Buyers look to the Cape’s smaller towns for a change of pace

Lazy strolls down tree-lined lanes, sun-dappled gardens, and a weekly market where the vegetables are still dusted in moist brown soil and the person flipping pancakes knows you by name, and that you prefer sugar and not cinnamon. Country living certainly has its own rhythm. Removed from the city’s clogged traffic intersections, where the rising cost of fuel makes the daily commute a financial drain, there are towns that offer a pastoral retreat. Already popular as weekend getaways, these havens are gaining popularity as permanent residences, or as long-term investments, says Pam Golding Properties.

There’s no shortage of country getaways in the Cape, and a short drive from the city centre in just about any direction will give you a choice of mountains, farmlands or wine farms to enjoy. A town such as Robertson, Montagu, McGregor, Greyton and the Riebeek Valley have so much to offer, and word is spreading about their appeal as a permanent home. “We are seeing increased interest from a range of buyers contemplating their long-term retirement plans or even from families looking for a change in lifestyle, to enjoy the many benefits of living in a small town,” says Annien Borg, Pam Golding Properties MD for the Boland and Overberg.

One of a growing number of professionals who sees the benefits of living outside of the city is Marlene Barrett, who is contemplating a move to a town outside of Cape Town. Her work enables her to work from home, and she would be able to commute to Cape Town for meetings if needed. “I would like to raise my son in a town where he can still play outside, and where we are removed from the pressures and daily grind of city living,” she says.

Remote working

Thanks to technology, it’s no longer imperative for people like Marlene to work from an office in the city. “The ability to work remotely has changed our lives. Now people can opt for a tranquil lifestyle, working from home outside of urban areas,” explains Gail Friedlander, Pam Golding Properties area specialist for the region. She adds: “Riebeek Valley is in the country, but not too far from the city. It is also only 40 minutes away from Paarl and 15 minutes from Wellington.” The completion of the upgrade of the N7 highway will cut travel time from Cape Town to Riebeek to less than an hour, notes Friedlander. Christiaan Steytler, Pam Golding Properties agent for McGregor, agrees, saying people move here for the gentler place of life and the security that village life offers. In Greyton, there are many professionals who run businesses in Cape Town or Gauteng from their country homes, successfully managing to straddle both worlds.

Relocate, don’t emigrate

For many, moving to the country is an attractive alternative to emigrating, says Borg. According to the recent FNB Estate Agents’ Survey, 7.8% of people who are selling to relocate within South Africa. Many of the buyers in the Riebeek Valley are from Durbanville, other parts of Cape Town or from upcountry, says Friedlander. The buyer profile is diverse; including couples, young professionals, retirees and families looking for a laidback environment. The same can be said for Robertson, where 67% of recent buyers were between the ages of 18 and 35, and 36 to 49 years combined. Younger buyers are seeing the benefits of living less than 90 minutes from Cape Town, says Anneke van Jaarsveld, Pam Golding Properties agent for Robertson. Douglas Legg, Pam Golding Properties agent for Greyton, says many of the residents here own businesses in Cape Town or Johannesburg.

In McGregor, buyers reflect a mix of permanent residents and holiday home buyers. “But we are seeing that the holiday home buyers are coming with the aim of retiring to the property in the future,” says Steytler. McGregor still appeals largely to middle-aged buyers and those looking to retire. Most are relocating from the city, moving either from Cape Town or other parts of the country. The FNB survey notes that 23% of people sell because they are downscaling as their life stage changes, and many of these would consider country living as means of achieving this.

Amenities close by

Other than the odd commute to the city, country living means far less driving as most amenities are within comfortable walking distance. The introduction of a carbon tax this month means that fuel prices are set to increase even further, placing added pressure on families wanting to reduce their monthly living expenses. The convenience of being able to walk or cycle around town adds to the appeal of country living. Many of the towns now have good schools, making them attractive to families. The Riebeek Valley has a Montessori school and a good government primary school. There is a Waldorf School in McGregor that caters for the children in the area. The Greyton House Village School is an independent school that makes full use of the beautiful surroundings in its curriculum. Robertson too has good schools and amenities, and is close enough to Cape Town for those wanting to maintain ties with the city.

Value for money and hidden gems

Friedlander says sales activity in the Riebeek Valley has picked up since the election, as investor confidence has rebounded. One of the hidden gems in this part of the world is the small Swartland village of Koringberg. “There have been steady sales here and more recently there has been an upsurge in interest. With its affordable property prices, and spectacular views surrounded by the wheat lands with hardly any commercial activity, homes are being sold up as weekend getaways,” says Friedlander.

