Known as the City of Saints, Grahamstown has some 52 churches located in and around the city. It also has the largest number of educational facilities per capita in the country, which comes as no surprise given that Grahamstown’s primary commercial sector is that of education.
Rhodes University, which was named after Cecil John Rhodes, is revered as one of the finest tertiary educational establishments in the country. The institution has an enrolment of over 7000 students per annum and offers six main faculties, including law, education and commerce. St Andrew’s College is another well-respected establishment and the college, in addition to the education excellence the school provides, also has the distinct honour of housing the oldest recorded official letterbox in South Africa.
The influx of 1820 settlers, who were eager to leave the farming industry, boosted the town tremendously, rapidly making it the second largest city in the Cape Colony after Cape Town. Today, apart from being a tourist hotspot, the city has become renowned for two major festivals that it hosts on an annual basis, namely the National Arts Festival and the SciFest Africa Festival, which attracts over 50 000 visitors to the region.
As seen in other towns that house universities, there is a consistent demand for student accommodation in Grahamstown. Although the university campus houses approximately 3000 students, a further 4000 have to find alternative accommodation. For this reason, according to recent reports, the buy-to-let sector of the market has enjoyed a 15% increase year-on-year since 2006. Due to the high demand and the fact that rental income in the area exceeds 10% returns on investment, estate agents in the area report that there is a shortage of stock in the R850 000 to R1,5m price ranges. This is driven by the demand for good-value residential property in the area.
Recent statistics released by Lightstone reveal that there have been 169 sales concluded in the area in the last 12 months. The average price paid for a freehold property was R1 021 000 and the average price paid for a sectional title unit was R660 000. Market stock is dominated by the freehold sector of the market, making up 90% of the property sold in the area. The highest price achieved for a property in the area was a freehold property that was sold at R3.3m. Price averages have maintained a steady increase year on year since 2004.
The city is home to a number of fine examples of Victorian architecture and houses a number of museums, including one that celebrates the beginnings of the diamond industry in this country. The oldest surviving South African independent newspaper, Grocott’s Mail is published in the city. Founded by the Grocott family in 1870, the periodical is now owned by Rhodes University and is used as vehicle to train journalists who attend this world-renowned educational establishment.