Clarens – A Little Piece of Yesterday

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The Eastern Free State town of Clarens is approximately three hours drive from both Johannesburg and Durban and has in recent years boomed both in terms of tourism and property sales. Not surprising really as the natural surrounds, scenic views and tranquil ambience makes for the ideal getaway that is not too far from all the claustrophobic business centres. A true ’get away from it all’ destination.

The hamlet is well known for its contribution to the arts with a number of revered South African artist’s residing in the area. The village square in Clarens with its picturesque sandstone buildings, unique architecture and homely atmosphere hosts various restaurants, luncheon bars, curio shops and art galleries aimed at delighting guests and keeping them entertained. Part of the appeal of the town is the use of sandstone from the surrounding rock strata and cliffs resulting in and many of the buildings in the area being built with this multi coloured stone that adds to the town’s attraction and allure.

Property prices have escalated in recent years due to the rising popularity of the region. This is hardly surprising given its close proximity to some of the country’s premier game parks, including the Golden Gate National Park as well as the various sought after amenities on offer such as horse riding, trout fishing and mountain trails. The town has attracted investors across all price categories with recent property reports revealing that there has been a healthy influx of purchasers buying holiday homes in the Clarens Valley.

The townsfolk of Clarens have embraced its new found fame without detracting from the towns olde world charm. Tourism has sky rocketed resulting in local business entrepreneurs in town and the surrounding regions hosting numerous popular events throughout the year. Nearby towns report that they too have benefited from the influx of tourists to the Clarens area and have capitalised on the opportunities. Events such as the Hot Air Balloon show, held in Bethlehem, as well as the famous annual Cherry Festival, hosted in Ficksburg in November, continue to draw increasingly larger crowds to this beautiful, historic area. Clarens’ town square comes alive at weekends where families can browse in the regular flea markets and participate in various leisure activities. A fairly recent attraction includes welcoming the various Harley Davison bike clubs who ‘pull in’ on their Sunday morning bike run for a hearty breakfast at one of the town square eateries.

Recent property statistics released by Lightstone reveal that a total of 54 transfers in the last 12 months were recorded. Sales in the full title sector of the market came in at an average of R977 000 and made up 39 of the sales that took place. The highest price paid for a freehold property during this time was R3.460m.

Despite sectional title sales faring markedly weaker with only a total of 8 sales concluded at an average price of R396 000, estate sales reflected a healthier price average of R806 000. That said, the highest price paid for a sectional title unit in Clarens was R1m, indicating that there is not any ceiling on achievable prices if the property presents well.

According to at least one agent in the area, the region owes much of its popularity to the fact that other centrally situated getaway destination areas became saturated and therefore more expensive. Clarens offers investors a wide variety of properties at far more realistic prices and given that it is now a buyer’s market it may well be the ideal time to invest in this little piece of yesterday.

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