The property market in South Africa’s urban areas may be taking strain, but the market for country estates remains robust, and indeed demand is growing apace for some of these secure, nature-embracing residential spaces.
The many benefits of country estate living make this option comparatively more expensive than a freehold stand, yet there are several country estates in every province where you can buy for R3.5 million or less, making them ever more accessible to investors, as well as young middle-income families seeking a safe and relaxed lifestyle.
“Property located in security estates is valued at about three times more than normal freehold property,” according to a recent Lightstone Property report, “but the estate housing market in general doesn’t dip as low or peak as high as the rest of the luxury market”.
“This is not only because of the heightened level of security offered, but also because estates are excellent investments and because developers are increasingly including lifestyle elements like golfing and fishing, and even schools and hospitals,” says the report.
The country estate is best defined by its natural or wildlife-based environment. Some have golf courses, but the emphasis is on nature, spectacular countryside, views and an absence of the traffic congestion found closer to the CBD. Many of them seek to be environmentally sustainable, introducing dams for their own water use, with a country club as the social centre for the residents. And as their appeal to retirees increases, some are adding health and frail care facilities to their offerings.
In the Western Cape, country estates flung far out of Cape Town are noticing a distinct trend towards younger families buying to escape the growing stresses of city life.
Prominent among these is Arabella Country Estate, less than 30 km from Hermanus and 7km from Kleinmond in the Overberg. Private hospitals, good schools and shopping centres nearby make this a great choice for young and old alike, and the easily accessible transport links to the rest of Cape Town are particularly attractive to city executives who want to be able to work in the city but live in the country.
Previously considered too exclusive for the middle class and too far removed for families with school-going children, the estate is now favoured amongst younger families, who are drawn to the improved and latest fibre connectivity and the adjacent Curro School in Sandbaai, Hermanus, which offers private, bilingual learning to children up until Grade 10.
Residential erven at Arabella comprise only 12% of this 113ha estate, with 237 freehold properties varying in size from 550 to 2900 square metres, most of which have picturesque views of the 1.6 kms of lagoon frontage, golf course and mountains. Prices start at around R3.1million.
Then, in the Durbanville area and just a 20 minute drive from Cape Town CBD is the upmarket Clara Anna Fontein.
Clara Anna Fontein consists of 344 single residential erven of generous proportions, mostly with spectacular views, and sales of these – upwards of R2 million – have been strong. In March, there were only nine plots left.
“The townhouses (priced between R3.2 million and R5.5 million) have also done very well. We have only 30 left of the 126 townhouses that were launched in 2016,” says Johan de Bruyn, agent for the developer, Louw Coetzee Properties. “The market is a combination of people wanting to build their dream home, and young families wanting to raise their families in nature, away from the city,” he adds.
Up on the West coast is Langebaan Country Estate, a scenic 450-ha estate set next to the renowned West Coast National Park, and featuring an 18-hole Gary Player Designs Black Knight golf course.
“Langebaan Country Estate is selling homes faster than anywhere else in Langebaan,” comments RE/MAX agent Jennie Ols. All 900 homes in its first three phases of development have sold out, in particular, its freestanding plot-and-plan homes fronting the golf course, priced upwards of R2 million, and Ellefsen Village, semi-detached townhouses and freestanding homes positioned alongside the fairways.
Phases Four and Five are now in the pipeline, and include 1509 opportunities and a retirement village, while plans are afoot for The Village, with over 300 units, a clubhouse and frail care facilities – to be launched mid-2018.
In Gauteng, a number of country estates in Johannesburg’s Northern suburbs and Midrand, including Steyn City and Waterfall Estate – as well as in the South, including Eye of Africa and Meyersdal Eco Estate, are leading the trend as preferred investment opportunities for middle-income families and investors.
Eye of Africa Estate has done so well, its apartment block option, The Village, which launched last year, just “flew off the plans”, says Kent Gush of Kent Gush Properties, which heads up sales at the estate. The units are priced at between R1.3 million to R2.3 million, and the buyers are a mix of investors, young couples and families from Joburg’s Southern suburbs, and empty nesters. “The uptake reveals just how strong market appetite is for this type of property within this price range in a secure, lifestyle estate,” says Gush.
Similarly, Serengeti Estates East of Kempton Park in Bronkhorstspruit, has proved a strong attraction for investors with the launch last year of its Whistling Thorns apartments, the first units of which will be ready for occupation later this year.
The site for Whistling Thorns measures five hectares, and the layout includes plenty of green space between buildings, promoting the serenity and tranquility that you expect from a lifestyle estate.
Prices for the apartments start from R1.5 million. “Whistling Thorns is ideal for singles and professionals wanting a lock-up-and-go lifestyle, as well as young families,” comments John Hart, property director o Whistling Thorns.
Heading north, one of the most popular country estates in the Tshwane area is Olympus. The estate, consisting of small-holdings surrounding a central green common area, successfully achieves a country living feeling only two kilometres from the city.
“Repeated sales made within the estate by residents who upscale from a smaller home or townhouse, or the other way around, shows that residents prefer to buy within the estate again – so buying here is a great investment,” says Leandi Naude, agent for RE/MAX Property.
Amber Lee Country Lifestyle Estate, bordering the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve in Howick, has the same kind of appeal. Situated on a 176-ha farm, the development is on 56 hectares of sub-divided land, and offers an idyllic country lifestyle with five stocked dams, wildlife, and spectacular views.
“Amber Valley is the first of the Greater Ambers; Amber Ridge, Amber Lakes, and Amber Lee all hug Amber Valley.’ explains Sharon Davies from Amber Properties.
“Of the 12 units in phase one launched in 2017, six have already sold at around R1.65 million. Phase Two is expected to start towards the end of this year,” says Greg Rhodes-Jones, agent at Tyson Properties. One of Amber Lee’s beneifts is access to the frail care facilities and assisted living units available at Amber Valley.With top schools (Grace College, St Anne’s and Hilton College) all within 20 km, the development supports a mulitgeneratonal enviroment “So it’s more than a retirement community. It’s a viable option for those looking to raise children with the best educational opportunities,” says Rhodes-Jones.
Head east towards Mpumalanga, and the same trend is evident. Wild Fig Country Estate near White River, a 260-ha, game fenced country estate overlooking spectacular bushveld valleys and mountain ranges, has drawn keen interest from middle-income earners working in Mbombela, for instance. Here you can find stunning homes starting from R3.1m.
“Homes in The Village at Wild Fig are an ideal investment for the discerning buyer looking for a family-friendly secure estate in the Mbombela and White River area, or alternatively for a retirement getaway,” says Ann Cross, sales agent for Wild Fig.
The stands are from R950 000 to R1200 000, with building packages available. “We also have a village with smaller stands, with more houses being developed there,” says Cross.
Aside from the beautiful scenery and peaceful surrounds, residents here are close to White river, Mbombela and the Kruger National Park. “We have owners who use their unit for vacations, as well as owners using their unit as an investment,” says Cross.