Far from the Madding crowd
Buying property in a country estate is the most popular form of rural investment in South Africa but interest in small-town homes and urban farms remains consistent
Giving up city life to pursue the countryside dream has remained just that for many: a dream. But visionary developers are fast turning this fantasy into reality by building new country estates and expanding others. These gated communities offer myriad lifestyles: equestrian, game, eco, golf, retirement – you name it. As far as countryside investment goes, they rate tops, with quaint small towns having to work a little harder for attention. We round up some of the best countryside investments in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and we talk to those who have made the leap from urban to rural.
Considerations Before Buying
1. Investments in the countryside should happen as close to major towns or cities as possible
2. Deal with an agent who lives in the area and knows its history. They will understand important aspects related to the farming community, agricultural and legal zonings, and other environmental issues.
3. Visit the area or small town you want to invest in a couple of times before making the move
‘The overall median price grew from R1.02 million at the end of 2014 to R1.5 million at the end of 2016. That’s an increase of 47%,’
The Western Cape benefits from the semigration influx so it’s no surprise that it is the most sought-after province in terms of rural investment. There are many more estates and small towns further away from the Mother City’s metropolitan sprawl but for those who want to enjoy proximity to her offerings while enjoying her natural beauty, the Overberg, Winelands and Swartland are popular choices.
Country estates such as Arabella make investment sense because they offer substantial room for growth. According to Johann Larney, broker manager at RE/MAX Town and Country (remax-townandcountry.co.za), areas in nearby Hermanus are expanding rapidly, resulting in less availability of affordable homes. ‘The overall median price grew from R1.02 million at the end of 2014 to R1.5 million at the end of 2016. That’s an increase of 47%,’ says Johann. Homes in Arabella cost substantially less than those in some nearby estates. Another factor in Arabella’s favour: Hermanus’ Curro school bus route runs past the estate.
There are many impressive country estates in the area, including the award-winning Sitari on the outskirts, a favourite among families partly due to its Curro school. With a variety of home choices set among olive groves and orchards, and the imposing Hottentots Holland mountain range in the background, it’s countryside heaven.
Samuel Seeff, Seeff Properties (seeff.com) chairman, lives on the Atlantic Seaboard with his family but has a second home in Santé Winelands Estate, close to Franschhoek village. He says the hotel and spa, with its the secure country lifestyle offerings, makes it an attractive investment.
Val de Vie in the Paarl/Franschhoek Valley is a polo and golf estate offering a large variety of residential developments, each unique and focused on meeting the individual needs of prospective investors.
Old-fashioned, small-town living in the Riebeek Valley, Porterville and Malmesbury is gaining momentum, mostly as retirement and weekend getaways. Malmesbury, 70km from Cape Town, will soon be accessible via a new highway, making it easier for commuters. ‘These towns don’t have many estates or smallholdings, but characterful houses are popular among buyers and in high demand,’ says Simon Mouton, MD for Seeff Properties in the Swartland and Namakwaland. ‘While buyers will probably get higher growth from properties in Cape Town, investing in the right country property is a good long-term investment.’
Remote towns such as Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and De Rust are also attracting attention, says Stefaan Verlinde, MD of Seeff Properties in the area. They are popular with retirees from up north who want a slower lifestyle. Investment opportunities here include smallholdings and game farms.
Q&A: Take me home
By Lauren Groenewald
Painter and printmaker Shui-lyn White and her partner live in Sea Point – and although the couple are not quite done with city living, their love of the outdoors led them to the Swartland.
What drew you to the area?
We discovered Porterville when our friends moved to this working town. It felt authentic, not done up or gentrified. It’s not a sleepy dorpie but if you want solitude, you can cycle 20 minutes along a dust road and you’ll feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
What did you consider before investing in a second property?
We spent a lot of time in Prince Albert and dreamed of buying there. When we were eventually ready to invest, we started thinking more practically: we researched prices and realised there weren’t suitable entry-level homes in Prince Albert. So we started looking elsewhere.
