Area Review: Property in Meer en See, Richards Bay

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

Locals will tell you that Richards Bay is like Florida in the USA: Beautiful beaches, neighboring islands to enjoy, a steamy climate all-year round and cool hangouts to be seen at. City slickers from Durban or Johannesburg might say something a little different. Situated in KwaZulu-Natal about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Durban, Richards Bay is a tiny town with a big harbor and an even bigger coal industry. The Richards Bay Coal Terminal is the biggest coal export facility in the world and has enriched many in the region. Richards Bay was established in the 1880s during the Anglo-Boer War, when Cape Commodore Sir Friedrich Richards constructed a makeshift harbor. Later, a settlement was established around the port and it was duly named after Richards himself. These days the Richards Bay harbor is one of the largest in South Africa. Well-known model Joe Sylvester has lived in Richards Bay for 24 years. She says growing up there was the bomb. “I had a gorgeous childhood! We rode our bikes in the neighborhood; spent endless summer days frolicking on the beach; and enjoyed braais around the pool with family and friends. Growing up in Richard’s Bay was simple, uncomplicated and sheltered.” Joe’s family home is in the up-market suburb of Meer En See (Afrikaans for “lake and sea”). Richards Bay Yacht Club. Property in Meer en See is sought after.According to Lightstone property research experts, 52% of market stock of property in Meer en See is freehold. Over the past three months, 14 freehold properties have been sold in the suburb and the average property price was R1,1m. In the sectional title market, 21 properties changed hands in the past 12 months and these averaged at about R800K each. In terms of a national ranking in the freehold market, property in Meer En See is sitting at number 984 out of 5223 suburbs. This places it in a similar position to Wynberg in Cape Town and Bramley in Johannesburg. The mean value of freehold property in Meer En See is about R1,2m. Looking at the suburb’s national ranking in the sectional title category it’s in 647th place out of 1982 suburbs with the average sectional scheme valued at R732K. And if it’s return on investment you’re interested in, the freehold market in Meer En See has outperformed the sectional scheme market. A freehold property that went for R635K in 2004 is now valued at around R1,2m and a sectional scheme property valued at R326K in 2004 is now fetching about R500K. Twenty years ago, the Sylvesters paid R92 000 for their lovely four-bedroom home on its 1107sm property. Over the years, they’ve added two bachelor flats onto their property, one of which they are letting for R2500 a month. According to Deeds Office data, in the past three months homes in their neighborhood have sold for over R1m. Their house is ideally positioned: it’s an easy 3km walk from the beach and not far from some of the best wetlands in SA. The Sylvester’s house is also surrounded by a beautiful green belt. Joe says that the best part about this all is the Fish Eagles she often spots circling above her garden. “They’re beautiful but they have been known to try and steal small dogs like our poodles, so we do take care when they’re around,” she laughs. Joe went to school at one of country’s best private schools for girls – St Catherine’s in Empangeni. This is about a 10-minute drive from her home. Sadly she says that Richards Bay doesn’t have too much of an economy to keep its young adults put. “We generally land up leaving after school because Richards Bay is a bit of a blue-collar town. I left and went to university in the Eastern Cape. After I graduated, I came back to help out in a family business. Now business demands that every fortnight I commute between Richards Bay and Mozambique – it’s about a four-hour drive from home.” When Joe’s home she can be found enjoying the sun and surf or at the hottest hangout in town: the Protea Hotel at the waterfront. “It’s a stunning spot to grab a cocktail and watch the sun set. It’s got a great view of Naval Island too.” (Naval Island is apparently the place to jet-ski in Richard’s Bay). For retail therapy, Joe hits The Boardwalk. “We even have a Ster-Kinekor and a Mugg & Bean there – which is big for Richards Bay.” On the downside, she says that the humidity can be pretty fierce. “It’s much muggier than Durban and it’s always hot here. Always.” Joe says that because of all the industry in Richards Bay, air pollution there is high. “It’s a major factor to take into account when considering settling here.” Popular local actor James Alexander spent a few months in Richards Bay on the set of the BBC’s biggest mini-series “To The Ends of The Earth”. “The people there are the best, but I’d have to say that Richards Bay is like the Karoo by the sea. Tjoepstil but lekker by die see, ne?”

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