Area Review : Bloemfontein

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

Bloemfontein derives its name from the Dutch word meaning “fountain of flowers”. So it’s no surprise that the capital of the Free State is also known as the “City Of Roses”. Every year, for the past 30 years, this quaint city blooms with a vibrant Rose Festival. The festival hosts exhibitions of some of the country’s most beautiful blomme.

The city also has a Sesotho name – Mangaung which means “place of cheetahs”. It became part of the Mangaung Local Municipality almost 10 years ago.

Like any good South African city, Bloem is mad about sport and its residents are the staunch supports of their provincial rugby side – The Cheetahs.

While Bloem has its official names, it’s affectionately referred to as “The Fontein by locals.

David Allin is one of those. He’s spent the past 16 years living in this neat little city and because it’s just so chilled up there, he’s planning on staying.

“We don’ have traffic like the Gautengers and we certainly don’t have the level of crime that the vaalies do either. Bloem is a lekker place to raise a family – we really enjoy an awesome lifestyle here.”

Speaking of family, Bloem is home to some of SA’s finest schools, like the prestigious Grey’s College. On a tertiary level it’s in Bloem that you will find established institutions like The University of The Free State and the Central University of Technology.

Allin owns a number of properties in Bloem. His most recent acquisition is a townhouse in the up-market suburb of Woodlands Hill. This area is home to the fancy new Woodlands Wildlife Estate.

According to property research experts Lightstone, the freehold properties in this estate have reaped a remarkable return on investment. In 2005, a freehold property here cost you about R316K. Just five years later, these properties are selling for as much as R1,8m.

Helicon Heights is another smart suburb in Bloem.

More than 64% of the properties in the Helicon Heights area are freehold properties. The remaining 36% are sectional title schemes. The average price of one of these properties is in the region of R1,1m, while the freehold properties average on about R1,5m each.

Allin also owns a commercial property in a more urban suburb called Hilton.

“I bought a house a few years ago and rent it out as office space. The rental more than covers the bond. It’s been a great investment.”

It’s no wonder that Allin is chuffed with his place in Hilton. The returns since 2004 have been staggering. A sectional scheme in that year cost about R79K. In 2009, the sectional schemes in Hilton averaged about R924K – a good R600K up from 2008.

Freehold properties in Hilton cost R215K back in 2004. These days you can’t get one for less than R400K.

Allin says that a solid property investment in Bloem would also be to buy student accommodation and rent it out.

“I know people who’ve done this in areas like Universitas Ridge and Brandweg and they’ve made good returns.”

According to Lightstone, stock in Universitas Ridge is mainly made up of freehold properties.

In the past year, 15 freehold property sales were recorded at an average price of R1,1m. Sectional schemes, which make up about 10% of the overall market stock in the area, went for about R920K each. The property market in this area has performed well since 2004 when the average freehold property went for R700K.

Allin says that contrary to popular belief, Bloem is no one-horse town.

“We have great malls and fantastic places to wine and dine here in ‘The Fontein’.” Allin rates the Loch Logan Mall as the place to shop in Bloem. For great food he says Margarita’s in Bays Water is tops; and for a snazzy spot to socialize he recommends Coobah in the Bloem Gate Centre.

Musicians at Bloemfonteins MACUFE Cultural FestivalAllin adds that the Bloem Zoo is a must if you’re visiting the city. “It’s really quite impressive. You can see anything from exotic snakes to elephants. They’ve also just put up a fancy hotel right near the Zoo.”

Allin brags that some famous folks have come out of Bloem.

Zola Budd, author JRR Tolkien and funny-man Leon Schuster were all born and bred in Bloemfontein.

“If I read the Huisgenoot magazine more I’d also be able to tell you the names of all the famous Afrikaans singers that are always in town.”

On the subject of arts and culture, Bloem has its own African Cultural Festival – MACUFE. This happens around October each year (since 1997) and aims to be the biggest, most culturally balanced showcase of African arts and culture in the world. From comedy to visual arts, dance, drama and jazz, this is something that culture junkies will love. It’s the perfect excuse to head to Bloem and suss out the scene for yourself.

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