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EC town's market growing

15 Aug 2008
A mere 1,600 municipal bills are posted out each month to residents of Steytlerville, a small town that lies 170km north of Port Elizabeth in what is known as the Baviaans area.

Yet, despite its rural setting and small stature, its infrastructure and population are growing, says Jane Zaayman, marketing manager for Baviaans Tourism.

"You won't find any major shops here," says Zaayman, of the little Karoo town that sits at the north eastern entrance of the Baviaanksloof, which is a World Heritage Site.

She adds that interest in the locale is likely to receive further impetus from events such as Stars of the Karoo Rainbow Festival, to take place from 26 to 28 September.

As the wool and mohair centre of the southeastern corner of the Great Karoo, Steytlerville's best employment opportunities lie in farming. Hunting and, to a lesser degree, tourism are its other main economic drivers, she continues. The town's appeal also lies in its Olde World architecture, which extends from Victorian to Georgian and Cape Dutch.

Typical of an era gone by, many of these houses front directly on to pavements, with the bulk of their land in the form of spacious backyards.

According to local estate agent Linda Henderson of Henderson Properties, the earliest recorded sales in Steytlerville took place in 1880, when vacant plots of land were auctioned for between £30 and £80 each.

Nearly 130 years later, vacant plots are selling from R50k to R60k while the cheapest home in the town, a two bedroom, one bathroom Victorian Karoo style-cottage, has a price tag of just under R300k.

At the top end of its residential housing sector, a three-bedroom house changed hands for a little less than R600k a few months ago, which Henderson says is considered expensive by residents.

"The country's property boom of five or six years ago was even felt in Steytlerville," she says of the property growth experienced by the town since 2003.

"Growth here has doubled over the past five years, but like all property investments, slowed down slightly in the last year."

The town, which caught the national eye after the nearby Baviaanskloof was awarded World Heritage status, is now being increasingly sought after by people "semigrating" there as a counter move against life in the fast lane, she notes further. Since it also serves as a short cut between Addo and Oudtshoorn, it holds growing appeal for tourists "who want to see what's beyond the mountains when they revisit the area".

Describing Steytlerville as an "authentic Karoo town, not a theme park", she says many of its homes, though in need of revamping, offer Olde World attributes. These include sash windows, some still with their original glass. "The glass dates back to pre-1910, testimony to the low levels of break-ins experienced by our town," she tells.

For those interested in making a living from the land, Linda Olivier of Linda Olivier Properties says the wide open spaces around Steytlerville cater for a range of farming interests. According to Olivier, who specialises in farm sales throughout the Eastern Cape, livestock farming requires the largest financial investment, not least of all since a viable concern generally comprises at least 5,000 hectares. Depending on the existing infrastructure and carrying capacity, she says the cost can be anywhere from R1,500 to R15k per hectare.

Those currently on the market in the Steytlerville area include a 38-hectare property with an ablution block, going for R300k; a 60-hectare farm with a small cottage, a few head of game and a price ticket of R480k; and a 5,600 hectare working small stock farm for R11,8m.

For more information contact Linda Olivier Properties on 072 253 3038.

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