When considering the vast landscape of SA’s largest province, the relatively small population of one million people in Northern Cape seems incongruous.
However, there’s very little else that can be described as small in this arid Great Karoo region. Home to Kimberley, SA’s diamond hub and the province’s capital, the region has over time seen significant economic momentum. This has largely been due to employment opportunities within established mining as well as growing astronomical industries. The upshot being that any number of estate agents are struggling to cope with stock shortages due to an increasing demand for housing at all income levels.
The major manganese operations in Kuruman and the iron ore mines in Kathu are a two- to three-hour commute from Kimberley. Further afield is Carnarvon, which is now more than a tourist attraction. It is fast becoming home to both resident and visiting teams of astronomy specialists, who are currently in the process of developing the world's largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The small village of Sutherland in the Karoo’s western Roggeveld Mountains, which is known as being SA’s best star-gazing location, is the site of the southern hemisphere’s largest astronomical observatory site: the internationally-funded Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).
Relocate vs commute
Like most of the mining and astronomical centres in Northern Cape, Kuruman is increasingly attracting employees who choose to relocate with their families, instead of commuting on a weekly basis. Due to significant economical investment by large corporate such as BHP Billiton and ASNAG, the area now contains five manganese mines.
Jan Le Roux, Manager at ERA Properties in Kuruman, says: “Due to the number of new residents, ranging from miners to top executives, who relocate with their families on a contract basis, this area is experiencing an incredible shortage of housing for sale and to rent.” He says that this is despite the absence of private schooling in the area. Severe shortages of good homes to house the relocating executives and their families are causing monthly rentals to escalate. Letting prices range from R10 000 to R15 000 per month for basic three bedroom homes, and from R18 000 up to R25 000 per month for Gauteng-type upmarket homes.
Le Roux says that stock shortages mean that basic houses suited to small families, priced around the R1.2-million mark, can sell within a day. The greatest demand is being seen for higher-grade homes around R2-million, with three bedrooms but without swimming pools or extra features.
However, Le Roux says that property owners and residents benefit from excellent infrastructure and good road conditions. Ongoing maintenance projects in this district are managed by the local municipality of John Taolo Gaetsewe, which was formerly known as the Kgalagadi district of Northern Cape.
Prolific iron ore mining activity in the greater Kalahari region has also seen growth in other small towns, in and around agricultural sheep farming districts. The small town of Kathu’s claim to fame as home to one of only two Camel Thorn forests in the world (the other is in Namibia) is being fast overtaken by it playing host to one of the world’s five largest open-cast iron ore mining operations. Le Roux says that homes in Kathu now attract entry-level rentals of R4 500 and high-end rentals of as much as R38 000 per month.
Long-term investment potential
Miemie du Toit of RE/MAX Properties in Kathu says that while mining activity appears to be on the increase, the buy-to-let market depends on long-term economic stability. While some mines have a predicted lifespan of 30 years, productivity is driven by global and national investor confidence.
Du Toit says the lack of vacant land that is available for development in Kathu, is mostly due to private mining companies and developer interest. However, Bestwood Estate, the most recent private development in the area, has since 2012 enabled entry-level and first-time home buyers access to housing from R400 000 upward.
Check out these investment homes and vacant land possibilities in Kuruman:
About Kathu’s Camel Thorn forest:
Kathu means “place under the trees” and its forest of endangered Camel Thorns (Acacia erioloba) forms a 4 000-hectare reserve that has been declared a Natural Heritage Site. Five-star accommodation is available in Kathu should you wish to revel in the wonder of this beautiful endangered species.