Why this house?
The selling point was the view of the mountain from our back porch. It’s a solid dwelling from the early 1900s with wooden floors and high ceilings. The only renovation work we did was opening up the lounge, kitchen, dining room and veranda, and restoring the stoep – there was no need to change the facade. We are also converting the garage into a storeroom and studio.
Has spending time here changed your approach to your work?
It has given me the space to reconnect with nature. My wildlife monoprints are directly related to being here.
Ina van Zyl, Seeff Properties (seeff.com) Porterville agent, says that residential properties are the most sought-after, especially those with character. ‘Most homes are now between R1 million and R1.5 million, which is still affordable compared to the Riebeek Valley. Prices will probably increase once the freeway to Malmesbury is complete by the end of 2018.’ She also recommends that buyers don’t overcapitalise when it comes to renovations.
Gauteng’s high crime rate plays a major role in the kind of countryside investment in the province, with gated estates enjoying the most attention. According to Lightstone’s research, 50% of general estate developments in South Africa are in Gauteng and 25% are in the Western Cape. Most of the rural lifestyle seekers congregate around Pretoria and Johannesburg, with residents commuting or working remotely.
On the northern shores of Hartbeespoort Dam in the North-West Province lies a selection of secure lifestyle estates offering boating facilities, cycling routes, golf courses and wildlife. Pecanwood Estate is one of the most luxurious offerings. Although countryside investment has increased in the last decade, Ashleigh Mitchley, principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty (sothebysrealty.co.za) in Hartbeespoort, says that figures are down from last year. But she is unperturbed. ‘Like everything, it’s affected by the general South African economy,’ she says. With the price of land and building lower here than the northern suburbs of Gauteng, where the same home could cost 1.5 times more, Hartbeespoort Dam presents opportunity for growth while offering the benefits of a safe lifestyle, if you are prepared to commute (Fourways is about 35 minutes away).
This luxurious estate north of Lanseria Airport spans 510ha. Most residents are professionals and entrepreneurs. The estate is popular with parents because of its two schools, Montessori and Curro. Monaghan Farm is also a horse-riders’ and cyclists’ paradise, with 35km of pathways and walking trails. ‘Rolling grasslands, meandering rivers, a herd of Nguni cattle, jackals, small buck and rare birdlife, stables, upmarket homes with magnificent vistas – there are many reasons why Gautengers want to take advantage of the lifestyle at Monaghan Farm,’ says Brenda Gilbert, area specialist for Pam Golding Properties (pamgolding.co.za).
This small village harks back to the early gold rush days. The town is an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and close to the Cradle of Humankind. Investing in country cottages, older houses and farms are popular.
Situated in the Waterberg region, an hour’s drive from Pretoria, Bela Bela is unparalleled bushveld country with game reserves and hot springs. It offers a mix of property options, the most popular being smallholdings and lifestyle farms such as Zebula Golf Estate with its characteristic thatched bushveld homes.
Fly-fishing haven, Dullstroom offers a variety of investment opportunities including upmarket country estates and smallholdings. ‘Buyers of lifestyle farms here fall mainly into two categories,’ says Anton Greeff, principal of Pam Golding Properties in Dullstroom. ‘The first are well-established business people over 40 who are looking to relocate permanently for a more rural life. Then there are those between 30 and 40 who want a holiday retreat in the country. Lifestyle farms here usually have dams for fishing and plenty of space for quad biking and other leisure pursuits.’
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Television producer Bernadette Maguire is passionate about horse riding – living in the country allows her to do what she loves most; Hartbeespoort Dam offers residents a country lifestyle only 40 minutes out of Joburg
“We’re learning the true cost of what we eat and drink when it comes to labour and the environment, which is important when raising a child” Tracey Lomax, Attorney
Q&A: Home at last
By Georgina Guedes
Exchanging the city for a country life may be a fantasy for most but these two families have made that dream a success
Attorney Tracey Lomax and her husband Roderick Nixon, a farrier, moved to a smallholding near Hartbeespoort to farm organically.
