Upington is a town of contrasts in a province of contrasts – a town of sweltering summer days and freezing winter nights, a town of lush green lawns surrounded by desert, a town where wine tasting and sunset cruising blend happily with extreme sports and serious agri-business.
It is also a town with a very lively property market, says local Rawson Property Group franchisee Filon Smit, with about 300 home sales a year and strong demand for farms and smallholdings in the surrounding areas.
“Upington is really growing,” she says, “thanks to the upgrading of our airport a few years ago which has enabled local farmers to significantly increase their exports of wine, table grapes, karakul wool, beef, mutton and other products, and has also opened the whole area up to many more tourists.
“This has encouraged more investment here – both private and public - such as the development over the past three years of a new super-regional shopping mall with over 70 stores and restaurants, a R1-billion new district hospital and the huge Khi Solar One solar thermal power plant that began operating earlier this year.
“These projects have created hundreds of new jobs here and boosted the demand for housing which has, in turn, encouraged to the development of several new residential estates and complexes.”
Upington is situated on the northern banks of the Orange River, in the heart of what is known as the “Green Kalahari”, and is surrounded by irrigated crop farms and, further afield, large sheep, cattle and game farms. It is home to the biggest wine co-operative in SA, the Orange River Wine Cellars, and it exports more than 1-million tonnes of table grapes and sultanas a year.
Citrus, dates, wheat and vegetables are also grown, farming and agricultural processing are the major job creators in the area, Smit says, but tourism is a close second and growing, thanks to a wealth of local attractions and the attention the area is gaining worldwide because of the Bloodhound Project – the upcoming land speed record attempt that will take place at Hakskeenpan.
“At about 780km from Gauteng and 820km from Cape Town, Upington might seem a bit remote to be a major tourist destination but it is the closest large town to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Augrabies National Park and the Richtersveld World Heritage Site known globally for its desert plant diversity, so it is an increasingly sought-after destination for wildlife tourists, especially now that there are daily flights available from Johannesburg’s international airport.
“Other attractions include opportunities to go river rafting, camel riding and on 4x4 adventure routes, and we also have an annual Raisin Festival, Kalahari Kuierfees, Gemsbok motorcycle rally and the SA Dried Fruit triathlon. Then for those who would prefer a slower-paced holiday we have our own wonderful wine route, excellent birding tours, sundowner cruises and a lovely “desert” golf course adjacent to a casino.”
The town also offers a wide range of real estate options, she says, to suit all types of buyer, including newly-built two and three-bedroom homes in the Augrabies Park estate in Blydeville that are perfect for first-time buyers at prices from just under R600 000, and two-bedroom apartments in own for around R700 000
“We are also marketing pre-owned family homes with three bedrooms and large gardens in Rosedale, Bellevue and Flora Park at prices between R900 000 and R1,25 million, and brand new three-bedroom homes in the Bella Rosa security estate at prices from R1,55 million. This estate is close to the Kalahari Mall, the Mediclinic private hospital and top schools.”
Smit says homes in the under-R1 million price range are in high demand, with about one-third of all current buyers being young people in their 20s and early 30s who are seeking to purchase their first home. “However, there is even greater demand from families – parents between the ages of 35 and 50 who work here or own businesses here and whose children are in school or in college here. They are usually buying for the second or third time and usually have a deposit so they can afford to buy for more.
“Also popular with those moving up the ladder are three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in areas such as Blydeville, Extension 1, Keidebees, Middelpos, Oosterville and Rand that are priced at around R1,6 million to about R2,2 million, while at the top end of the market, executive homes sell for an average of about R3,8 million.”
Then in the luxury sector, she says, Rawson Properties Upington franchise, currently has some very grand homes listed for sale at prices between R5 million and R8,5 million, including a seven-bedroom designer home right on the riverfront.
“In addition, we have properties available for those who wish to relocate to Upington to farm. Those on our books at the moment include a 34ha irrigation farm with a large two-bedroom home that is priced at R10,8 million , and a 7400ha livestock farm with good water supplies, excellent infrastructure and three-bedroom farmhouse that is priced at R26 million.”