Winter warmth in the Franschhoek valley

With winter swiftly approaching, residents of the Western Cape are shifting their focus indoors, looking for roaring fires, warming wines and top-rated restaurants to while away rainy weekends.

Pam Golding Properties says recent developments in the village of Franschhoek confirm its status as the ideal place for a winter cottage.  And despite perceptions that it is a home best suited to the affluent, PGP says this cosmopolitan village in fact caters for those from various walks of life, with properties on offer to suit many budgets.

PGP’s area manager for Franschhoek, Surina du Toit, says the highest demand at present is for homes priced below R3 million – and there are a number to choose from.  “We currently have around 20 homes on our books priced between R2 million and R3 million,” she says.  “One can obtain an apartment in the village from just R1.1 million, while small cottages are priced from R1.6 million upward and larger homes from R2.5 million.  Certainly, the valley also has its larger luxury homes, lifestyle farms and major wine farms, but it is by no means limited to the very top end of the property scale.  In fact, 60 percent of all sales concluded in Franschhoek last year (2011), were in the price range below R3 million.”

Du Toit says the focus has shifted quite significantly in recent years.  “Prior to 2007, there was very strong demand for top end homes, and over a third of our buyers were international clients, taking advantage of their strong currencies and the weak rand,” she says.  “Some very high capital gains were made on short-term turnover of properties.  But in the subsequent years the rand has strengthened and the global economic meltdown has completely changed the international picture.  We now have almost 90 percent South African buyers, and far higher demand for the more modestly-priced homes.  People are looking to buy here for the fantastic lifestyle on offer and the tremendous scenic beauty, not just to make a quick profit on re-sale.  There is also a far higher awareness of accurate pricing, with buyers simply refusing to consider over-priced homes.  There is sufficient stock on offer to enable buyers to choose from a wide variety of homes, to suit their budget and lifestyle needs.”

And the lifestyle on offer is enviable.  Surrounded by magnificent mountains and rolling vineyards, Franschhoek has long held the title of the gourmet capital of the Cape – a status confirmed by the recent release of the San Pellegrino restaurant awards, which rated The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais 57th on its list of the world’s best restaurants.  The village has also just hosted another successful Literary Festival, attracting top local and international authors to the valley.  Just one hour’s drive from Cape Town, Franschhoek is an ideal home for those who commute frequently and wish to leave their families in a tranquil and secure environment, including the option of numerous secure estates located on the surrounding wine farms.  It is also well-positioned for easy access to Stellenbosch University, just 20 minutes’ drive from the village.

PGP’s MD for the Boland and Overberg regions, Annien Borg, says another recent development which is likely to boost interest in the Franschhoek Valley is the pending launch of the new wine tram project.  The six ton tram with bio-diesel engine was delivered in late February, and is due to start operating in spring this year (2012), she says.  “It will run from the village along the old train line, stopping at some of South Africa’s oldest and most renowned wine estates, and allowing tourists and locals alike to sample the valley’s best vintages, without worrying about driving home afterwards. This project will certainly be a boost to the local tourism sector and the valley economy in general.  Franschhoek will be the first wine-growing area in the world where estates can be directly accessed by tram, making this a truly unique drawcard for the area.”

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