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Collins Residential secures R1bn Auria Senior Living estate for North Coast

Murray Collins, founding director of Collins Residential, talks about the group’s latest developments in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and why he is continuing to invest in the province despite the unrest in July.

The last time I chatted to Murray Collins, founding director of KZN-based estate developer Collins Residential, was back in November 2018. A lot has changed since then in South Africa, KZN and globally.

Besides the Covid-19 pandemic that has been with us for about 20 months, more recently in July we have seen the unrest and riots in KZN and parts of Gauteng.

Despite Covid-19 and the July unrest, Collins Residential is continuing its development pipeline in KwaZulu-Natal, largely on the North Coast. The private developer is behind the resurrection of the equestrian-themed estate near Sheffield Beach that is now simply being dubbed Seaton and is currently under development.

Next door to this is the Zululami Luxury Coastal Estate. Together these two developments are expected to see an investment of more than R10 billion over the next few years.

In this episode of The Property Pod, we are speaking to Murray Collins about the development of so-called ‘senior living estates’. Collins Residential recently signed a partnership deal with Rosebank-based Auria Senior Living, which will see the development of a billion-rand senior living community called Coral Cove within Zululami. 

Highlights of his interview appear below. You can also listen to the full podcast above or download it from iono, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

We’ve heard of retirement homes. We’ve heard of retirement estates. But what are ‘senior living’ estates or communities? Isn’t it the same thing, just a fancier name?

“It could be classified as that. The ‘senior living’ expression is really just a modernised description of the sector from the US and, as Auria is a world-class offering, they bring the US standards to Africa. So in effect, senior living, retirement communities, retirement estates are all the same thing.

“It doesn’t really matter what it’s called. I think the important thing is to worry about the continuum of care as one arrives independently, and at a senior living space with Auria you are cared for all the way to the end. The name isn’t important. What really is important is what is offered at the particular place that you choose to live.”

The deal with Auria Senior Living

“Auria bought a piece of land within Zululami. In essence what that means is that they will be putting up 230 homes out of the 700 offerings that we have in Zululami, making it a very multi-generational estate …

“That’s [the] standout thing about Auria. What they offer is simply world-class. Apart from the Michelin-type cuisine that you are offered, which is unbelievable, the experiential side is very important. Just because it’s senior living, it mustn’t imply that people stop living and enjoying themselves.

“With Auria and Zululami obviously the access to the beach is a wonderful thing; there are a lot of walks, bird life, reclaimed forests, and golf courses literally within close proximity.

“Being on the North Coast allows people to have a wonderful standard of living and an experiential way of life … ”

Collins Residential, Sheffield Beach, Zululami

An aerial view of part of the prime North Coast site, near Sheffield Beach, where the Zululami Luxury Coastal Estate in being developed in KZN. Image: Supplied

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“We are selling the land to Auria and they are developing it for their trust.”

“I think if you estimate 700 opportunities that we’re doing [within Zululami], and the infrastructure and the quality of clubhouses that we’ve put in, I would think it’s in excess of R3 billion once it’s all finished, so it’s a huge injection into the North Coast.”

Collins Residential is still investing in Zululami and has several other developments up its sleeve. You must be pretty confident to still want to invest in the province, even after the recent unrest in KZN?

“Absolutely … Yes, we are. As you know, we are investors in the North Coast, but also all over Africa and abroad. We really are positive and passionate about the North Coast.

“Just to quote the percentages in Zululami and Seaton, when we started selling there was roughly a 50/50 split between Gauteng and KZN buyers. But we are now 70% Gauteng and 30% KZN buyers. People are buying for lifestyle, and people are here to stay and people are positive. If you take our weather and you’d take our access and you take our standard of living up the North Coast, it really is a no-brainer.

“It is no surprise that Club Med then took so long to choose a site, and they chose the Natal North Coast to develop the new Club Med that hopefully will come on stream within the next two years.”

“So that in essence is a massive boost for South Africa – not only KZN but for South Africa – in the confidence which the world is showing.”

“I’d like also to just say that we have sold more than four houses to foreigners – Americans, Belgians, Germans and UK-based people. So it’s not only about us being positive, it’s about the world looking at us differently, saying, well, ‘There is a future in South Africa’.

“We’ve just got to make it positive and get on with it. All young democracies suffer from setbacks, which we saw a couple of months ago. Obviously we were very sad about that, but we’ve got to move forward positively, all get together and make the most of where we are.”

Other developments

“We’ve finished the town-planning at Seaton; all our approvals are in place. We’ve done R350 million in sales so far of the single residential sites – and we’ve released only a third of these sites. Only a sixth of the PUD [planned unit development] sites have been raised, and we have broken ground. So, effectively, the Seaton [development] is on its way.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to have a massive launch [for Seaton] owing to Covid, but watch this space.”

“We haven’t released any of the high-density precinct yet or the commercial [side]. So there’s lots to come. We’re very excited about Seaton and it’s going from strength to strength …”

“At the retirement village on Mount Edgecombe we are wrapping up some sales in Phase 2, and we’ll also be launching Phase 3, which is our last phase. Sales have been steady and consistent there.”

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“Our estate called Emberton, which is in Hillcrest, has basically finished Phase 2, which was sold out. Again, we’ll be launching Phase 3 in the new year, together with our ECD [early childhood development] school for 80 pupils, which is very exciting for the area. So, in essence, we’re coming to the end of our development at Mount Edgecombe and Emberton, and our concentration will be totally up the North Coast. We’re very excited about that.”

“We are going to launch an estate inland of Seaton, which I don’t really want to say too much about now – but it’s going to be very exciting and it’s a 600-unit/house development. It’ll be at a very good entry level. That will take place at the beginning of the year, next year, so we will launch that.

“Obviously our tourism business at the moment has had a terrible last two years, [but] we are very excited about the uptick in the recent couple of months in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the Seychelles.”

“Hopefully tourism comes on board … and, together with Club Med in a couple of years, tourism makes a massive comeback which is vital for this country, and we need to gear up for that.”

In total what’s the rand value of Collins Residential’s developments across KwaZulu-Natal?

“That’s a hard question to answer. I wouldn’t actually know … Seaton is a massive project and we’ve been involved with the Royal Shaka Property Group, which has about 4 500 hectares, to develop between Sheffield [beach] and KwaDukuza.

Read: New mega players in North Coast property boom

“So we’ve got enough land and potential development to last us the next 15 years. But to put a money context on it would be impossible at this stage.”

Concluding thoughts

“I just think, you know, we always hear the negative in life and [on] social media; it’s always the negative stuff that gets reported.

“I think it’s time for South Africans, who are very resilient by nature, to get positive and make a difference because that’s what is going to carry us forward.

“We know that mistakes have been made in the past, but I think we’ve got to look to the future and pick leaders that are going to take us there.”

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Simple question?

How do these developers acquire the such large tracts of “virgin”, sea facing land in these areas. *aka north coast
and,
Who do the buy it from in the first place and how do they win on environmental and zoning issues.

End of comments.

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