No longer simply wine farms, landed gentry and gourmet tourism, the lifestyle, proximity to Cape Town, growing towns and infrastructure (from roads to schools), means families are able to join the property market in the Winelands.
Rhythmic rows of vineyards, arresting architecture and a depth of restaurant offerings epitomise the Cape Winelands, one of South Africa’s most extraordinarily scenic regions. Many of the farms and wine labels here are an integral part of local history, so there’s little doubt why tourists are drawn to the area.
‘The tourism growth has given rise to product development, from boutique hotels and cottages on wine farms to top-ranked restaurants run by award-winning chefs, either at the wine farms or in the villages themselves,’ says Pierre Germishuys, MD of Seeff’s Winelands/Boland region. ‘Six of Eat Out’s top 10 restaurants from 2015 are in the area: La Colombe (Constantia), The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (Franschhoek), Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort (Constantia), The Restaurant at Waterkloof (Somerset West), Terroir (Stellenbosch) and Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch).’
Tara Whiting, founder-director of Acquire Africa, considers the Winelands’ tourism to be in its infancy: ‘One of the fastest-growing tourism categories is food and wine, and South Africa should be getting a piece of that pie,’ she says. She foresees a doubling of the local wine tourism industry within the next 10 years and supports the view of Rico Basson, executive director of VinPro, that ‘prospective investors should also look at the wine industry through the lens of tourism to find the sweet spots.’
A status symbol
There’s little doubt that South African wine farms have become symbols of affluence. The South African Wealth Report 2015 puts it into a global perspective: ‘The Western Cape is home to some of the most expensive wine property in the world, valued at more than $75 000 per hectare (source: Knight Frank). These estates have become a popular investment for high net worth individuals (HNWIs), with many of the most well-known South African HNWIs having their own wine farms in the area. The most exclusive of these estates are located in Stellenbosch, Constantia and Franschhoek.’
Whiting has long been involved at the wine end of the property market, including selling the legendary Mont Rochelle Hotel and Wine Estate to Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Group. ‘South Africa’s smaller boutique/lifestyle wine farms (around 10ha) start at the R20 million to R30 million mark, while top-end wine brands can sell for between R100 million and R200 million, up to R300 million,’ she says.
The simple (but stylish) life
What about those who aren’t bona-fide wine farmers, but find the romance of the region, the landscape and lifestyle irresistible? What constitutes a Winelands lifestyle, in fact? While it means different things to different people, it’s anchored in a privileged quality of life, which increasingly means time spent with family, being outdoors, feeling more connected to the earth, easy accessibility to retail, commercial and transport links, security, and ‘simple’ pleasures.
Of course, simplicity here comes in some glorious packaging – particularly in the burgeoning gated estate and property development market. This talks to different interests: world-class golf courses – such as one of South Africa’s top residential estates for 2015, Pearl Valley Golf & Country Estate – equestrian and polo pursuits, mountain biking, hiking and fly-fishing, and small-scale or boutique-type farming such as Val De Vie’s Gentleman’s Estate.
‘Other developments include vineyards and olive groves such as La Ferme Chantelle, situated on the R45/Main Road just as you enter Franschhoek, and Domaine des Anges in the village itself,’ says Seeff’s Germishuys. ‘Just outside Paarl, there’s Santé Winelands Estate, a working wine estate with a beautiful hotel and spa, and stunning residences on plot sizes of 4 000m2 to almost 2ha. The latter is inclusive of a private vineyard or olive grove, fully maintained by the estate.’
And this lifestyle is holding more and more appeal for those with money to invest: the area comprising Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek has been the fastest growing region in the country, with the number of millionaires moving here increasing by 38% between 2007 and 2015, according to New World Wealth. There are now 2 200 millionaires in the Winelands, just behind the Garden Route (2 400), Durban (2 600) and Pretoria (2 600).
