03 Jan 2013
Belfast in Mpumalanga's trout belt is not only a preferred destination for fly-fishermen, it is also reeling in investors who anticipate a bright future for the town.
Francois de Villiers, owner of the RealNet franchise for Belfast says the interest in undeveloped stands picked up a year ago but has accelerated recently because plans for a new high-altitude training centre for athletes at the Belfast dam will go ahead.
The R400 million project is an initiative of the Mpumalanga government and is expected to draw local and overseas athletes who elect to train at high altitude for international events.
Investors expect demand for rental accommodation will spike once the facility opens and are buying undeveloped stands with a view to building suitable units, says De Villiers.
Prices have dropped since the recession and “burger erven” of 2 855 square metres are now available at prices of between R150 000 and R250 000, depending on location and municipal services. This contrasts with prices that started at R250 000 before the recession hit.
De Villiers says local building costs vary between R4 500 per square metre for basic structures and R5 000 to R8 000 per square metre for luxury homes. Municipal rates vary between R100 and R300 a month.
Current buyers are mainly investors from Gauteng who have money for the 40 percent deposit that banks require before financing undeveloped land, or investors who can buy stands outright for cash. Some new residents in town are also investing in the stands.
De Villiers says some investors expect a growth spurt for the town thanks to the proposed expansion of local coal mines, which would boost employment and the demand for housing.
He underwrites this view and predicts that Belfast may become a second Middelburg as far as industrial development is concerned.
"Concerns that mining activities might adversely affect the town's leisure and tourism sectors are probably misplaced since any expansion is limited to outlying areas because of sensitive and protected wetlands around the town," he says.
The wetlands remain a tourist attraction, while the many fishing spots, lodges and other establishments catering for fly-fishermen remain popular among enthusiasts from Gauteng, who can reach the town within two hours for a convenient weekend getaway.
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