rental market has done well,” says Grant. “In developments like Sedgefield Estate, a two-bedroom simplex will fetch a rental of R6500. That’s the minimum.”
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