It is quite possible that no town in the Western Cape felt the impact of the late 2008 to 2009 recession as much as Franschhoek, says Johan Hugo, the Rawson Property Group franchisee for Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Prices, he says, on average dropped by 20 to 30%.
The reason for this, he says, was that a high percentage of the owners who previously invested in Franschhoek do not to live here permanently but visit over the weekends and in their annual breaks. In addition, many of these are second homes and the owners live overseas.
“Once the severity of the recession began to bite, the most obvious and most convenient step to take was to offload these second homes. At one stage in 2009 there was a very large number of such homes on the market in Franschhoek.”
But, says Hugo, Franschhoek has shown a remarkable ability to shrug off those bad times and revive its holiday market, which he now describes as “very healthy” with a strong demand and enough stock to meet it.
“Just as we went down further than most, so we have recovered faster.”
“Today,” he says, “the foreign buyers who disappeared so quickly have come back only in small numbers so far. However the local buyers are honing in on the town in a big way. Many are independent, freelance entrepreneurs who can work at home, making use of the internet.”
Why do they prefer Franschhoek to any other South African town or village?
The reasons, says Hugo, become clear to anyone who spends a day or two there: the village is one of the most attractive in South Africa as it is encircled by mountains and surrounded mainly by beautiful vineyards and fruit orchards.
Furthermore Franschhoek homes, almost without exception, are in good condition and well cared for, there is an excellent private school just on the edge of the village and the restaurants are among the best in South Africa. In addition the crime rate is also one of the lowest in South Africa.
“The security factors make Franschhoek especially appealing to people from Johannesburg and areas like Rosebank, Constantia and Hout Bay in Cape Town where break-ins now occur far too often,” says Hugo.
Franschhoek, says Hugo, has capitalized on its appeal by organizing festivals of many different kinds: Bastille Day, the Literary Festival, cooking and wine shows, musical performances and a wide range of other gatherings ensure that a major attraction takes place at least once a month – and throughout the year weekend visitors make it possible for retailers and restaurants to maintain good turnovers.
All this, of course, would seem to indicate that property in Franschhoek must be expensive – but that is not the case, says Hugo. Those who sell in Cape Town to move here often find that they are able to replace their homes for a similar price and in some cases are even able to put away a small nest egg.
Asked to give examples of what Janice Hicks, the Franchise Manager, regards as good value buys, she pointed to two properties now on sale at La Petite Provence. This is a very popular security estate which has its own vineyard growing merlot and cabernet grapes, the products of which are available at a discount to the development’s homeowners. It also has a clubhouse, a swimming pool, tennis courts and well maintained gardens.
The homes on sale at La Petite Provence are:
· A two bedroom upper level lock-up-and-go apartment with a carport. Such units, says Hicks, are ideal for the occasional visitor/investor because they are within walking distance of the town and can be rented for short lets at good prices. The average price is in the region of R1,2 million.
· A larger home in the same estate which is a double storey consisting of four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, very large living areas, a double garage, state of the art fixtures and fittings, its own private, walled-in landscaped garden which has fully automated irrigation and a swimming pool. The price here is R4,5 million.