Areas and Places

Investing in an historic home

As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town’s architecture is a testament to its many and varied influences. Buyers in search of a home reflecting a past era can acquire residences varying from thatched and gabled Cape Dutch houses to the central city’s ornate, organic forms of Art Nouveau and the stark, geometric lines of the Modernist Movement.

Whether bought fully-renovated or still in need of some love and care, the romance and emotional pull of an older home holds enormous appeal for many, according to Richard Day, Pam Golding Properties National General Manager.

However, potential investors should work with an experienced estate agent to ensure they are fully informed of the possible property requirements – from Council paperwork to specialist building contractors.

Many historic homes were built in prime central locations, or close to attractive natural features such as rivers and mountain backdrops. They may still occupy significantly larger erfs and have more and larger rooms than the average modern home. They also tend to be well-built structures, with thick walls, wooden floors and old-school attention to detail and craftsmanship.

It is often such features, and if they form part of a well-maintained, fully-renovated historic property, which may command a premium price, more than any intrinsic heritage value or significance.
An ill-maintained historic property, or with insensitive renovations, would often fetch a lower price than an equivalent modern home, given the cost of restoring it to its former glory.

“Buyers who dream of renovating old homes should also be aware that they cannot just move in and start building – while such projects can be rewarding and achieve outstanding results, many aspects are carefully controlled by heritage authorities,” advises Day.

In South Africa, all structures over 60 years old – including their fixtures and fittings – are protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, 25 of 1999. All properties in a conservation area or heritage area are also protected. Entire areas of Cape Town are demarcated as being of broader heritage value, for example Wynberg Village, Observatory, Little Mowbray, St James and the city centre.

“It is advisable to find out at an early stage which heritage permissions are required and how to make your application. An experienced, networked estate agent can be invaluable in guiding you to the correct authorities for a particular neighbourhood, and helping to source an architect or contractor with experience in working with similar projects”.

“Correctly restoring and caring for such a home ensures that its historical value and interest are retained and that it remains an asset to the area. It also plays a significant part in ensuring its financial worth is maintained and increased.”

One of the prime Cape Town areas to buy historic homes, according to Pam Golding Properties area specialist Sue Rosenberg, is the area between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. Many Randlord mining magnates built their seaside holiday mansions along this coastline.

One of Cape Town’s most popular and scenic roads, Main Road between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek, is undergoing major rehabilitation and improvements. The work has been undertaken in three phases and entails the rebuilding of the road and replacing all the underground services, together with extensive hard and soft landscaping. The third and final stage is currently under construction.

While traffic congestion during the extensive rehabilitation may cause commuters headaches at present, the project promises to deliver attractive sidewalks on both sides of the Main Road, and parking facilities on the sea-facing side where locals and tourists can enjoy on-the-spot whale watching. This project, which is due for completion in October 2017, has been the catalyst for many of the abutting private properties being upgraded or redeveloped.

Rosenberg says this area appeals to all ages, from retirees to families with young children. Many buyers have moved from upcountry and want easy seaside access. The proximity of local schools (Sun Valley Primary, Star of the Sea Convent, Fish Hoek Junior and High School and Reddam House) makes the area a consideration for families with school-going children too.

Before taking on an historical property, make sure that it is generally suitable for your requirements in terms of size and plan, concludes Day. Sometimes people buy buildings because of their historical charm, only to completely alter them or to remove all patina or sense of past history.

“Find a house you like, and consider its pros and cons objectively, as well as emotionally. The more logically you approach buying the house, the more you’re going to love living in it.”