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Buying close to schools and churches

07 Jul 2014

For a while, I lived near a graveyard or cemetery in Montgomery Park in Johannesburg and used to get the 'where did you say you live again' when the word cemetery was thrown into the sentence.

Located at De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate in Stellenbosch, this five bedroom home is selling for R14.5 million through Pam Golding Properties Stelllenbosch. Click here to view.

The complex was overlooking the West Park Cemetery so giving directions was easy, 'look out for the cemetery and you will be at my place'.

Weekends were often busy days with burials taking place or people visiting their lost ones to place flowers on the graves.

Now, however, I am not so sure I could live close to a graveyard again, although, many may be considered peaceful places.

Located on Beyers Naude and opened in 1942, Westpark Cemetery is a large cemetery in Johannesburg and is the resting place of some of the country's well-known citizens.

It is a non-denomination designated burial ground, and thus has Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Chinese burial areas.

According to Wikipedia, it was part of one of Johannesburg's original farms, Farm Waterval, which was bought in 1887 by two Geldenhuys brothers in the hope of finding gold.

So famous is La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that in 2011 the BBC hailed it as one of the world’s best cemeteries and in 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. click here to view.

While they did not find gold, Louw Geldenhuys employed Boer War veterans to build the Emmarentia Dam, and leased smallholdings with fruit trees.

Suburbs close to the cemetery include Montgomery Park where a one bedroom apartment can cost as little as R510 000 at a complex nearby, with some two bedroom apartments selling for over R1 million.

View property for sale in Montgomery Park here.

There is also the convenience of Emmarentia, Melville, Cresta and Northcliff being close by.

Apart from the traffic jams that come with big burial events and the inconvenience of driving through to your house, I have found schools and places of worship in some cases carry a level of inconvenience if one’s property is almost directly looking at some of these locations.

This got me thinking, while cemeteries can cause traffic jams on busy days schools and places of worship can have a similar impact too. 
Property24 caught up with some estate agents who sell and rent out property close to all three locations and the findings are that all are not as bad as one may think.
In Western cultures, funeral ceremonies are often observed in cemeteries. These ceremonies or rites of passage differ according to cultural practices and religious beliefs.

Located in Durban North, this five bedroom home is selling for R5.295 million through Pam Golding Properties Durban North/La Lucia. Click here to view.

Modern cemeteries often include crematoria, and some grounds previously used for both, continue as crematoria as a principal use long after the interment areas have been filled. Read more here.

While the thought of a cemetery causes some to frown, in Argentina for example, La Recoleta Cemetery located in Buenos Aires, is a huge tourist attraction.

People pay to check out the 5.5ha site which contains 4 691 graves all above ground, of which 94 have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state.

The entrance to the cemetery is through neo-classical gates with tall Doric columns while the cemetery itself contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic, and most materials used between 1880 and 1930 in the construction of tombs were imported from Paris and Milan.

The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums, according to Wikipedia.

So famous is this cemetery that in 2011, the BBC hailed it as one of the world’s best cemeteries and in 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world.

Located in Grahamstown is Graeme College. Click here to view.

Buying near cemeteries

According to Daphne Timm, Pam Golding Properties (PGP) area principal in Grahamstown, buying property is all about location, so whether you buy near a cemetery is dependent on your personal approach to the matter, and essentially, a cemetery is an open space, so you need to consider this also when making your purchase decision.

In Grahamstown, she notes that there is a cemetery behind Kingswood College and while these properties sell, they sit on the market for a while before they find buyers.

“This time lag in selling may ultimately impact on the value of the property,” says Timm.

Meanwhile, Carol Reynolds, PGP area principal in the Durban North and La Lucia areas, says it is not ideal to buy property situated adjacent to any of the above locations, due to traffic congestion and noise levels.

“It is better to buy property in a suburb that offers all of the above, but the property should be a few blocks away to offer convenience without disturbance.”

Priced at R9.9 million, this five bedroom home in Hout Bay is selling through Cape Waterfront Estates. Click here to view.

Seeff Licensee in Randburg, Tony Ketcher says take West Park Cemetery for example, many people buy close to this location as it tends to be quiet with minimal traffic congestion.

And while he cannot say buying close to this location has impacted on property prices, there are still many buyers who would choose not to purchase near a cemetery - this could be to do with security concerns (open land), and possibly the fear of  regular disturbances and traffic, for example.  

According to Margie MacKenzie, director of Cape Waterfront Estates, cemeteries are usually located on the outskirts of towns in Cape Town so they do not impact on where people buy as well as property prices.

Annien Borg, managing director of PGP in the Boland and Overberg regions, says it depends on the size of the cemetery, how well it is maintained and from a security point of view it may be a place where negative elements can hide. 

PGP Hyde Park joint area manager, Jonathan Davies says cemeteries are a slightly different matter, but again whether one wishes to live near to one is a matter of personal preference.

He notes that cemeteries may also be considered attractive, green open spaces, pointing out that Montgomery Park is a good example of a suburb situated alongside a cemetery.

“It is difficult to say with any certainty whether the location of the cemetery has any impact on property prices in the area but, if it has, we believe it to be negligible.”

Property locations close to schools

 Timm says buying close to schools is an absolute must because of the excellent resale value – nothing beats the location and ability of children walking down the road to school.

