Commercial boom in Jeffreys Bay

25 Jul 2007

Jeffreys Bay is in the throes of a commercial boom in which demand for offices, retail property and businesses has overtaken that of residential demand.

Whether or not the made-for-cell phone and television series "J-Bay" captures the international limelight as did its 1996 predecessor "Endless Summer", the Eastern Cape town of Jeffreys Bay will continue on a growth path that is being fueled by buyers from around the globe.

So says J-Bay estate agent Hennie Griezel, who owns the local franchise of Realty I International Property Group. "Since the local making of the hit surfer movie "Endless Summer", Jeffreys Bay has become a world-renowned surfing destination," he says of the town that was once just a small fishing village. "But," he adds, "there is a lot more to the town than its surfing status, not least of all being its growing popularity among expatriate and investor buyers whose main communication channel is the Internet."

According to Griezel, Jeffreys Bay is in the throes of a commercial boom in which demand for offices, retail property and businesses has overtaken that of residential demand. Enquiries are coming into his office on a daily basis now, many from afar afield as the UK, Holland and Germany. Dividing these enquiries into two groups, he says the first comprises requests for viable businesses predominantly in the fields of retail and light industry. Buyer interest is mainly from expatriates planning their return to South Africa and wanting to set themselves up in business with their foreign earnings.

The second interest group is that of local and foreign investors who are buying up commercial and retail property ahead of residential stock, he continues. They are then leasing out their properties which are showing healthy returns and cause them less hassle than residential buy-to-let stock.

"Jeffreys Bay is a town packed with investment and entrepreneurship opportunities, which have sprung up around its growth in the last two years," Griezel says. Pointing out that the town's permanent population has risen to around 25 000 in the last 24 months, and that its visitor numbers have swelled to around 200 000 per annum, he says this indicates the town's scope for major commercial growth.

Right now, though, Griezel says there is a major need for developers to work closely with the local authorities and estate agents in order to ensure continued momentum in the residential market. "Jeffreys Bay is one of the few coastal villages in South Africa where reasonably priced stock abounds, particularly new units in retirement homes, golf and equestrian estates. It's this very abundance that needs to be controlled if we are to avoid a glut in the market when thousands of new units are offloaded within the next three months."

According to Griezel, there are about 1 800 units coming out of the ground from the Kabeljouws development, another 200 from Wavecrest and well over 3 000 from the two golf estates alone. "Unless these units are released in stages, we're going to experience a situation where supply exceeds demand, which might be good for buyers from a bargaining point of view but not so good for the developers and overall market activity."

Griezel believes this stock swell is a call for the local authorities to market the town more proactively, starting with putting up signs along the road to Humansdorp. "Jeffreys Bay needs a renewed approach to marketing - one that does not only promote it as one of the world's top five surfing spots but that also highlights its other attractions, not least being a burgeoning commercial and retail sector set within a seaside resort atmosphere."

According to Griezel, Jeffreys Bay is not only ideal for retirees but also young families, owing to its many outdoor attractions and proximity to nature reserves. Despite lacking its own high school at this point, he says Humansdorp, just 7 km away, offers a full range of educational facilities.

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