Ballito : Paradise at a Price

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

Ballito is rocking. There isn’t a simpler way to put it. Property prices in the seaside hamlet have shot through the roof, but it’s a curious market at the moment.

Gina Hamlyn is an estate agent who has lived in the area for the past 17 years. For the past five years she has run her own estate agency. But, she’s closing down because business is so bad. “The market is terrible so I’m dropping out. I don’t think it’s just Ballito, it’s across the country. In an economic slump property prices are the first to drop.”

Hamlyn says Ballito is the victim of its own success. The seaside village that sprung up in the early 1960s has always been a popular holiday destination. The beaches and rocky coastal enclaves really are picture perfect and the area is a comfortable 40-minute drive from Durban.Ballito Seaside Landscape, courtesy of www.roomsforafrica.com

In the recent property boom buyers flocked to Ballito and developers slapped up huge shopping centres, including the enormously popular Lifestyle Centre on the N2. Ballito also benefited from the success of Zimbali, one of the country’s fanciest gated estates set in an indigenous forest on the coast.

Hamlyn says the property boom created unrealistic expectations in the minds of sellers. “Sellers have it in their heads that high prices are appropriate when they are not. We’ve had a massive surge in developments and there is a glut of stock on the market. Sellers are becoming more realistic because of this, but unfortunately few buyers can get finance.”

Hamlyn says in spite of the current climate Ballito has inherent value. “The sea is really beautiful and there are places like the Waterberry Café in Ballito that are institutions. Ballito has become so exclusive. If you don’t have bucks you won’t be here.”

Hamlyn says big, cash-flush investors realise Ballito is a good place to sink their money now. But, she wonders who will cater for the ordinary folk, the teachers and the civil servants who will need to live around Ballito to service the growing community. Land is so expensive that developers can’t afford to cater for buyers in the R700 000-R1 million market.

Fiona Crago is an independent agent who has worked in Ballito for 12 years. She shares Hamlyn’s sentiments and believes the new international airport will change Ballito. Crago says an average three-bedroom house in Ballito sells for around R3 million if you can find one, and an apartment with one and a half bedrooms goes for about half that price.

“There is a lot of activity. There are bargain hunters on the prowl and there are some amazing deals to be had. I sold a four-bedroom penthouse with sea views and a double garage for R1,4 million recently. It was about to be repossessed. A few years ago it would have sold for double that price. In Zimbali I sold a R7,5 million house for R4,7 million. There are bargains like you won’t believe, but some people are holding out longer, expecting the prices to drop more.”

According to property specialists Lightstone, there have been 252 property transfers registered in Ballito over the past year. Of those 92 have been priced R800 000 to R1,5 million; 67 have been for sales of between R1,5 million and R3 million; and 15 have been above R3 million.

The new King Shaka international airport at La Mercy is set to be commissioned in about a year, in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The massive terminal buildings are already under roof and the runways have been laid. A new interchange is being built off the N2 and swathes of land around the site have been earmarked for commercial development over the next 18 months.

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