A recent increase in the number of apartment blocks in Grahamstown has created a surplus of accommodation and left some property owners desperate to find tenants – to the point where one landlord was even willing to advertise free pizza with the lease. In the last two years more than 12 new flat complexes with an average of 20 flats per complex have been constructed.
A recent increase in the number of apartment blocks in Grahamstown has created a surplus of accommodation and left some property owners desperate to find tenants – to the point where one landlord was even willing to advertise free pizza with the lease. In the last two years more than 12 new flat complexes with an average of 20 flats per complex have been constructed. “Flat to rent” and “reduced rent” posters are plastered across notice boards around town, speaking volumes about the current housing market situation. In the past, returning Rhodes University student Megan Evershed said she used to hurry to secure her next year's accommodation because, “only the most derelict houses would be left if I hadn’t signed a lease by August”. This no longer seems to be the case, and a trip to most of the rental agencies in the city will offer prospective tenants extensive lists of available properties. “Currently, we have 48 rooms available which is the most we’ve ever had at this time of year,” said Robyn Cooper, co-owner of the Homelet agency. She added that, “the demand for flats and housing is high but so is the demand for a low rental fee. Big houses are suffering and their prices have dropped dramatically”. One property's rental at Homelet was priced at R2 300 a month, but it dropped to R1 500, Cooper said. Other agencies reported similar experiences to italGrocott's Mail/ital, except for a few newer players in the Grahamstown property game, like Harcourts. Its owner, Jean-Pierre Pienaar, said that there is an over-supply of flats in the city, “but because we are new and have a controllable portfolio it doesn’t affect us. He said that all of their properties are occupied, however, it probably will affect us within five to six years”. One agent, who wished to remain anonymous, felt strongly that flats are “terribly overpriced” owing to Grahamstown’s niche market: students. Despite this, the Grahamstown manager of Pam Golding Properties, Mandy Burgess said that they rent out more flats than houses. “Simply because there are more flats available for rent,” she said. Many landlords have now added extra services and lowered rental fees to attract tenants for fear of paying bonds on vacant properties. Also, houses that were previously rented to students are now on the market because they can't compete anymore. “There is a woman who has rented [with Homelet]for 30 years and has now added services like ADSL in order to halt the migration to flats, Cooper said. What’s more, she wanted to buy the lessees pizza once a month, but we persuaded her not to.”