A busy time for property agents as Knysna residents begin rebuilding

27 August 2017 - 13:18 By Petru Saal

More than two months ago a devastating fire swept through the Garden Route claiming the lives of seven people‚ destroying countless properties and leaving many destitute. Now‚ with Knysna in its rebuild phase‚ many who have lost their homes are once again entering the property market and starting over with the process of turning a house into a home.

Owner of Remax Coastal in Knysna Schalk Van Der Merwe said that property agents are busier now than they have been for some time.

“I think in retrospect this is a more exciting time for property agents than it was before the fires. To be honest‚ we haven’t been this busy for quite some time like we are now‚” he said.

But even with influx of potential property buyers‚ Van Der Merwe admits that their biggest challenge is finding a home for everyone.

“Before the fire‚ there was a shortage of homes. The fire only made it worse‚” he said.

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“Before the fires‚ someone who may have wanted to sell their home at R1.9-million may have received an offer of R1.6-million but now they will get an offer closer to R1.9-million because of the fact there is a shortage of homes.”

Van Der Merwe said that people are so desperate to settle again that he has had phone calls where people have told him that they saw a house burnt down and want to purchase the erf.

“We have sold a few erfs where the swimming or garage were the only thing left on the property. A lot of areas that have burnt down are going to be re-developed meaning you will see new development in old areas something you would not have seen otherwise.”

Thesen Island and Leisure Isle remain the sought after locations in Knysna ‚Van Der Merwe said. These areas weren’t affected by the fires at all - it was property in Knysna Heights and Paradise that suffered‚ he said.

Franchisee principal for Pam Golding in Knysna Ling Dobson‚ however‚ warns new buyers or those looking to rent that they need to consider the market when looking for a new home.

“I don’t think that it is factual when people say property prices have gone up after the fires. I don’t think that prices have skyrocketed. Unfortunately a lot of people who lost their homes had to start from scratch and so they are unaware of what the market price really was. I have not found prices escalating at all‚” she said.

On the contrary‚ Dobson maintains that property prices have remained consistent but also points to the fact that property is scarce in the coastal town.

“From a rental point of view there is very little stock available but overall I would actually say that the market has remained quite stable. Prices do go up but that is not because of the fires. A lot of people are blaming everything on the fire‚” she said.

Lizette Monk is not only a real estate agent for Jawitz Property in Knysna‚ she is also someone who can relate to her clients as she lost her home during the fires also.

“Rental prices have definitely increased after the fires. If you as a business owner know that there is a shortage in the market then you increase the price. You know that people will have to pay otherwise they are homeless‚” she said.

“Unfortunately we do have the situation where if you paid R6‚000 rent in the past you now pay R12‚000 for that same house. We don’t have that many homes for the middle class also because most of it was lost in the fire. There are more luxury homes available which your average family can’t afford to rent long term‚” said Monk.

The impending holiday season will again bring a new set of problems to people who in the meantime have sought refuge in holiday homes.

“In December we will have a big problem because we have people who are currently staying in holiday homes and then when the owners come to Knysna or the home is rented out for someone else during the holidays‚ then these people will have to move out and some won’t have anywhere to go. This is a big problem that awaits us.

“I am in that situation. I am currently staying in a guesthouse and I have to be out by December 15‚ but my daughter lives in Knysna and I have to move in with her till I can move back to the guest house.”