The hunt widens

With property prices already surging in Cape Town, British buyers are looking further afield to capitalise on the weak rand. Ginetta Vedrickas explores homes in the KwaZulu-Natal area

As South Africa continues to attract growing numbers of UK buyers, you could be forgiven for thinking that the country begins and ends in Cape Town. But, as prices in the Western Cape continue to spiral, other property hotspots are now emerging. Ocean Estates' marketing manager Mark Feuilherade, based in Cape Town, says: "Everyone talks about Cape Town and we all love it but in some areas around here prices have tripled in the last five years. Places such as Durban have fallen by the wayside yet it has such a lot to offer."

As South Africa continues to attract growing numbers of UK buyers, you could be forgiven for thinking that the country begins and ends in Cape Town. But, as prices in the Western Cape continue to spiral, other property hotspots are now emerging. Ocean Estates' marketing manager Mark Feuilherade, based in Cape Town, says: "Everyone talks about Cape Town and we all love it but in some areas around here prices have tripled in the last five years. Places such as Durban have fallen by the wayside yet it has such a lot to offer."

Feuilherade describes Durban, in the Kwazulu-Natal region, as 'the real Africa' and points to its wonderful climate, proximity to game reserves and beaches which are in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean rather than the chilly Atlantic: "Many people say that in Cape Town you could be anywhere, it's been likened to Florida, yet Durban truly is Africa."

Prices in Durban area are also attractive and many new developments are starting to attract foreign investors who are finding that their budgets can't keep pace with prices on the Spanish Costas. "A luxury villa in Spain on a golf course would probably cost around £625,000 but you can buy an equivalent property here for £250,000 and get free family golf membership for the first year," says Feuilherade.

Rental returns are also proving to be a draw and Ocean Estates are offering buyers at their newly launched Ocean Reef, Zinkwazi a guaranteed 10 per cent return in their first year of purchase. This beachfront development is just under an hour away from Durban airport and all properties are located on the edge of pristine coastal dunes and boast views of the Indian Ocean. The two and three bedroom apartments are open plan and lead onto large wooden patio decks with prices starting from 1,940,000 Rand.

Patrick O' Shea of Engel & Völkers agrees that South Africa now represents a good alternative to many European destinations: "The investment potential here is enormous. The country has everything to offer from superb climate, stunning landscapes, some of the best beaches in the world, first-class restaurants and the winelands to name just a few and all for a fraction of the cost compared with Europe."

Buyers here can also take advantage of financial incentives: "Investors are still able to borrow up to 50 per cent of the property value. With interest rates at an all time low and inflation at just 5 per cent the real cost of borrowing is below 9 per cent which offers a fairly attractive package to the investor in a market which is experiencing growth at a phenomenal rate of 20 per cent," says O' Shea who believes that Blouberg, Fish Hoek and the suburbs all offer value for money and where £60,000 buys an apartment with sea views and beach access. "Even in the Camps Bay area, the 'Cote D'Azur' of Cape Town, a four-bedroom home is only around £250,000 which is very reasonable compared to seaside property prices around the globe."

World Class Homes have been selling property in South Africa since July 2002 and sales director Beverly Coleman has noticed hugely increased interest in recent months. "There have been so many travel and property programmes on TV that have really caught peoples' attention so we're now getting many more enquiries."

Coleman also gets requests that she is unable to fulfil. "They've watched old programmes and seen people buy places for as little as £50,000. They may have managed that last year but prices have been creeping up and it would be difficult to find something for that now." Coleman does believe, however, that the country still offers great value. Her firm is selling a new coastal development at picturesque Knysna, around five hours' drive from Cape Town, where three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments on this luxury gated development overlooking the lagoon start at £115,000.

Britons find current prices attractive but crime is still a major concern for many. Rod Pringle, who works for County Homesearch in Johannesburg, comments: "Sure, there is crime, as there is anywhere where there are haves and have-nots, but we've relocated around 4,500 people so far to South Africa and, while we've lost a few to illness and accidents, I'm happy to say that we haven't lost any to crime as we've housed them safely and given them advice." Pringle believes that South Africa is now a safer alternative to some parts of Europe: "You can protect yourself against crime but we don't have terrorism here, which is very difficult to guard against."

Pringle also protects his buyers' interests throughout the process, warning of "traps for the unwary". He urges buyers to take advice before signing anything: "If you see something you like, an agent will whip out the paper and ask you to sign immediately but this is a binding contract and you must make sure to insert any conditions that the sale is reliant upon at this early stage." County Homesearch finds properties all over the country for increasing numbers of foreign investors and, while Johannesburg is not a traditional holiday destination, Pringle believes that it offers sound investment potential as many South Africans are returning and need rental property. He also believes that Johannesburg could appeal to the retirement market: "If people aren't bothered about being on the coast they will find that the weather here is better and property is much cheaper than on the Cape."

Ocean Estates: 0027 214 172 600; www.oceanestates.com

Engel & Völkers 0027 21 670 9860

World Class Homes: 0800 731 4713; www.worldclasshomes.co.uk

County Homesearch: 0027 11 320 5808

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