Spotlight on Somerset West
There can be few architectural styles that fulfil country-living aspirations more than a Cape vernacular home, says Pam Golding Properties (PGP) area manager for the Helderberg region, Louise Varga, who adds that this style of home, which combines elements of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian styles, is popular among family buyers in Somerset West, who aspire to gracious living in a distinctive historic setting.
Situated under Helderberg mountain and in a bowl formed by the dramatic Hottentots Holland mountain range, just 30 minutes from Cape Town and 10 minutes from the beach, Somerset West is sought after by families seeking to enjoy country-style living but with access to every urban convenience and amenity. This area has several security estates, which allow owners to simply lock up and go, with exclusive properties in Erinvale Golf Estate and Bel-Aire Winelands Estate proving especially popular.
Somerset West was first established on a part of the farm Vergelegen, which has vineyards dating back to 1700. These glorious hills and valleys provide the historic backdrop for a life filled with cultural and natural treasures. According to Don Tooth, managing director at Vergelegen, Somerset West was founded in 1822, and Vergelegen’s legendary garden and 314-year-old camphor trees ‘are preserved for the benefit of the growing population and neighbouring communities.’ The town also has an impressive academic pedigree. Says Varga, ‘There is a very proud sporting and academic tradition in the Helderberg area, and many of these schools regularly achieve top matric results, as well as seeing a number of pupils go on to play provincial- or national-level sport.’
Who’s buying and what are they paying?
There is a strong demand for properties in gated estates, says Steve Caradoc-Davies of Harcourts Platinum, Helderberg. ‘This demand stretches right across all price ranges, from two-bedroom townhouses at R750 000 through to luxurious homes in estates we market from R4 million to R5 million, such as the just launched Whispering Woods. We’ve noticed strong interest in Willowbrooke Estate, consisting of only five exclusive, luxurious homes nestling on the Lourens River and selling at R7,9 million.’
According to Caradoc-Davies there is strong demand from up-country buyers who are changing their lifestyles and relocating their families to the Cape while they commute to Gauteng for work. Most buyer interest is in the R1,5 million to R2,5 million price range. ‘We’re experiencing record sales in these price ranges in estates like Kelderhof Country Village, Silver Fox and Blue Crane.’
Somerset West is a smorgasbord of new developments, most of them taking full advantage of the glorious natural settings that the Helderberg has in abundance. ‘Somerset West offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a village appeal,’ says Ricci Marais, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Sales Manager, Helderberg. ‘You can hike in the Helderberg Nature Reserve, go wine tasting at any one of the many wine farms, yet you have access to high-quality medical care, which includes the Heart Unit at Vergelegen Medi Clinic, and A-grade shopping centres.’
Marais agrees that buyers are choosing the security of gated estates, but Somerset West’s architects and developers are attempting to replicate a country ambience within the borders of these villages. New estates – such as Sitari Country Estate, Somerset Lakes, Fairhaven Country Estate and The Somerset Lifestyle and Retirement Village – are making waves at the moment. Somerset Lakes features six hectares of pristine lakes and water features, 15 hectares of indigenous landscaping and mature forest, and 4km of mountain-biking and running trails, with a price tag of R1,3 million for a freestanding house. Fairhaven Country Estate overlooks the magnificent mountain ranges of the Helderberg and offers panoramic views of False Bay and the vineyards. Vacant land starts at R595 000 and is selling fast. Sitari Country Estate offers residential luxury apartments, completed village homes and country homes, with vacant plots starting at R530 000, all set in an authentic farm-style setting with orchards and olive groves, creating a truly rural lifestyle for its residents.
Where to eat, drink and shop…
You are spoilt for choice on The Helderberg Wine Route, which boasts over 30 wine estates, each offering a unique experience. The top estates are Vergelegen and Lourensford, both of which have award-winning restaurants, while Morgenster is a wine and olive farm. Waterford Wine Estate’s signature restaurant is housed in a dramatic glass promontory, extending from the chic wine-tasting lounge and gravitational cellar. Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm is another destination estate. For a sumptuous dining experience honouring the region’s cultural roots, there is Erinvale Estate’s Seventeen07. Convenience stores abound in Somerset Mall and Waterstone Village, while a new fresh produce and gourmet market has been launched at Lourensford Estate.
R / V resident’s view
Michelle van der Merwe, owner of Healthjar Sports Massage.
‘I spend most of my days and evenings at my studio, which is on a farm. This is the Winelands, so technically, Somerset West is classified as the “Boland”. We love the tranquillity here. It feels like you are on a permanent holiday; it feeds the soul. The residents are relaxed, friendly and humble. Interactions are more personal and people take care of one another. People are very active and like the outdoors, but don’t think that we don’t work hard. Life is full of rural pleasures, but we also have the urban pressures of work, deadlines and sitting behind a desk.’
Serge Foulon, Managing Director, NH The Lord Charles Hotel
‘I am from Brussels in Belgium and have been living here for six-and-a-half years. I moved here for convenience, to be near my place of work. It is only when my wife and I – and our three small children – were installed here that we discovered why Somerset West and the Helderberg area is so special. It is only a short distance from the city, where we enjoy the theatre, a concert and dinner. We are fanatical about eating out and we choose different restaurants to have a variety of experiences. We love the upmarket Overture for special occasions. Somerset West is very kid friendly, and we love Warwick Wine Estate where the whole family can picnic all afternoon on the lawns or in the French-style courtyard. The cycling tracks in Stellenbosch are some of the best in the world. When I got here I saw people jogging at six in morning and I thought they were completely mad. Now I do it too. At 5.30am!’
Somerset West at a Glance
- R2,348 million Average freehold sales price
- R1,199 million Average sectional-title sales price
- R2,129 million Average estate sales prices
- 477 Number of freehold properties
- 217 Number of sectional-title properties
- 438 Number of estate properties
- 23,83% Recent buyers aged 18 to 35
- 31,13% Recent buyers aged 36 to 49
- 25,41% Recent buyers aged 50 to 64
- 19,63% Recent buyers aged 65 or older
- Pam Golding Properties: pamgolding.co.za
- Healthjar Sports Massage: healthjar.co.za
- Overture: dineatoverture.co.za
- Warwick Wine Estate: warwickwine.com
- Vergelegen: vergelegen.co.za
- Lourensford: lourensford.co.za
- Morgenster: morgenster.co.za
- Waterford Wine Estate: waterford.co.za
- Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm: cavallistud.com
- Erinvale Estate’s Seventeen07: erinvale.co.za/restaurants/seventeen07
- Somerset Mall: somersetmall.co.za
- Waterstone Village: waterstonevillage.co.za
- Lourensford Estate: capemarkets.co.za
- Lew Geffen Sotheby’s Realty: sothebysrealty.co.za