Why a smallholding?
We always wanted to live off the grid and have space for our family. It goes back to the idea of being part of a village.
How off the grid are you?
Eliminating electricity will be the last step in the process. Right now, we’re trying to become self-sufficient in terms of food. We produce eggs, milk, jam, chutney and free-range meat, for instance.
How do you manage your commute?
I’ve had to adapt. Travelling can take up to two hours each way, depending on traffic and where I need to be in Joburg. Because I am self-employed, I can work from home and maximise my time in town.
How is the land around you developing?
The countryside is slowly turning into housing. At the same time, more urban people are interested in this kind of farming so I don’t think the countryside will be completely suburban. Instead, a mix of urban farmers will live near suburban areas.
What are the benefits of living in the country?
You become closer to your family. We’re also learning the true cost of what we eat and drink, important when raising a child. Your relationship with your neighbours is also different. If someting happens, you can pick up the phone.
Erika van der Westhuizen, franchise principal for Pam Golding Properties (pamgolding.co.za) in Hartbeespoort, says that while she receives calls about smallholdings, most city people who want to move to the countryside look at estates. Their reasons for moving are for a change of lifestyle, to relax over the weekend or for the schools in the area. ‘Hartbeespoort is a haven for children,’ says Erika. ‘There are so many activities for them and it’s a beautiful place to grow up.’
Television producer Bernadette Maguire and her partner, businessman Dieter Rothman, live in a beautiful Tuscan-style home on Avianto Lifestyle Estate in Muldersdrift.
Why the country?
It’s a lifestyle choice and a lifelong dream. Although I have had various jobs in Johannesburg, I have never actually lived in the city – I like to be out in the country with my animals. I always wanted horses growing up, so I set about achieving that.
How do you manage your commute?
As a TV producer, I am often away on shoots or am able to edit from home. Once you have your career carved out, you can set your terms – I start later and work later.
How did you find your current home?
When we saw Avianto Lifestyle Estate being developed, we bought into it. It allows for a secure lifestyle in the countryside, with cycling and running trails on the estate. It’s also easy for Dieter to commute to work and it’s close enough to where I keep my horses. It’s an investment property – we believe it will increase in value as the estate is completed.
Why the countryside?
Living further from your neighbours makes for closer communities. There’s a comfortable distance between you but when something goes wrong, everyone helps out. I also feel claustrophobic in town; here, there’s space around me.
Jason Simeonides, agent at Concorde Estates (concordeestates.com), says they get calls every day about Avianto Lifestyle Estate. It holds appeal because it’s all-encompassing: it includes fibre internet, an office park, private school, medical centre and a sports stadium with a retirement village in the works. It’s also close enough to the city for commuters. Houses can sell for up to R8 million, including the land, building and design.
Located on the North Coast, about 40 minutes from Durban, Shongweni Dam and Nature Reserve is popular with horse lovers, nature enthusiasts and farmers. Investors here are after smallholdings, either for farming or for a more holistic and peaceful lifestyle for their families.
Phezulu and Stoneford These countryside game and equestrian estates attract families who want to be among roaming game or on an estate that meets their equestrian needs.
This landmark countryside village offers a variety of retirement options. It is not only filled with history but offers a retirement option with all the steps of care and facilities required to suit buyers’ needs.
Midlands One of the province’s most scenic areas, the Midlands is popular with foreign and local investors, especially those seeking wildlife. Underberg This quaint small town in the Southern Drakensberg is especially popular with families because of the new private high school, says Angela Walker, Pam Golding Properties’ (pamgolding.co.za) area principal. ‘Since the start of 2015, there’s been a definite increase in activity in the residential property market,’ says Angela. ‘Buyers include young families, particularly where the breadwinner works abroad and wants to settle his family in this small, secure and caring community.’ It is also sought-after with retirees, especially farmers, wanting a country lifestyle and adventure enthusiasts.
