While the concept of living within a boomed-off suburb may once have been considered an unusual one, suited only to a very small niche category of buyers, modern lifestyle changes and the search for security have seen the concept of the residential estate come into its own in recent years. It is now one of the most highly sought-after options for many property buyers, from first-time buyers with aspirations to home-ownership to those purchasing in the top end luxury bracket. Investor buyers also tend to favour such properties, due to their potential to generate high rental income.
Pam Golding Properties (PGP) reports that this shift in perception is nowhere more evident than in the Helderberg basin, where both completed homes and vacant land in secure estates are now among the fastest-selling properties, provided they are appropriately priced. PGP’s area manager for Somerset West, Louise Varga, says almost 30 percent of the current market stock in that town is located within an estate, with most such properties selling within six weeks of listing.
Varga says security is usually the key factor which attracts buyers to a secure estate, due to the reduced fear of crime and perception of a safe environment in which to raise a family. However, safety is not the only factor, she says: “Often it is also a lifestyle choice based on the unique culture and character of the estate, facilities such as golf courses which support a particular hobby or passion, and in the case of some estates, a sense of exclusivity and status associated with the address.”
Another factor is the search for a more old-fashioned sense of community and neighbourliness, adds PGP agent Edelweiss Hankey. “A recent study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on gated communities found that the social connections offered by this lifestyle are often equally important, especially in communities where there is a shared interest such as golf or horse-riding at the heart of the product offering. Residents are able to enjoy harmonious living with like-minded neighbours, in an aesthetically-pleasing environment which offers security and peace of mind, without a sense of living in an unsightly barricaded fortress.”
Varga notes that buyers considering a home in a secure estate should pay careful attention to the specific rules and regulations of that environment, including any stipulations set down by the Homeowners’ Association, as well as the specific building and design guidelines which govern the estate. “Buyers must also ensure they are able to keep up with the monthly levies,” she adds.
The variety of secure estates on offer in the Somerset West area ranges from established larger and luxurious communities to new, smaller developments offering just a handful of homes. Among the largest and most prestigious is Erinvale Golf Estate, with its 433 properties including both freehold and sectional title options, a state of the art golf course, hotel, spa and restaurant. Prices here can range as high as R29 million for the most elaborate top-end homes. PGP is currently marketing an elegant four-bedroomed home located in a quiet cul de sac with beautiful mountain views, priced at R7.655 million.
Equally prestigious but far smaller is Silvertree Heights in the upmarket suburb of Spanish Farm, an estate which occupies over 20 000sqm yet include just nine exclusive homes, designed with a mix of Tuscan, Provençale and English colonial styles. Most residents here are mature buyers over the age of 50, who enjoy the proximity to local amenities such as the Waterstone Village shopping centre and Vergelegen Medi-Clinic. Homes do not come onto the market very often, with the last sale in 2011 fetching R2.3 million for a vacant erf of approximately 1850sqm, and the last two homes sold in 2009 for R9 million (a PGP sale) and R7 million respectively.
Brand new to the upper end of this market is a development known as Silverwood Close, located in a prime position in the heart of Parel Vallei. The estate consists of just eight beautifully-appointed prestige homes, with prices starting from R5.99 million.
Those seeking more affordable homes in a secure estate may consider Summergreens, consisting of 39 erven situated alongside the Somerset West Country Club. The location close to schools and public transport makes this an ideal environment for young professionals and families, with prices ranging from around R500 000 for vacant erven and up to R2 million for a four-bedroomed home. PGP currently has the mandate for the largest erf in the estate, a 450sqm plot occupying a prime location bordering a green belt. It is on the market at R875 000.