Foreign buyers return to Franschhoek

Sit in any one of Franschhoek’s cafés or bistros these days and you are likely to hear a surprising array of languages being spoken around you – from French and German and Dutch to the less familiar Russian, Swedish and Japanese.
And that’s not just because the tourist trade is flourishing in this Cape Winelands village famous for its scenic beauty, gourmet food and award-winning wines, says Bev Malan, owner of the local Sotheby’s International Realty franchise.

?An elegant Cape Thatch for sale in Franschhoek
“It’s because we are seeing a return of overseas buyers to the local real estate market, thanks partly to a more favourable rand exchange rate now for those with dollars or pounds or euros to spend, but also to the worldwide increase over the past year in the demand among wealthy buyers for lifestyle properties in luxury locations.”
Overall, she says, the Franschhoek property market has shown a significant improvement this year in comparison to the past four years, when it was hard-hit by the recession and its aftermath, and her agency has doubled its sales over the past 12 months.According to property data company Lightstone, there have already been 63 property transfers in the village this year, compared to a total of 52 in 2012 (a 21% increase).
However, Malan notes, the average freehold property price, at just over R3m, is still well below the pre-recession high of R3,4m, and that is attracting SA buyers who realise that supply in the area is limited and want to acquire property here before the increased demand pushes prices up again.
“We are also selling a lot of stands to people who want to build their own homes here, and of the five estates in the village, three now have no further land left to sell.”

?The home enjoys one of the most sought-after positions in Franschhoek and is for sale through Sotheby's International Realty for R8,5 million
In the past 12 months, though, there have been at least 17 properties in Franschhoek sold for more than R3m  - at an average of R5,9m, according to Lightstone – and many of these big-ticket homes, she says, are now going to overseas buyers once more, as they rediscover the delights of the village and its surrounding wine, lifestyle and golf estates.
“We have, for example, sold two homes in the La Ferme Chantelle estate at more than R10m each, and while most overseas buyers are still ‘swallows’ from Europe who want a second home here to use as a winter base, a fair number are now choosing to make Franschhoek their permanent home and giving the village an even more cosmopolitan feel.”
Properties currently on Sotheby’s International Realty’s books that are attracting the attention of overseas buyers include an elegant double-storey thatched home on a 1492sqm stand at the corner of Cabriere Street – which has been identified as one of the top six addresses in the country – and a quiet country lane.
The house has four ensuite bedrooms, including the main bedroom which is on the upper level and has two dressing rooms and double doors leading to a spacious balcony with superb views of the Drakenstein mountains.
On the ground floor are a large lounge/ dining area, a conservatory that opens on to the pool terrace, the bedroom wing and an open-plan kitchen with separate scullery/ laundry leading to the garage.
A family-size pool and a large garden complete the offering, and the sale includes architectural plans for a future double garage, wine cellar and hobby room. The asking price is R8,5m.

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