Pam Golding Properties recently concluded the highest sale for Riebeek Kasteel – a double-volume home with spectacular homes, for R6.3 million. Vacant land starts for from R500 000, while homes are listed for from just over R1 million in Riebeek Valley. Farms sell for upwards of R14 million. According to Lightstone property data, a growing number of buyers between the ages of 36 and 49 are considering Tulbagh, with 29% being even younger between the ages of 18 and 35. The area appeals to a range of buyers, including single professionals, families and retirees.

Sales activity has also picked up in Greyton, a perennial favourite with Capetonians and visitors looking for a country getaway. The average sales price has remained fairly constant over the past two years, but interest is growing, especially from overseas buyers, says Legg. While most of the recent buyers are in the mature range, between 50 and 64 years of age, 24% were between the ages of 36 and 49. The town offers a range of properties, including unique properties such as the four-bedroom home nestled among an orchard of pecan and olive trees, listed through Pam Golding Properties for R4.25 million. “It seems that the long-term price stability of the Greyton market is attracting foreign-based buyers looking to still keep a corner of South Africa for a ‘rainy day’. The investors are quick to point out that while SA may have its problems, Europe and the USA face significant risks from social and economic challenges as the world reorientates itself to life in the 21st century. Demand has further been amplified by the recent depreciation of the local currency which is providing an excellent opportunity to get into the market.”

In Tulbagh, Pam Golding Properties has listed an olive farm for R89 million. Other properties currently on the market include a modern house with spectacular views for R4.6 million and a historical home for R3.9 million. McGregor has long been a popular country retreat, but Steytler says more people are coming to rent in the area to see if they are suited to the slower pace of living, before committing to buy. Sales have increased in the past year, with Pam Golding Properties concluding sales to the value of just under R12 million for the first half of the year, more than half of all sales in the area. Steytler says the median price of a home this year is R2 million, up from the 2018 median of R1.5 million. Pam Golding Properties recently sold a thatched guest house in McGregor for R3.35 million. Current listings include the Stone House, listed for R4.995 million and Pecan Nut Farm for R19.9 million.

Robertson also offers considerable value for money. Most of the properties in town are freehold homes, or within estates. House prices range from R725 000 to upwards of R3.75 million for a luxury, three-bedroom home. It’s also possible to buy a plot for upwards of R265 000. Farms and smallholdings are also available, and many of the properties in town could be used as guesthouses, says Lizelle Lloyd, Pam Golding Properties agent for the town. Silwerstrand Golf and River Estate on the Breede River provides a safe, country lifestyle with an 18-hole golf course on its doorstep. Homes here range from R2.8 million, with plots starting at R570 000.

Enviable destinations

The Riebeek Valley is a busy farming area that is also a popular wedding destination, with various event venues and restaurants. It is also home to many professional artists, sculptors and potters. Other attractions include several wine farms for wine and olive tasting and casual dining. These include Allesverloren, Pulpit Rock, Meerhof, Kloovenberg and Het Vlok Kasteel. Events that attract visitors to the town include the olive festival, the PPC Riebeek Bergmarathon, various cycle races and the monthly market.

Robertson is located on the Route 62 wine route, the longest in the world. It offers horse riding trails, rafting on the Breede River, mountain bike and trail running opportunities as well as various walking routes to explore. Festivals, such as the popular Wacky Wine Weekend, take place throughout the year and attract thousands of visitors to the town to enjoy excellent food and wine.

Steytler describes McGregor as a “destination village” rather than a town one drives through en route to somewhere else. “Children can still ride their bicycles and run free with their dogs on the broad streets, and there is a strong sense of community where we all look out for one another.” It also some of the finest examples of old Cape-style heritage houses and cottages and is known for its wide selection of locally-produced wine is available at the various co-ops and garagistes. For Legg, Greyton offers “genuine hospitality” just a 90 minute drive from Cape Town. From the well-preserved cottages in the Cape rural vernacular, through to the art galleries and other creative industries that make this town unique, Greyton offers something for everyone.

“No longer the lifestyle treat for retirees, many of our country towns are becoming sought-after permanent residences for professionals making full use of the ability to work remotely, or for families seeking a change of pace,” says Borg.

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