St Francis Bay of plenty

ST FRANCIS Bay, the picturesque village on the Sunshine Coast where the price for a canal-side home averages anywhere from R4.5-million to R10-million, has long been a playground for the wealthy.

However, on the back of rising living costs and a concurrent lack of real estate price growth in the area, some owners are offloading their properties for less than their original purchase price.

That’s according to Esme Welman, principal of Harcourts St Francis Bay, who says limited growth in local property prices over the last three years, along with heightened budgetary constraints for consumers across the board, has created a rare window of opportunity for non-millionaire buyers.

Midway between Port Elizabeth and Knysna, the quaint town has a unique character that lies in its white-walled, thatched roof houses, canal system, pristine beaches and balmy climate. In addition, it boasts a Top 10 championship golf course set within the St Francis Bay Links Golf Estate, where Welman says it’s possible to pick up a vacant stand for under R300000.

“Plots, in particular, are generating a lot of interest among people looking for bargain investments,” she says. “People feel confident that when they buy in upmarket areas such as St Francis Bay, they are investing in the future. This sentiment, along with positive, albeit it minimal, national house growth, is attracting strong interest from buyers looking for affordable seaside properties.

“A lot of our buyers are South Africans working on contract in Egypt, Dubai, Ghana and neighbouring countries.

“They’re earning good money and want to invest some of it in a bargain property or buy a holiday place for their families for the future.

“We’ve also seen our website hits from China and Russia jump from three or four to up to 40 and 10 respectively in recent times.”

Most in demand are homes in the R1.3-million to R2-million price range, and plots for between R145000 and R400000.

Buyers with serious spending power have a selection of ultra-luxury homes from which to choose, the most expensive of Welman’s listings being an 850m² canal-side mansion for R18.5-million.

The “architectural masterpiece” offers seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a cinema room, heated indoor pool, library with coffee station, jacuzzi, slide open roof to enjoy star gazing and its own mooring.

Owing to its status as a top holiday destination, St Francis Bay makes good sense for investors, she says.

“Owners of luxury homes are achieving rental returns of up to R5000 a day during the hot seasons, which typically extend over December and January, and April. Aside from South Africans, we also get a lot of visitors from overseas who rent for three or four months at a time to escape their extreme winters.

“They are willing to pay high sums of money, sometimes as much as R60000 a month, for the best quality homes.”

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