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Inland towns -the hidden gems of the Overberg

Mention the Cape Overberg and for many, the first thing that springs to mind is an endless coastline, fynbos, beaches and whales.  Yet while coastal towns like Hermanus and Arniston continue to be sought-after holiday destinations, their inland neighbours are experiencing their own run of popularity, says Pam Golding Properties.

The company’s MD for the Boland and Overberg regions, Annien Borg, says rural towns like Caledon, Villiersdorp, Greyton and Riviersonderend are increasingly being considered by buyers seeking a quieter lifestyle, a healthier place in which to raise a family, and more affordable property prices.


PGP’s area manager Le Roux van der Merwe says the lifestyle on offer in these small rural towns is enviable – a relaxed pace of life, neighbours who know one another, little to no crime and traffic congestion, fresh farm produce and clean country air.  “More people are looking for property here for lifestyle reasons than ever before,” says van der Merwe, “whether it is for early retirement, a weekend getaway, or a permanent family home.  New developments such as the mall being built in Caledon are increasing the scope for employment, while the traditional major employer in the region, the farming sector, is doing relatively well after an excellent harvest in 2011. Like all other areas, we have felt the impact of prevailing economic conditions, but there is definitely a sense that the market is improving slowly but surely, particularly in Caledon and Swellendam.  The residential market hasn’t yet been explored to its full potential in many of these towns, and properties remain extremely affordable when compared to larger towns and cities.”

Affordable family homes

Among the most popular properties in the region at present are sizable family homes with three or more bedrooms – confirming PGP’s opinion that a growing number of families are migrating permanently to the countryside.  “For example,” says van der Merwe, “we are seeing a number of residents settling in Caledon and then commuting to work in either Hermanus or Somerset West.  They have the best of both worlds – working in a larger economic node, while still enjoying the benefits of a quieter rural lifestyle.  The area’s excellent schools help considerably in attracting this market, as do its very competitively-priced homes.”

One can still purchase a large family home on a sizable erf for under R1.2 million in Caledon, while prices are even more affordable in smaller towns like Villiersdorp, where one might pay R750 000 to R900 000 for a substantial family home.  In Riviersonderend, one can buy a four-bedroomed home on a large erf for under R650 000, while a top-end mansion with five bedrooms will only cost R1.1 million.

In the Overberg’s main commercial node, Swellendam, van der Merwe notes that there has been an upturn in interest in the middle market (R800 0000 to R1.2 million) and lower market (R400 000 to R800 000), which he attributes partly to the easing of bank’s lending policies in recent months.  Buyers here are predominantly Capetonians seeking weekend and holiday homes, although recent enquiries have also come from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.  Swellendam has even seen a muted return of international interest, predominantly from German buyers.

An ideal retirement environment

The comparatively low prices and peaceful pace of life make the inland towns of the Overberg particularly appealing to retirees - or those wanting a holiday home to which they can retire in the future.  Riviersonderend and Swellendam in particular are seeing steady enquiries from this market at present.

The town of Greyton is also popular with retirees, particularly those with a creative nature who enjoy its vibrant arts and crafts culture.  PGP is preparing to launch a much-needed new frail care and assisted living facility to market in September this year (2012), with 24 hour medical support.  The facility will offer 20 units, priced from R599 000 on a sectional title basis.

Historic homesteads

These rural towns are among the oldest in the country, and are consequently home to a number of historic homesteads, some dating back hundreds of years.  Many of these properties have been successfully renovated for use in the hospitality industry, or converted into comfortable modern family homes.

Whilst this is always a niche market, the trend is nevertheless continuing, and PGP’s recent sales in Swellendam, for example, have included two historic properties.  The Koornlands Restaurant and Pink House, located on the town’s Main Road, was sold for R2.4 million to buyers from Kuruman, while Gauteng buyers have purchased the landmark Coachman, located in the heritage heart of Swellendam, for R2.7 million. They intend demolishing some of the later additions to the property and restoring the manor house to its original state, for use as a private residence.

Farming

“There has been a sustained flow of enquiries for agricultural land,” says van der Merwe, “including those from farmers in up-country provinces, who would prefer to move to the Western Cape and continue farming in a more secure environment.  The excellent harvest of 2011, as well as the outstanding infrastructure and support systems for agriculture in the Overberg, are the most noteworthy incentives for this interest.  The slow but sure economic recovery, together with the somewhat more lenient lending regime of our banks, is also a strong incentive for buyers to make an investment in the agricultural sector.  The majority of enquiries are for livestock farms with crops, dairy and fruit.”

Pricing in the agricultural sector varies significantly depending on location, water supply and existing plantings and stock.  One can, for example, purchase a 250ha fynbos farm outside Villiersdorp, for R6.5 million, while a 190ha wheat and cattle farm outside Caledon is currently on the market at R8.7 million.  A 211ha fruit farm with abundant water supply is on the market at R14.5 million, just outside Greyton.

Lifestyle farms also remain popular, especially as weekend getaways for Capetonians.  PGP says a limited number of international buyers have also shown interest in this segment of the market this year.

A 6000sqm smallholding in Caledon with a three-bedroomed homestead is currently on the market at R2.1 million, while one can purchase one of several 2ha farms outside Swellendam, for between R2.9 million and R5 million.


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