A combination of factors is helping make the Elgin/Grabouw area a good choice for those looking to move away from Cape Town in the search of a country retreat, says Janis Viljoen, Anne Porter Knight Frank's senior agent in the area.
The first factor, says Viljoen, is the new lease of life injected into the area by the slow but steady revival of apple farming (which for almost a decade was seen by many to be on the way out) and the development of many new wine estates not seen in this area prior to 1990.
"Grabouw's cooler upland climate and fairly dry soils lend themselves to developing attractive flavours in wine grapes," said Viljoen, "and local winemakers are now regularly winning awards for their exceptional wines.
The Elgin Valley Wine Guild is, says Viljoen, creating a wine route through the valley and more wine cellars are opening their doors over weekends.
A second factor boosting the area's popularity is its growing importance as an outdoor hiking, mountain biking, rowing, kloof jumping and adventure venue. For many outdoor lovers, says Viljoen, this is now their first choice as a weekend getaway. These attractions will remain available in perpetuity because the valley is encircled by the Koegelberg Biosphere and the Groenland Conservancy.
The influx of regular visitors to the area has led to a proliferation of B&Bs and guesthouses and has helped make the local country club on Eikenhof Dam a very popular social and sporting venue. It also now serves as a base for adventure races, rowing and other sporting events.
A third drawcard to the area, says Viljoen, is the excellent schools now found there: Applewood Preparatory School and Kingsway College have both made good names for themselves.
Also drawing people to Grabouw, says Viljoen, is that the 60km to 70km commute into the city increasingly seems "manageable", particularly for those who do it only two or three times a week.
Many of the buyers, says Viljoen, are looking for smallholdings of between 5 to 10 hectares, but these are few and far between and recent legislation preventing the sub-division of farms will mean that only those already sub-divided under previous rulings will be available.
However, in Grabouw's upmarket Klipkop "suburb" it is possible to buy 0,5 hectares in a rural, semi-forested setting. Here plots of this size can be had for R1 million and Klipkop houses currently on Anne Porter Knight Frank's books are priced from R1,5 million to R3,3 million.
The area appeals especially to horse lovers – but some residents are now breeding ostriches and alpaca. Guinea fowl and other game birds abound in the area.
Viljoen predicts that very few Overberg or Boland precincts will see such steady price appreciation as Klipkop. For those who do not yearn for a security estate lifestyle, in the residential areas surrounding Grabouw it is possible to buy homes at anything from R1 million to R2 million and almost all these homes have large fertile and well-established gardens.
For those who want land, Anne Porter Knight Frank can offer farms on 30 hectares or more, in many cases with already established orchards of apples, pears, plums, quince, kiwi fruit or even olives – but they are still also large areas covered by fynbos which are therefore ideally suited to conservationists and nature lovers (with small incomes being possible from annual protea and wild flower harvests). There are a few 8 hectare or 9 hectare "gentlemen's estates" also still for sale.
Viljoen has come to Elgin after living in Northern California, where for part of her stay she helped run a resort on Lake Tahoe in which many of the houses went into a rental pool.