Unwrapping the diversity of the vast Karoo for investors

The sheer extent of the semi-arid Karoo as a region is like no other in South Africa. Covering almost 30 percent of South Africa and spanning four provinces, the Karoo is surrounded by the Kalahari in the north, Namaqualand and the West Coast to the west, Boland and Overberg on the south-west, Garden Route in the south, and the non-Karoo regions of the Eastern Cape and the Free State.

Furthermore, says Wayne Rubidge, Pam Golding Properties manager for the Karoo, the Karoo can be accessed within a two-hour drive from Cape Town, 45 minutes from George, one hour from Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, less than two hours from Bloemfontein and three hours from East London. It can take six hours to drive from the east to the western ends of the Karoo and the same from north to south. Within this region there is a diversity yet to be discovered and a journey of discovery awaits the property investor.

“Each of the 52 Karoo towns with their historic buildings, unique architecture and broad range of affordable and unusual investment property choices, offers something very compelling and different from the next town, and all are located in contrasting settings. For example there are high altitude Northern Cape towns like Sutherland and Fraserburg which offer some of the best views of the southern skies in the world - and a very different lifestyle with more extreme temperatures providing a very different experience. Carnarvon, located in the centre of the Northern Cape is also benefitting from its unique location at the centre of the Meerkat (SKA or Square Kilometre Array) radio astronomy project and from being a regional town with all its associated services.

Situated on the edge of town in Prince Albert in the Karoo in the Western Cape region, these two homes (sold as one property) combine fine design and contemporary functional form. The historic artist’s cottage is sold fully furnished and equipped, with all the original features of the period such as reed and beam ceilings and Dover stove. The main home, built about 12 years ago, is a modern interpretation of many of the traditional features of Karoo architecture. Priced at R3.7 million this property is priced at R3.7 million through Pam Golding Properties.

“There are highly appealing Karoo villages such as Loxton (in the Northern Cape’s Bo Karoo) which offers an enviable retreat from urban pressures with its simple and secure country lifestyle. Similarly, the picturesque villages of Nieu Bethesda and Murraysburg (in the Karoo Midlands) offer good value as a country investment and with an appealing lifestyle unknown to many from the larger centres.
“Then let’s not forget the trendy and vibrant towns like Prince Albert in the Karoo, Western Cape. Increasingly in demand, the town is located at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains and in close proximity to the Cape and Garden Route. With its farm type lifestyle, Prince Albert is renowned for its excellent Karoo produce such as cheeses, olives, wines and fruit and is one of the most sought after towns for premium property investors. In the same property category but with a very different offering is Graaff-Reinet in the heart of the Great Karoo, also in the Eastern Cape. Surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, this is rapidly becoming a prime game farming area and safari destination, which alongside traditional sheep farming, is the mainstay of the area.”

The famous, historic Old Jail of Willowmore in the Karoo Midlands (in the Eastern Cape) was meticulously converted into a luxury, four (en suite) bedroom country mansion, with a further en suite bedroom in the outside buildings. Currently, the owners live on the property and run the property as a luxury guesthouse as well as an art gallery. The property comprises a total of 11 000 square metres with gardens planted with roses, fruit trees and shrubs. All the furnishings (including antiques and art) are included in the purchase price of R12.8 million and the property is marketed by Pam Golding Properties.

Rubidge says the Orange River towns of Gariep, Oviston, Vanderkloof, Hopetown  and Prieska offer their own unique blend of Karoo and country living - much of it associated with the abundant water to which these areas have access. This region also has relevance as a ‘food basket’ for many South Africans.

