What was Hot in the 70s?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing and those who are old enough to have invested in property during the 70s, but didn’t, must be kicking themselves about the lost opportunities. This week we are going to go back in time and see what life was really all about in 1976.

The South Coast Herald, a community newspaper situated in Port Shepstone kindly let us take a peek into their archives in order to gauge what was happening in the property market, the techno scene and the motoring industry during the 70s.

All-in-all, the year was quite an exciting one. The Apple Computer Company was launched by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Concorde took to the skies for its maiden flight and video recorders were unleashed on a technically starved public.

On the local scene, television, which was launched to the South African public in 1975 had become all the rage. These days most of us can’t figure out what the excitement was all about, considering that there was only one channel in English and Afrikaans for all viewers. Programmes were broadcast from 6:00pm to 10:00pm every night and were divided into two hour segments featuring the two different languages. Programs likes Shane and The Bob Newhart Show almost developed a cult-like following as those lucky enough to own this incredible piece of technology sat glued to their screens night after night watching the limited offerings from the SABC.

Durban was regarded by most as the holiday mecca of the country and thousands of holidaymakers flocked to the Golden Mile during the Festive Season. In an advert in the paper, the famous Royal Hotel that at the time was a four-star establishment was offering weekend accommodation for R20 per person, including full board. If this was deemed a little pricey, guests could always book into the Plaza Hotel situated on the Esplanade for R2.75 a night per person.

Food was also relatively cheap at that time, when best end chops and Scotch fillet would have set you back R2.49 per kilogram. Although we weren’t able to find the cost of petrol in South Africa during this time, petrol prices had soared during the 70s. Americans in particular had to fork out 59 US cents per gallon of fuel, due in part to the increase in the price of oil, which had risen to the staggering amount of $13 a barrel the year before.

The prices of second-hand vehicles were also a little on the high side. A 1973 model Hillman Vogue was advertised at R2 200 and a Toyota Corona of the same year was selling for R2 300. If this was out of your price league, a 1968 Zodiac was available for R200 and a 1971 Opal Kadett was advertised at R780. Credit was, of course, available to those who qualified.

Talking of prices, the price of property on the coast during this time seems ludicrous when compared with house prices today. A four bedroomed home 150 metres away from Margate’s main beach was on the market for R33 000. A bachelor pad in the heart of Margate’s CBD was selling for R6 800. Tenants, it seems, also had things fairly easy back then and a three bedroomed home in the area would have set you back R90 per month.

It was also a good time to buy a business. A beachfront tea garden situated near a local lagoon was advertised for R11 500, while a general dealer with an annual turnover exceeding R100 000 was for sale for the paltry sum of R25 000.

On a serious note, it pays to remember that in 40 or so years, the property prices of today are going to appear as ridiculous to future generations as those that sold during 1976 appear to us. Hindsight is truly a wonderful thing and while we know that everything is relative and salaries of the day were far lower, wouldn’t it be great if in years to come we could look back and realise that the expensive home we purchased has made us a great deal of money.

*With thanks to the editor and staff at the South Coast Herald.

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