“The value of properties close to school locations will just increase annually as there are only so many – therefore the demand is demand.”

In Grahamstown, this three bedroom home is selling for R1.9 million through Pam Golding Properties Grahamstown. Click here to view.

Families who cannot afford to buy will rent property and she points out that homes close to schools and within walking distance tend to be snapped up as soon as they come onto the market, what’s more, these properties attract a much higher return.

Examples in Grahamstown include Graeme College in Oatlands North, DSG in Westhill, VGHS and PJ Olivier in Sunnyside and Kingswood College in Oatlands.

In Durban, Reynolds believes homes close to schools retain their value, provided they are not directly adjacent to the property.

“A suburb with excellent schools tends to have constant demand with the result that homes within these nodes maintain their value.”

She explains that both Durban North and Berea are classic examples of suburbs where demand is largely driven by proximity to schools.

Both suburbs house good schools that have shown consistent growth and ongoing demand.

For example, Upper Morningside which is home to Clifton and DPHS continues to retain its value. Similarly Upper and Central Durban North are in high demand, with an abundance of good schools within a 10km radius.

In the Western Cape, Borg says buying property near good schools is always a good idea especially in areas like the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town and towns like Paarl, Stellenbosch and Somerset West

Kenridge in Durbanville, in the Cape Town Northern Suburbs is the suburb surrounding the Kenridge Primary School. 

Here buyers are young families with school-going children and stock shortages are quite high as homeowners tend to hold onto to their properties till their children complete schooling, says Borg.

The Cape Town Hebrew Congregation Gardens Shul was founded in 1841 making it the oldest Congregation in South Africa and one of the oldest in the Southern hemisphere. It is regarded as the Mother Synagogue of South Africa and is a centre for community events and celebrations. Click here to view.

“Areas close to schools are in demand and have always shown good returns.”

MacKenzie, says on places of worship, it depends on the religious orientation of a population, as an example, some religious groups choose to live close to their place of worship and may place extra value in this and it may in fact escalate the demand for properties in those areas.

Good examples would be areas such as Sea point and Bantry Bay with a large population of Jewish people choosing to live close to their communities and the many Schuls.

Suburbs that house top schools and universities also can command higher than average prices as being close to educational facilities is often regarded as beneficial for the younger families with school-going children, notes Mackenzie.

“With the high cost of fuel, some suburbs in Cape Town such as Rondebosch, Newlands, Constantia, Higgovale and Tamboerskloof may be in further demand.”

According to Ketcher, one of the most significant factors that buyers with children consider is proximity to schools and this often will take priority over workplace considerations.

“In our trading area we have a number of very well regarded English and Afrikaans public and private schools and we receive many requests for properties close to these schools.”

He thinks properties near Trinityhouse in Randpark Ridge and Curro Aurora in Sundowner are very sought after and to some extent this demand will create a premium on property prices.

“Buyers will always be realistic but I would suggest that one could pay up to between 5 and 10 percent premium on properties close to schools.”

Priced at R2.5 million, this five bedroom, four bedroom family home in Risidale is within walking distance to the Northcliff Mosque. It is selling through Seeff Randburg. Click here to view.

Furthermore, he says, he believes parents feel much more comfortable knowing that their children are close by and also the proximity to schools reduces transport difficulties.

Traffic congestion and fuel prices are big considerations to buyers and tenants.

Ketcher says obviously, with each of these elements concern about traffic impact is a big one – at most schools traffic humps ahve been constructed to slow traffic down, but for buyers with school-going children the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.

According to Davies, the location of schools is an important consideration for many families particularly as Johannesburg’s traffic volumes have greatly increased in recent years.

There are a number of outstanding private, public and international schools in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, all of which help to attract diverse groups of residents. St John’s College, Hyde Park High School, Parktown Girls’ High School, Rodean School, St Stithians Boy’s College, Brescia House, Ursaline Convent, Sandton Crawford College, Redhill School, St David’s Marist Inanda, The British International College, The French School Lycée Jules Verne and the American International School are just a few examples.

Each of these schools attracts a certain type of family to nearby neighbourhoods, he says. 

Places of worship

Properties close to places of worship do attract buyers and Timm has sold many properties close to places of worship, noting that property values will increase as per normal market value also taking into consideration, the supply and demand of those properties.

The Cathedral in Grahamstown is located in the CBD and there are 52 other churches in and around the suburbs, says Timm.

Reynolds points out that properties located close to places of worship with Upper and Central Durban North in are huge demand thanks to an abundance of places of worship within a 10km radius.

On places of worship, Borg says it depends on the dominant religion in the area, and individual preference.

“Every suburb in our area has a church, and usually these buildings are kept neat and therefore have no real negative effect on the prices in the area,” notes Borg.

Ketcher says for many buyers and certain communities/religions, places of worship are a consideration with many people, although not as significant as with schools.

In their experience, he says suburbs such as Emmarentia, Risidale and Montgomery Park have become very sought after because of the construction of mosques in those areas and they feel demand will exceed supply as buyers are prepared to pay a premium just to be near their place of worship.

For example, many people of the Jewish faith walk to the synagogue and would therefore consider it a great advantage to be located nearby. People of other faiths may similarly want to live close to their place of worship, says Davies.– Denise Mhlanga

About the Author
Denise Mhlanga

Denise Mhlanga

Property journalist at

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