The landlocked Free State has been dubbed the granary of South Africa with agriculture playing a pivotal role in its economic makeup. Cultivated land covers roughly 32 000km of the province and a further 87 000km is comprised of natural veld and grazing.
However, gold mining is also a major contributor to the region’s economy – and a major determinant of the property fortunes of Welkom and the surrounding towns in the Goldfields area. The province houses 12 gold mines and produces 30% of South Africa’s gold output.
Set between the Vaal River to the north, the Orange River to the south and the Drakensberg to the east, the Free State is characterised by flat expanses of grassland punctuated by small yet historically rich towns. An estimated 2,9m people live in the province.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park near Clarens is the prime tourist attraction but the province is also home to the Vredefort Dome, the site of the world’s biggest meteor crater, near Parys.
Bloemfontein is the capital and other notable Free State property centres include Sasolburg (home to the world’s leading petrochemicals plant), Kroonstad, Bethlehem and Odendaalsrus-one of the few completely pre-planned towns in the world.
Bloemfontein houses the Supreme Court of Appeal and consequently attracts many senior members of the legal fraternity, but it is also a university town, with an average 36 000 students a year studying at the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology. Indeed, student accommodation in flats, townhouses and communes is one of the main drivers of the Bloemfontein property market and has proved to be a profitable investment for many.