For many South Africans, returning to the rural areas or the countryside is as much part of the annual ritual or way of life as it is for the many others who go to the coast, says Wayne Rubidge, Pam Golding Properties (PGP) manager for the Karoo region.
“Whether you are from a rural area and work in the big urban areas or from the urban areas and go on holiday to the country – or if you are looking for a new adventure, for many people the countryside is their first destination choice. This is evidenced in the Karoo, with many new property owners in the region buying Karoo property in order to have a connection to the country as a location where they can enjoy a more relaxed and peaceful lifestyle,” he says.
Rubidge says it doesn’t matter if you have roots or connections in the Karoo, if you have acquired property because you are looking for a more tranquil way of life, or whether you are looking at a pure investment, a Karoo property of whatever category is increasingly desirable to people from all walks of life. This is particularly so as urban pressures increase and coastal areas expand from being quaint coastal villages into more built-up areas with expensive property choices.
Value for money
“The Karoo offers something for everyone and has an affordable starting price of around R20 000 for a vacant stand in many of the quaint and picturesque Karoo towns. So besides providing some of the most exclusive country residences found in South Africa, the Karoo also offers a treasure trove of affordable homes and historically valuable properties.”
He says as the Karoo is geographically such a large and expansive area it is surprisingly accessible, being so centrally located. To help understand the Karoo – and categorised by size – the Karoo is made up of basically three types of towns.
Firstly there are the larger ‘service’ towns such as Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Aliwal North, Somerset East, Middelburg, Carnarvon, Colesberg, and Beaufort West. Then there are ‘country classics’, these being smaller towns like Richmond, Philipstown, Aberdeen, Willowmore, Steynsberg and Bethulie, all of which provide basic services and are the towns that offer sound property value. ‘Country villages’ make up the final category and these small towns can be found in all four provinces that make up the Karoo, namely the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and the Southern Orange Free State. Towns like Loxton, Nieu Bethesda, Rhodes and Lady Grey are excellent examples of this very quaint category.
Says Rubidge: “There are other ways of identifying the right town to suit your individual preference or requirements as each town has its own ‘flavour’. Examples are Richmond which is Africa’s official Booktown, while Prince Albert offers exclusivity and like many other towns, Karoo cuisine is at the forefront.
“However for value and affordability the classic Karoo towns are where the opportunities lie. All these towns offer Karoo antiquity in the form of historical homes at affordable prices, mainly ranging between R180 000 and R450 000. A great example of these prized homes is seen in Richmond in the centre of ‘book street’ where entire houses have been converted from floor to ceiling with books. On offer in Spring Street in Richmond is a quaint three bedroom Karoo cottage with beautiful wooden floors and ceilings with a beautiful small garden that looks over the Ongers River, and priced at just R230 000.”
In Hanover is another good example of Karoo historical affordability. Like Richmond, Hanover is almost midway between Gauteng and Cape Town and has an abundance of beautiful homes in the Karoo vernacular architecture. Priced at just R290 000 and centrally situated close to the church square, this character-filled cottage has four bedrooms and the usual Karoo outbuildings.
Rubidge says in the Eastern Cape Karoo town of Aberdeen there are numerous homes offering very good value for money in price ranges that can accommodate first time home buyers. Situated just 50km from Graaff-Reinet and 250km from George, this town incorporates a wide variety of Karoo architectural styles offering exceptional value. This includes an original 1856 Karoo style home built in the same year the town came into existence. With original sash windows it has three bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a garage and is currently on the market for R275 000.
Also in Aberdeen for just R140 000 you can acquire a smaller Victorian home with three bedrooms and one bathroom that needs some renovation. At the top end of the market in this same town is a larger and more spacious five bedroom Victorian home with outbuildings and a double garage priced at R690 000, as well as a large semi-restored, six bedroom Victorian home selling for R550 000 which offers good value for money. This beautiful home has original Oregon floors, ball and claw baths and two large bay windows in two separate lounges.