Live and learn
But there’s another factor, a box that needed ticking to woo families into permanent residence here: the rise in quality schooling and tertiary education options, both private and government. For a number of years, the region’s lifestyle has drawn Gauteng investors to the area. Now, with the growing educational possibilities, this trend has accelerated to include younger families from Gauteng, as well as from Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal, who can live, work, play and receive world-class schooling on their doorstep. Yes, some breadwinners still commute to major business hubs, but fewer do and less often. If they do, the road/air commute just keeps getting better, faster, easier.
Stellenbosch University is also a clear drawcard for families in the area but with 35 000 students needing accommodation, it’s also attracting investors. Louise Varga, projects manager for Pam Golding Properties in the Boland and Overberg regions, believes Stellenbosch is quite possibly the safest market to be in from a buy-to-let perspective: ‘It’s a global phenomenon that residential properties in student towns achieve a higher capital growth compared to the national average, so if you’re acquiring a property to retain for several years then exit the investment, Stellenbosch is recommended (each year, parents of students are looking to buy),’ she says.
‘The cost for a typical two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on campus would set you back on average of R2 million – with rental income of R12 500 to R14 000 a month – while an apartment about 500m off-campus would fetch R1.5 million and generate a monthly rental of R8 000,’ she adds. ‘You may choose to hold onto your investment property longer for excellent capital growth – in 2002, if you had bought in Bergzicht Plaza, close to campus, you would have paid R398 000 for a two-bedroom apartment, which recently sold for R1.8 million. Today, the rental income is R9 000 a month.’
The power of Durbanville
Annemarie Cilliers is the principal/owner of Fine & Country in Durbanville, where, she says, their wine farms – Meerendal and Bloemendal are examples – are mostly bought by Joburg business consortiums. The latter was bought for R120 million by Tokyo Sexwale. ‘The buyers are mostly chequebook farmers, who purchase the wine farms as businesses,’ she says. ‘In general, residential properties in the Durbanville area are bought by business people, “semi-grating” from Joburg and Pretoria. We’ve also recently had buyers from Wilderness/George and the Eastern Cape, and there are still those who move here from Cape Town’s southern suburbs because of better value and less crime. Typical buyers are the smaller business man who likes the lifestyle, as well as equestrian lovers.’
And then there’s the schooling. ‘There’s a tendency for Durbanville parents to send their children to Paarl Boys High, Paarl Gymnasium or Paul Roos in Stellenbosch,’ she says, ‘but there are some superb Durbanville schools, whether private, international or government, such as Chesterhouse, Curro, Kenridge and Gene Louw.’
Luxury estate living
Doug Gurr, Pam Golding Properties’ agent in Franschhoek, describes their sales activity focus as far more around lifestyle farms than their wine counterparts and the trend has been steadily growing in the last 12 months. ‘Smallholdings from 2ha to 5ha are priced mainly between R15 million and R30 million, depending on the location and quality, while houses range from about R4 million to R20 million,’ he says. ‘There’s also a growing permanent population in the Winelands – international, returning South Africans, and increasingly, Gautengers. Many are residing in the upmarket secure estates scattered throughout the valley.’
Simon Bray, Private Property CEO, concurs: ‘The Cape Winelands contain some of the most sought-after residential property spots in the country as buyers who are attracted to the lifestyle and location flock to the area,’ he says. ‘The demand is being driven in part by the wide range of residential estates that have been developed in the area. From luxury estates such as Val de Vie in Paarl to the more affordable estates around Somerset West, the property market in the Winelands has options that will appeal to a wide range of buyers.’
‘Somerset West now comfortably tops the Helderberg property market and, in terms of demand and average prices, rivals Stellenbosch when it comes to values,’ says Loretta Diab, manager for Seeff Somerset West. Tellingly, the next phase of Sitari Country Estate – with its olive groves and orchards, 3 150 luxury residential apartments, turn-key village and country homes – is about to be launched, alongside Curro, South Africa’s fastest-growing independent school brand, which will make access to quality education that much easier for parents living within Sitari.
