IN 2005, South Africa’s property market was the fastest growing in the world. Although its rate of growth has slowed, property in Africa’s most developed economy is increasingly in hot demand. This appetite has been fuelled in part by the World Cup, but more sustainably by the fact that at last, foreigners are catching on to the staggeringly good standard of living available. The currency is also a dream, with around ZAR 11 (rand) to the pound.
But, warns Sally Wilson of Aylesford International in Cape Town, the time to catch a brilliant deal is now or never. “To be honest, I think this is the last chance,” she says, “because I think prices are going to rise. The market is beginning to recover and this is becoming a very desirable place to live. Everyone who is here for the World Cup is absolutely mad about South Africa.”
No wonder: it is the only country in the world that combines sea with safari, big city living with internationally renowned wine-making, the rustic with the urban and buzzy. That’s not to mention eight world heritage sites and golfing expanses that would make any fan of the sport weep with joy.
If you’re looking to buy with business in mind, Johannesburg is likely to be your choice. The standard of living for those with money can be off the charts in this troubled city – prices are depressed, and the cost of domestic help is low. Almost all desirable properties take the form of secure developments – security is a must in a city with as high a level of crime as Johannesburg, where muggings, carjacking and even murder are widespread. For weekend escape, Johannesburg is close to game farms which are great for safaris. If you’re enticed by the region, consider the more bucolic northern suburbs of the city: ritzy Sandton (known as Africa’s richest square mile), Bedfordview, Hyde Park, Park Town and Melrose, where values are still lower than on the Cape.
But Cape Town, the financial and cultural heart of South Africa’s Western Cape, is a more desirable city than Johannesburg for most. The Cape’s magnificence arises from its location between the Indian Ocean to the south and the Atlantic to the west. The variation in scenery is intoxicating, from the wild Cape Agulhas coast, to the magnificent Garden Route, and the sparse, sweeping stretches of sand dotted with rocky outcrops and fishing villages. As Wilson says: “The Cape is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We’ve got a lot of foreigners who come for a visit and fall in love with it, people who want to get away from the misery of the English winter. And the pound goes ten times further even here.”
Indeed: for £900,000 you can buy a mansion in super-desirable ocean-facing Benguela, wine paradise Stellenbosch or whale-watching heaven Hermanus, all of which are within an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town. And £1m – which might buy you a small property in central London – gets you a magnificent palace in a similarly beautiful spot either facing the Atlantic or in wine country. “A lot of people say, ‘I’ve got £250,000 or half a million pounds and I want a different kind of lifestyle’. There’s no question South Africa is still a well-kept secret,” says Wilson. “It’s the best lifestyle in the world.”
BENGUELA COVE LAGOON WINE ESTATE
Price: ZAR 13.95m (£1.24m)
Stunning contemporary property in a lagoon-side development set amid vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields. Sold fully furnished, with automatic double garage and other state-of-the-art fixings, and advanced security.
Contact: Aylesford International Cape Town, tel: +27 (0) 21 430 2141
ST TROPEZ, HARBOUR ISLAND
Price: ZAR 10.2m (£884,000)
Set in the Harbour Island Marina, 40 minutes from Cape Town, this plush and secure development offers stunning open plan living areas with 3 bedrooms, jacuzzi, private mooring and a terrace with views of the marina, sea and mountains. Nearby Gordon’s Bay beachfront buzzes with shops, restaurants and pubs, and there are top schools, shops and hospitals nearby.
Contact: Hamptons International, tel: 020 79630625
WINE FARM, FRANSCHHOEK
Price: ZAR 43m (£3.85m)
This Huguenot farm was established in 1693, a breathtaking 47-hectare property with views over five mountain ranges, and Bordeaux grapes planted over 16-hectares. Exquisitely appointed home with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, guest cottage, double garage and boutique wine cellar.
Contact: Savills: www.savills.com/abroad
NETTLETON ROAD, CAPE TOWN
Price: ZAR 55m (£4.9m)
Striking use of design and breathtaking views are the hallmarks of this Perutin-designed home located in South Africa’s most sought-after address. This 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom home has been finished to world-class standards, with interior design by internationally renowned Cecile and Boyd, and offers a rare north-facing aspect overlooking a nature reserve.
Contact: Savills, www.savills.com/abroad