Sophiatown - A Storied History

Private Property South Africa
Ben Kelly

The old Sophiatown, the place of legend where segregation was just a word, when music thrived and gangsters roamed the streets, is long gone. Only a few buildings, most noticeably the Anglican and Catholics churches and one or two other buildings still remain, but the name has been restored. What stands in the place of the old Sophiatown is what used to be called Triomf.

The suburb that was once a mishmash of buildings, each with their own character was rebuilt as a suburb for working class Afrikaaners. The stands are small and the houses reflect the time that they were built in. If they were being built today they would probably look like slightly upmarket RDP houses. Luckily houses were built slightly better and on bigger stands in those days than they are now so it is possible to find nice, cosy houses at good prices in the suburb.

Freehold properties in Sophiatown sit firmly in the R400 000 to R800 000 bracket with the average selling price over the last 12 months R649 000. This average has remained fairly stable over the past few years after having doubled in the property boom of the early 2000s.

The suburb also is close to the University of Johannesburg and Westdene and Melville as well as the new Rea Vaya route that will run from east to west along Empire road and Kingsway. However, turnover in the suburb is quite low with only 28 freehold units changing hands last year out of a total stock of more than 1000 units. Also more than 40 percent of owners have had their properties for 11 years or more.

Young people make up a surprisingly small part of the recent buyers in the suburb with around 10 percent of new buyers under 35. The 35 to 50 bracket makes up the largest part of the buying market with close to 50 percent of the market.

With its good access to transport routes the suburb is a great place for those that work in town as well as for those with kids at university. It also has good Afrikaans primary schools in the area but English language schools require a little more of a drive. However, good bus routes through the suburb mean that it is possible for kids to get to schools in the north and the west with relative ease.

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