‘If you are going to run a business, a good website and social media presence are essential, especially in the country’ – Grant Horak, Owner, Nakai Beach Homestay
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The deck of Nakai Beach Homestay on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast overlooks the natural forest of the Mpenjati Nature Reserve and the Indian Ocean; Xolani and Yoliswa Gumede, owners of Cappeny Estates transformed 17ha of open land into rows of strawberry fields (a first for the area) With its balmy subtropical weather all year round and beautiful coastline, KwaZulu-Natal is traditionally the holiday province of Gautengers. And it offers a lot in terms of countryside lifestyle investment. According to Michele Wilson, director of Seeff Properties (seeff.com) in Hillcrest and the surrounding areas, Shongweni and Hillcrest are among the most popular areas.
Q&A: Home free
By: Candice Botha
And then there are those who started businesses away from the city. What was the attraction for these countryside enthusiasts?
Business partners Claude Venter, Grant Horak and Paulo da Rosa of Horak Venter Design recently moved to Trafalgar near Southbroom, where they established guesthouse and yoga retreat Nakai Beach Homestay.
Why the KZN South Coast?
Ballito was becoming too much of an urban centre; we wanted a simpler, more holistic life.
What attracted you to your property?
The view: we look over an indigenous forest onto the Indian Ocean. We also have a private path down to the beach and marine reserve
Why a guesthouse and yoga retreat?
We are unique. Our guesthouse, which serves 95% organic and sustainably sourced food, offers one of the few holistic retreats along this part of the coast. Yoga – a growing business trend – evokes a sense of instant escape, ideal for this area.
What do you enjoy most about the South Coast?
We’re surrounded by friends from Germany, Norway, England, Denmark and South Africa. Artists and world-class restaurants abound and the outdoor lifestyle is amazing. And pollution is virtually nonexistent.
Any advice for those considering investing in the countryside?
Find a place that makes your soul sing; the right time is now. If you are going to run a business, a good website and social media presence are essential, especially in the country.
Jo-Anne Wentzel, property consultant for Alpha Estates (alphaestates.co.za), says that most of their buyers want to exchange the city for a carefree, affordable lifestyle. Sectional title units in secure holiday complexes or security estates are favoured by holidaymakers. Bigger, pet-friendly homes with gardens are in demand with retirees and families. Sea views are first prize.
Husband-and-wife team Xolani and Yoliswa Gumede moved to Compensation on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast to open destination strawberry farm Cappeny Estates.
The commute from our home in Durban North to the farm became a bit much – we were attracted to the more tranquil pace of life. Running a commercial farm is frenetic with long hours and we wanted to relax completely when we arrived home.
What attracted you to your property?
Our smallholding is even more remote than the farm and the views are amazing, which was a definite attraction.
Cappeny Estates was originally part of a sugar-cane farm but was subdivided. After extensive research, we decided on agriculture and finally settled on strawberry farming, a first for the area.
Will you live here long term?
Definitely. Running a commercial farm and living a tranquil life may be different but we’re lucky to do both.
Are there any drawbacks to living in the countryside?
Lack of basic services in a rural area is a challenge. There was no electricity or sewage system on the farm so we had to install those at our own cost. But with the constant green energy advances, it’s becoming easier.
Simon Peacock, owner/broker of RE/MAX Dolphin Realtors (remaxdolphin.co.za), says that buyers here look for smallholdings or similar that offer a country lifestyle while still being close to schools, shopping centres and the coast. The North Coast has been earmarked as the biggest growth node in the country so properties have an excellent return on investment. The tropical climate means land is fertile so there are opportunities to grow sugar cane, macadamia trees and fruit
Credits: Photographs: Roger Young, Lauren Groenewald, iStock by Getty Images, supplied, Text: Debbie Loots