"There is a “very healthy” demand for vacant land, as buyers take advantage of the current market conditions to secure a plot with an eye to a long-term investment" - Nicola Lloyd, Pam Golding Properties area manager for Hermanus, Onrus and Elgin.

Signs of life and restoration are already visible in Betty’s Bay and surrounding communities, after the devastating fire that started on New Year’s Eve ravaged thousands of hectares of vegetation and destroyed more than 30 homes.

“The fire affected all residents of the Whale Coast, from the Steenbras Dam above Gordon’s Bay, Elgin and Botriver, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hermanus. But this cluster of communities has banded together to support each other and rebuild. These towns are popular visitor and permanent resident destinations, and their communities will rise again,” says Nicola Lloyd, Pam Golding Properties area manager for Hermanus, Onrus and Elgin.

The residential property market in these areas has shown the same resilience, adds Lloyd, with positive growth and robust sales activity in many areas boding well for a positive year ahead. There is a “very healthy” demand for vacant land, as buyers take advantage of the current market conditions to secure a plot with an eye to a long-term investment. Furthermore, waterfront and security estate properties remain desirable, especially to buyers from upcountry. “There’s a wide range of properties to choose from, across all price segments,” notes Lloyd. Numerous developments are also in the pipeline, catering for a full spectrum of property prices and options.

“Despite some challenges, most recently the fires but also disruptions in some communities, there are buyers who see the value of property on the periphery of the metropolitan area. In December, there were 48 new homes being built in Pringle Bay alone. This means that the village is considered a desirable place to live and invest,” says Annien Borg, Pam Golding Properties MD: Boland and Overberg. While most of the homeowners in Pringle Bay are more mature, with 34% being retirees, there’s growing interest from younger buyers as families move into the area, says Borg. With schools such as the Pringle House Eco School, which turns 10 this year, many young families are able to live and work in Pringle Bay, while their children enjoy the benefits of living in coastal village. Vacant plot sales doubled in 2015, according to Lightstone property data, and sales activity has continued to increase since then.

Pam Golding Properties recently sold a home in Onrus for R15 million, the highest sales price recorded to date for this town. Described as a “landmark property”, the home is located opposite the beach with unrestricted mountain and sea views. “Onrus has also seen a massive growth in sectional title prices over the past five years. “The improvement of employment, educational and medical opportunities in the area has led to a considerable demand for these properties, and as a result the rental market is also booming,” says Lloyd. According to Lightstone property data, the town is attracting younger buyers, with 31% of recent sales being to those under the age of 35.

Pam Golding Properties agent for Onrus, Annemarie Gaigher, says house prices in Onrus vary, with those on the peninsula ranging between R2.5 million and R5 million. Vacant land in Onrus is available for under R1 million. An idyllic village surrounded by mountains, Onrus is a popular holiday destination offering various activities include hiking, trails and surfing. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, with its picturesque wine route, is nearby and Hermanus is just a short drive away. But Gaigher says families are also choosing to live in Hermanus and Onrus because of the excellent educational opportunities in the region.

In Kleinmond, which has a growing number of young buyers, Pam Golding Properties is marketing an exclusive development called Oude Overberg. Comprising only eight houses, this development is located in a Unesco-declared biosphere and offers an enviable lifestyle. More than half of homeowners in Kleinmond have had their properties for 11 years or more. House prices in this area have shown solid growth in recent years, with the median freehold price in 2018 being R1.27 million. There’s also been a noticeable increase in the sale of vacant land in recent years, with 149 plots sold last year.

Security estates continue to attract buyers, especially those moving to the province from upcountry. Sales activity at the Arabella Country Estate, one of the more established lifestyle estates in the Western Cape, has increased and last year 22 homes – the highest in a decade – were sold. The median price of a home at Arabella is R4.075 million. Sales at Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate have also increased in the past year, and the median price of a home here is R3.5 million.

The outstripping of freehold sales by vacant land in Betty’s Bay suggests that the Whale Coast’s best-kept secret is out. With its varied attractions, including the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens that hosts one of the most scenic parkruns in the country, and the Stony Point Penguin Sanctuary, Betty’s Bay appeals to buyers from all over the country wanting to secure a holiday home or long-term investment. Plot sales doubled in 2014, and activity has been brisk since then. In 2018, there were 119 plot sales, up from the 110 in 2017. Plot prices start at R200 million, while homes are available from R1.2 million. The market is very stable, with 60% of homeowners having their properties for 11 years or more. Buying a plot is therefore one of the ways of gaining a foothold in this market. Property prices have increased steadily by 40% the past five years.

Elgin, well known for its apples and pears, is now also famous for the three “W’s”: wine, wheels and weddings. It boasts cool-climate wines, mountain bike trails galore and unique wedding venues with the most quaint self-catering cottages, glamping and airstream trailers. The latest attraction is the steam-punk inspired Elgin Railway Market, with regular visits from the steam train being a major drawcard.

Monique Halfpenny, Pam Golding Properties agent for the area, says: “It is no secret that buyers in this area are wanting to escape the bright, city lights, traffic and noise of the city when moving to Elgin and Grabouw. There is also excellent schooling which allows families to live in an area where children can play outdoors in nature.” Unsurprisingly, 70% of homeowners in Elgin have had their properties for at least 11 years. Many of the permanent residents work from home and Pam Golding Properties has listed a two-bedroom home in Grabouw, that comes with an additional cottage, for R6 million. This is an ideal property for dual living or a work-from-home option.

There are various property types in the area, including Elgin Village, a residential development situated on a working apple farm. House prices here range between R2 million and R4.5 million, with vacant land selling for a bout R1.5 million. Klipkop Estate in Grabouw offers larger properties, selling for between R3 million and R6 million. Here you can buy almost a hectare of land for R1.5 million. Most of the properties in this estate have views of the Hottentots Holland Mountains.

“There’s clearly an appetite for homes in areas that offer a laidback, lifestyle without being too far from Cape Town. The Whale Coast certainly offers this, as well as magnificent natural beauty and a host of attractions – from wine tasting and craft beer brewing to kayaking and mountain biking,” says Borg. There’s also the appeal of knowing that buying a home in one of these areas makes financial sense. Borg explains: “Property data indicates that coastal properties, defined as being within 500 metres of the coastline enjoy a price premium compared with their non-coastal counterparts, and prices here continue to strengthen even in a somewhat muted property market. Much like the communities that stand together even when faced with challenges, the property market in this part of the Overberg remains resilient.”