A mud and stick house has been listed by a Swaziland retailer with an asking price of R20 000. The single-room hovel does not have running water, electricity or a bathroom. The primitive structure appears to be listing to one side and its corrugated iron roof is rusty.
Swaziland’s property market is in a tailspin. A decade ago when homes in some middle-class residential neighbourhoods in Mbabane and Manzini began selling for R1 million, surprised South African property companies began to set up branches in the country.
Swaziland’s continuing economic decline since then has taken its toll on housing prices for up-scale and middle-class homes, and inflated construction costs made worse by the introduction of VAT last year has brought new home construction to a virtual halt.
However, as more Swazis sink into poverty, the low-cost housing market is taking off.
The R20 000 hut is located in Mangozeni, a squatter township located near Malkerns.
Buyers who might scoff at the thought of spending so much on a broken down shack would be well advised to recall the property industry’s mantra, that property value is a matter of “location, location, location”.
“It’s a steal, actually, and someone willing to wait a bit might find their investment rise fivefold,” said Benjamin Khoza, a businessman in Malkerns.
Malkerns is transforming from a farming community to a residential town serving Mbabane, 20km to the west. Arts and crafts venues and the House on Fire performing arts complex, which is Swaziland’s largest cultural centre, have drawn affluent newcomers.
Informal settlements such as Mangozeni were thrown together to accommodate farmworkers who are leaving to find work elsewhere. New uses for the land are imminent.
“These peri-urban settlements are being incorporated into the towns they surround all over Swaziland. In Mbabane and Manzini, it is the same thing. A plot located in no-man’s land becomes a town plot, and it is worth something,” Khoza said.
The purchaser of the R20 000 hovel could see the land’s value rise to R100 000 if the township is incorporated into Malkerns.
If not, the new owner can keep on renting it out at its current fee of R140 a month.