Cape Town – While migrant labourers have for decades left their families behind in rural communities to work in the mines and factories in Johannesburg, a new type is emerging: The migrant executive.
While the labourers left their families in places like the poverty-stricken Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), their bosses from Johannesburg and Nelspruit have moved their families to luxury estates on the KZN North Coast, while they remain in the hot seat for most of the week and fly home on the weekend.
The regional airport’s move from the Bluff south of Durban to the North Coast – now called King Shaka International Airport - just before the World Cup, was a major advantage to this lifestyle choice.
Sales director at Home and Country, Peter Cameron, who sells real estate at the luxury coastal estate of Brettenwood Coastal Estate on the North Coast, said this trend has paid off for the top five estates in the area.
His estate recently won an award at the African Property Awards and is now eligible for the International Property Awards title, which will be announced in Dubai next month.
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Marketing strategy key
Cameron said that they sold R250m worth of property in 2013, which was achieved through a stellar team effort and a good marketing strategy.
Brettenwood markets itself as the most exclusive estate in South Africa. There are no restaurants or golf estates for visitors to use; and there is no external holiday letting or short-term leases. “If you see someone walking down the road, they’ve got a vested interest in the estate,” he said.
A challenge Cameron faced was changing the perception that Brettenwood was a retirement village, as only a third of its site was earmarked for that purpose.
“We changed our marketing strategy to attract younger families and tore down all the signs that had anything to do with retirement,” he said. “That was when the momentum started to swing our way. We made it a lifestyle estate and took away the connotation of being a retirement village.”
Making development easy
Brettenwood is named after the estate’s owner and resident, Brett Hulett, whose family started Tongaat Hulett and owned land from Durban to Richard’s Bay.
“As a developer, if you own the land, half your problem is done,” said Cameron. “Tongaat Hulett, to their credit, has an outstanding strategy and they’ve shaped Umhlanga and they shape towns as they go along.
“Owning the land means that when you want to build estates and do the top structure, you can borrow against the land you already own,” he said. “It makes financing easy, whereas right now, it’s not easy to get development finance. The banks aren’t really looking at residential property to invest into massive estates at the moment.”
The new mega-city
Cameron said as marketers they had been punting the North Coast as the new city for the past decade, but it has only started becoming a reality in the last year.
“Before it was just hot air and we were hoping it was going to happen, but now for the first time ever, we have a few traffic problems in Ballito,” he said. “People are flooding into this town and buying into gated estates.”
He said Ballito and the North Coast is following the trend of Umhlanga. “The idea is that Umhlanga and Ballito [which are 40km apart] will eventually join,” he said. “It will form a megalopolis or mega-city … sooner than Pretoria and Johannesburg do it. It’s happening at such a pace.”
He said the beach side of the freeway would become the upmarket side of the North Coast (with houses in five years not selling for below R5m) and then on the other side of the N2 freeway, there would be a growing commercial and industrial business zone as well as residential nodes (with houses going for about R1 in five years).
Service delivery challenges
While major road upgrades and water infrastructure developments have been completed, a testing aspect for developers is electricity, which Cameron says can be a thorny issue.
“Every developer has had problems and there are numerous court cases going on at the moment, especially with regards to electricity,” he said.
Umgeni Water, which runs the delivery of water to the region, has invested millions in infrastructure upgrades to prepare for the growth, which Cameron said was a positive step for the area. “At least Umgeni Water is doing something about it,” he said.
“We will reap the benefits of the effort they put in.”