Riding the wave

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Somewhere in the back of most older peoples’ minds we probably still think of Jeffreys Bay (J-Bay to anyone who loves the coast of South Africa) as a laid-back, sun-baked sleepy, surfers’ haven.

Many of us “ballies” remember (or like to think we can remember) the story of the local konstabel who took issue with the Surfers’ Guest Book - which first surfaced at a fish-and-chip shop in the late 60s, and which contained signatures from people from across the world - because he was convinced that the verdomde hippies were using it to pass secret messages to one another. About, you know, smoking.

And they must have been guilty of something - anything! - because they spent their time surfing and smiling all day.

So is it still like that?

According Maarten Oosthuizen of MOJO Properties, which currently has 304 properties listed on PrivateProperty.co.za, it’s definitely not - although the summery weather, endless beaches and amazing waves that attracted the surfers in the first place certainly are.

Maarten is passionate about J-Bay. He gets excited talking about its attractions - everything from scuba diving, fishing, boating and world-class open-water swimming at Marina Martinique, to golf, bowls, hiking, sand boarding, the annual J-Bay Winterfest, the popular Shell Museum, and, of course, the surfing and the Surf Museum. And he likes to point out that the Baviaanskloof (which must rank as one of South Africa’s least visited, but most dramatic wilderness areas) is less than an hour’s drive away.

Jeffreys Bay has grown up over the last few years, and, with the establishment of the Fountains Mall (the first of its kind for the town) and a polyclinic which offers excellent healthcare (a part private, part state-run facility), it’s finding its feet as both a retirement destination, and a place for harried Gautengers who’ve decided to sell up and live quieter lives. Since it’s only 75 km from the Port Elizabeth airport, it’s practical for businesspeople who’re prepared to settle their families at the coast, and make the weekly commute to work in the city.

And the market is responding.

“The top-end is busy; we’re starting to see shortages in the R700,000 to R1.1-million ends of the spectrum and, because the banks are now requiring only around 50% deposits on undeveloped land, the prices of stands are now at an eight-year low, so we’re starting to see new homes going up again.”

Suburbs such as the exclusive Marina Martinique are booming, with record sales and development over the past 24 months.

“Bottom line: J-Bay is still a very popular holiday destination and we’re receiving property enquires on an almost daily basis, that are leading to sales in all suburbs and across all price brackets.”

Since Jeffreys Bay doesn’t have much manufacturing, prospects for younger families have been tough in recent years: finding work hasn’t been easy up to now, But this might all change if Eskom goes ahead with the construction of its new nuclear power plant at Thuyspunt, 40km from Jeffreys Bay, and just west of the neighbouring village of Cape St Francis.

Although it’s not a popular plan, there’s no doubt that the development will have a positive effect on job supply and the property market in the medium-term.

“We’re told that the plant will provide work for six- to eight thousand people for eight- to ten years,” said Maarten. “And, since Jeffreys Bay has the infrastructure, this is where many of them will come and live.”

Scope for investors and developers

But whether the power station goes ahead or not, the town currently offers a number of investment opportunities.

Maarten said that that J-Bay is still a holiday destination, so there’s still a market for more hotels and guest houses. “But there’s also land available for townhouse developments, and there’s definitely a huge shortage of retirement facilities.”

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