‘The village has in recent years become one of the most sought-after residential hot spots in the country,’ says Diab. ‘It’s largely South Africans who are buying and no longer just older buyers. There’s a clear shift in the demographic, with 40% now under the age of 40. While the sub-R3 million price band remains the most active, top-end sales prices of luxury homes have comfortably reached R3.7 million in Fairview Heights, R4.5 million and R5.2 million in Dennegeur Estate, R5 million in Boskloof Estate, R6 million in Bellaire Estate and R6.5 million in Spanish Farm.’ In this glorious landscape, eco-estates, too, are understandably sought after, a prime example being Balwin Properties’ De Velde, where phase four has just sold out.
An unparalleled lifestyle
From one end of the Winelands to the other – region and scale – it’s hard to imagine a finer lifestyle for super-luxury residential estates and investment. Wine tourism, too, has an impact beyond the obvious, in that it offers growing entrepreneurial and commercial possibilities – drawing younger buyers and families – while a strong economy in a town leads to increased public and/or private infrastructure, retail and, as is increasingly visible and viable, quality education.
On foreign ownership
By Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Properties group
Last year’s (2015) announcement regarding the potential introduction of legislation to restrict foreign ownership of land created some confusion and resulted in a number of issues being raised by potential and existing clients. To the best of our knowledge, there are currently no restrictions of residential property proposed in respect of foreign ownership and it seems this is to be confined to foreign ownership of agricultural land. With regard to agricultural land, presumably there is still a great deal of detail that needs to be indicated and understood when it comes to government’s proposal – the specific detail around proposed leasehold regulation, as an example: a 99-year lease is fundamentally different from a 50-year lease. And so, while this is potentially positive news for the residential sector, there is still considerable uncertainty about the detail regarding agricultural land. As is often the case when statements regarding foreign ownership are made, we receive a significant number of enquiries from existing and potential property owners.
The big 5
According to the South Africa 2016 Wealth Report by New World Wealth, last year, five of South Africa’s top 12 estates for super-rich residents were located in the Winelands. These are:
1. Pearl Valley, Paarl
2. Val De Vie Polo and Wine Estate, Paarl
3. De Zalze, Stellenbosch, a working farm of vineyards, citrus orchards and olive groves, plus a golf course
4. Erinvale, Somerset West
5. Steenberg, Tokai, large winery and vineyard
Estates to watch
Annien Borg, regional head of Pam Golding Properties’ Boland and Overberg areas, considers lifestyle – and that includes proximity to quality schooling and commercial hubs – to be the gold-chip motivation to invest in these estates:
• Val De Vie Polo and Wine Estate, Paarl
• Boschenmeer Golf Estate, Paarl
• Andringa Walk, Stellenbosch
• Brandwacht Aan Rivieren, Stellenbosch
• Fernkloof Golf Estate, Hermanus
• Hemel-En-Aarde, Onrus/Hermanus
• Schonenberg Estate, Somerset West
• Croydon Village, Somerset West
• Erinvale Golf Estate, Somerset West
• De Zalze Golf Estate, Stellenbosch
• Seeff: seeff.com
• Pam Golding Properties: pamgolding.co.za
• Fine & Country: fineandcountry.com/sa
• Private Property: privateproperty.co.za
• La Colombe: lacolombe.co.za
• The Tasting Room: lqf.co.za
• Greenhouse: greenhouserestaurant.co.za
• The Restaurant at Waterkloof: waterkloofwines.co.za
• Terroir: kleinezalze.co.za
• Jordan Restaurant: jordanwines.com
• Acquire Africa: acquireafrica.com
• VinPro: vinpro.co.za
• Pearl Valley Golf & Country Estate: pearlvalley.co.za
• Val De Vie: valdevie.co.za
• Sitari Country Estate: sitari.co.za
Text Anne Schauffer
Photographs iStock by Getty Images and supplied