“In between and among all these regions are many other unique Karoo towns such as those in Northern Cape’s Bushmanland Karoo like Kenhardt and the Baviaanskloof Eastern Cape towns such as Willowmore and Steytlerville. Farming towns like Steynsberg and Middelburg in the Eastern Cape offer very good value for money and the latter is home to Grootfontein, one of South Africa’s leading agricultural colleges. Historic towns include Bethulie and Phillipolis in the Free State and Hanover (in the Northern Cape’s Bo Karoo) which is midway between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Travelling down national highway N1 to Cape Town after Hanover and before Three Sisters is Richmond, which like Hanover is located in the Bo Karoo region, the official Booktown for the African continent, which is fast taking its place as a must-see literary destination with it beautiful Karoo architecture and excellent biltong.” 

Rubidge says there are limited houses in all these idyllic country towns, many of which are of much historic value and have provided sound investments for many. “All these and many other ‘undiscovered’ towns each have a wide variety of different property opportunities.” He cites Phillipstown in the Northern Cape, with its great value Karoo historic homes for between R250 000 and R450 000 and its large number of undeveloped agricultural erven varying in size from 2000 to  4000 square metres on the opposite side of the Hondeblaf Rivier. The Northern Eastern Cape towns like Rhodes and Lady Grey have their own very special appeal which are transformed through the seasons, being surrounded by snowy mountains in the winter, and with leisure activities which including adventure sports,  fly fishing and the wonderful outdoor, Karoo country lifestyle.

Marketed by Pam Golding Properties at R2.3 million, this original trading store in Graaff-Reinet incorporates commercial space on the ground floor with a top floor residence with a beautiful wooden staircase, wooden floors and a large corner balcony. The commercial space comprises approximately 140 square metres, while the 140 square metre residence includes two bedrooms and one bathroom, lounge, kitchen and wrap around balcony on the second floor. The property also includes a semi-detached cottage-type building. Currently accommodating a cafe and rental rooms, the property has huge potential and multiple usage for a restaurant or other commercial use, executive suite or offices.

“Like the region itself the Karoo is home to very special properties, some of which are available for purchase. These include an immaculately refurbished historic stone jail which is now a residence offering exclusive guest accommodation. Located on five erven and built of stone, the Old Jail of Willowmore in the Karoo Midlands in the Eastern Cape has been meticulously restored and cleverly converted into four luxury en suite rooms plus a fifth en suite bedroom in the outside buildings. The property is currently run as a warm and welcoming 4-Star boutique guest establishment as well as an art gallery. Furnished with lavish antiques the property, including its contents is marketed for R12.8 million. Flanked by the spectacular Baviaanskloof and Swartberg mountain ranges this striking 1880’s building is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the area.”

In the Karoo Western Cape in Prince Albert, with its enterprising residents and beautiful buildings is a property which provides an unusual mix of contemporary living and a historic, character cottage with a very appealing swimming pool courtyard. The artist’s cottage is sold fully furnished with many original features such as reed and beam ceilings. The main home, constructed about 12 years ago, is a modern interpretation of many of the traditional features of Karoo homes, including corbelled style architecture. With double volume open plan living, sleek and functional dining and kitchen area, shaded patio and lap style pool, plus a ramp to the second floor studio/craft area and rooftop terrace with timber pergola, this unusual, attractive property is priced at R3.7 million.

Says Rubidge: “In Richmond, just off the N1, is the Old Bus Station with its sturdy buildings, offices, workshops and a huge yard located adjacent to the N1. Many of the Karoo towns had bus stations which serviced the communities, dropping off and collecting produce from various farm junctions. This service is however, no longer available and now this unique expansive property offers considerable potential for any investor, and is on the market, well priced at R1.2 million."

In Graaff-Reinet Pam Golding Properties is marketing one of the town’s original trading stores. This corner building has a commercial space at ground level and a top floor residence with a beautiful wooden staircase, wooden floors and a large corner balcony. The property also includes a semi-detached, cottage type building. Well positioned in the ‘horse shoe’ close to schools and on the road leading to the Camdeboo National Park, this property has exceptional potential and multiple usage for a restaurant, an executive suite or similar and currently houses a café and rental rooms. The property is priced at R2.3 million.

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