Umdloti, a haven of tranquility on KZN’s bustling North Coast

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

Property prices on KZN’s North Coast are holding well in the recession, buoyed by the prospects of the new international airport at La Mercy, which will see tourists touchdown for the Fifa 2010 World Cup.

Most North Coast residents are upbeat about the airport, but some are a little smug, and deservedly so. The entire Dolphin Coast is benefiting from the building boom and the general interest sparked by the airport. Little hamlets like Umdloti appear to be thriving.

Umdloti is 25km north of Durban’s CBD, and 10km from Umhlanga, or the fancy Gateway mall to be exact. Umhlanga is booming as a holiday resort, as is property in Durban North.

What some residents in these areas complain of though (and the complaints are admittedly nothing on the scale of Johannesburg whining) is the hustle and bustle associated with development. It’s generally a bit louder and there’s more traffic because the Durban’s northern corridor is bustling.

In comparison, quaint spots like Umdloti have managed to stay a little more laid back. This is down to geography. Umdloti has one road in and out and then a beachfront promenade. There’s very little space to expand north, south or west because of protected indigenous forest that is teeming with monkeys and an abundance of birdlife. Most Umdloti houses and apartments boast majestic views of the Indian Ocean.

House prices have held up well in Umdloti. According to www.saptg.co.za, the median price of a sectional title apartment in 2003/04 was R495 000; which rose to R1,372,500 in 2006/07 and which dropped to R1,289,441 in 2009.

According to property specialists Lightstone, 83% of the stock in Umdloti is sectional title. In the market peak of 2006/07 about R60 million worth of property was sold. Thus far, property to the value of R21 million has been sold this year.

The drop in sales could be attributed to the slump in the market, but also because property owners in Umdloti realise they are on to a good thing.

David Khoury, from TTI Estate Agents, is a resident of Umdloti and has a wealth of knowledge about the area. He says the beach has a safe tidal pool, and while popular, can only take so many people. So, except for peak days holidays, it’s a pleasure to be there.

Umdloti has gone through some major changes the past few years, with the re-development of sectional title complexes and the renovation of old homes. Part of the appeal is that Umdloti is a bit isolated and it can’t be developed on either side of the beachfront. Residents are hanging on to their properties because of this.”

Khoury says Umdloti has some fancy new restaurants like Bel Punto and Java Café and institutions like the Bush Tavern.

The Tavern’s owner, Steve Connor says his place has just been upgraded. He says the area is “lovely and quiet”, except when the locals are partying hard at the Tavern.

Connor says if Umdloti has a down side it’s the traffic. “It has become a destination. Parking can be a nightmare.”

Khoury says the fact that there is one road into Umdloti gives locals a sense of safety: “There is a true sense of freedom here. People run and walk along the beachfront without dogs. It’s almost like estate living.”

Khoury predicts the new airport (20 minutes away) will generate a “massive increase” in property prices. Umdloti, he says, also benefits from new amenities like the Umhlanga hospital, the relatively new school, Umhlanga College, and nearby hotels.

Another attraction is the world-class Zimbali Coastal Resort, where some of South Africa’s wealthiest citizens have holiday homes.

Perhaps Umdloti is offering what Umhlanga used to offer before it became so popular.

Khoury says many new buyers are anticipating an increase in holiday rentals. He says some buyers are looking for furnished apartments because many professionals servicing the new airport, like pilots, will need this type of accommodation.

But if you’re interested in buying in Umdloti “the clock is ticking”, Khoury says.

He says the average rental in Umdloti is about R5500 a month for an apartment and up to R18 000 for a house.

Average sectional title apartments, Khoury says, are selling for R1,4 million and houses are priced upwards to around R10 million.

TTI has a beachfront stand selling for R1,850 million and is also marketing a double stand of 3349m2 with an old house for R5 million.

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