Megarich black buyers snapping up luxury properties

2014-02-23 10:00

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The face of luxury-property ownership in South Africa is changing, with more megawealthy black buyers snapping up premium properties in sought-after suburbs.

Real estate bosses agree that “trophy homes” along Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard, in leafy Pretoria East, and in Johannesburg’s Sandhurst and Hyde Park, are in increasingly high demand with black buyers.

FNB’s latest quarterly Estate Agent Survey report shows that the percentage of black, Asian and coloured suburban buyers rose from 43% in 2005 to 51.7% last year.

Research has found particularly strong growth in the demand for upper-income homes. In keeping with affluent buyers across race groups, this market segment appears to have a penchant for sea views, up-market security complexes and “contemporary homes”.

In its 2013 Property Report, data provider Lightstone notes “soaring growth in luxury black ownership” over the past 10 years, in spite of the general slump in the property market.

Andrew Watt, manager director of Lightstone, says black ownership in the luxury-property market – properties valued at R1.5 million or more – has more than doubled from 3.3% to 7.8% in the past decade.

“This is clearly attributable to the increasing spending power of the middle- to upper-income black consumer,” said Watt.

Seeff Sandton’s managing director, Charles Vining, described between 30% and 45% of its buyers as “black diamonds”.

“They tend to be in the age group of 30 to 60 and are interested in property of R20 million and upwards,” he said.

These buyers “prefer modern and contemporary homes”, he said, adding that areas of preference include “Hyde Park and specifically Sandhurst”.

In Centurion, Seeff boss Steve van Wyk said property in up-market security complexes were popular with black buyers, which now constitute up to 15% of sales.

“They are most interested in properties between R3 million and R10 million. The up-market security estates in the area are a particular attraction,” he said.

In Pretoria East, which includes the plush suburb of Waterkloof, Seeff boss Gerhard van der Linde estimated sales – with price tags of mostly between R2 million and R3 million – to black clients at 10%.

Managing director at Seeff’s Atlantic seaboard branch, Ian Slot, said sea-flanking villas in Clifton, Camps Bay, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay topped the shopping lists of black upper middle-class buyers, particularly in the R5 million bracket.

But aside from local black buyers, estate agents say that sales of property to buyers from other African countries are booming.

Last year, a businessman from Ghana forked out R65 million for a Bantry Bay property at the foot of Lion’s Head overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The house comes complete with a “braai pavilion”, a swimming pool, plus palm island and an outdoor boma with ample space for a campfire.

The interior is decked out in silver grey-veined granite tiles imported from China.

An indoor water feature connects its east and west wings.

“Some of our top sales have been to buyers from oil-rich African countries,” said Atlantic seaboard real estate agent Denise Dogon, who brokered the sale.

Ian Slot agreed. “There has also been significant growth in buyers from Africa, especially the petrorich countries, such as Nigeria and Angola, over the past two years. They buy high-value properties.”

Slot sold eight properties to Nigerian buyers last year – including a R30 million Bantry Bay villa and a R25 million apartment overlooking the V&A Waterfront – and four to Zimbabwean homeowners.

In Camps Bay, he sold a R20 million villa to a Congolese buyer and a R30 million mansion to an Angolan buyer last year.

Dali Tambo watches his suburb change – slowly

When television talk show personality DaliTambo and his family moved to Saxonwold, the neighbours brought cake to welcome them.

The family’s first reaction was: “Should we eat it?”

Those reservations came from the People of the South presenter’s first ­experience of trying to buy a home for his parents, struggle icons Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, in Benoni. There, neighbours threatened to get together and buy the house themselves to ­prevent a black family from moving in.

Dali Tambo eventually found a home for his parents in Sandhurst and, in the early 1990s, bought a double-storey mansion for himself, his wife and ­children in quiet, wealthy and extremely white Saxonwold.

“I was very conscious that these suburbs were very white. At that time the only black people you saw were security guards and domestic workers.”

His was the first black and multiracial family on the street.

But things are changing.

“In a sense it’s lovely because it’s ­becoming a multiracial suburb, but it’s happening very slowly. I expected a bigger influx of black South Africans, but it turned out to be a much smaller number. It’s a very slow, almost drip-by-drip penetration and transformation of the suburb.

“I’ve seen that when black South ­Africans move into suburbs, they want to make it very clear to all observers that they should have always been in those areas.

“I would not call the new people here flashy. It’s really about not feeling ­inferior. Regardless of the suppression of apartheid, people feel like they have succeeded and they are equal in every way.

“These feelings are manifested in the suburbs they buy houses in, a certain car, a certain level of education for their children. This is not pretentious. It’s how it would have been if we had more back then.”

He’s also noticed the change in his children’s schools.

“St John’s College and Roedean School have changed dramatically. I see the kids at Roedean with so much self-confidence and verve. It’s so ­inspiring to have succession, where black parents invest in the education of their children.

“But then you have to reconcile that with whether to stay in Soweto, while your child travels so early in the morning to school, or move closer to your child’s school?”

In the end, the Tambos ate the ­neighbours’ cake.

But there have been other uncomfortable incidents.

Recently a woman approached the gate to ask about buying the Cadillac parked in the yard.

“I was in the garden that day and this woman kept asking for the owner and I kept saying, ‘I am the owner’, but she wouldn’t stop asking for the master of the house. That made me laugh. She finally understood that she was ­standing at my gate.”

Happy neighbours in Bunkers Hill

Advocate Selby Mbenenge and his family are among the only black people living in their street in a posh East London suburb.

This isn’t a problem, though. Mbenenge says they were welcomed to quiet, affluent Bunkers Hill five years ago with “open arms”.

There are no culture clashes. Recently, when the Mbenenge family held a traditional ceremony, they made sure to let their neighbours know what to expect. In return, parties are never a surprise here. Neighbours always inform one other to make sure there are no noise complaints or problems.

Bunkers Hill overlooks Eastern Beach and was previously the preserve of the white middle class. But as with other up-market areas like Gonubie and Beacon Bay, more and more of the city’s emerging black middle class are moving in.

Mbenenge won’t say how much the house – which he shares with his wife, Sabs, their three children and a grandchild – cost.

He puts the value at “way over R5?million”. It’s a double storey with six bedrooms, a large kitchen, a study, music room, a playroom with a pool table and table tennis table, a television room – he calls it his “mini cinema” – and an outdoor swimming pool.

“I love it here. My family and I are comfortable, and we are enjoying the house. It’s a beautiful home,” he says.

Some of the home’s other selling points included its proximity to the sea and the fact that Bunkers Hill is quiet, friendly and secure.

“My family loves it here. The sea is just a stone’s throw away. My offices [chambers] are just around the corner. It’s a dream home. I thank God because these are His blessings.”

He has no plans to move out any time soon.

“What more could one ask for?”

They were warmly welcomed to Bunkers Hill from their previous home in the suburb of Bonnie Doone by their mostly white ­neighbours.

“My neighbours and I have a very good ­understanding. They welcomed me with open arms. Even now we are staying in harmony with neighbourly love.”

By the numbers

According to Census 2011, black African residents make up these percentages of top suburbs:


Houghton Estate






Hyde Park



La Lucia







Waterkloof Ridge




Cape Town



Camps Bay





Bendor Park


Port Elizabeth






Additional reporting by Lubabalo Ngcukana and Athandiwe Saba

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