Increasingly, the Karoo is seen a compelling and exciting tourism destination by the many travelers and visitors who explore the vast open spaces and myriad of towns that comprise this broad-spread and varied region.
The reasons for this are apparent as the Karoo has so many different options to offer – not only tourists but also those wanting to find a relaxing getaway property of their own which can also provide them with a regular income stream, says Wayne Rubidge, Pam Golding Properties area principal in the Karoo.
“Many people are keen to explore the tranquil countryside in an escape from the stresses and bustle of busy city life and the Karoo has such variety to offer, with character-filled towns and different landscapes to suit every individual preference”.
“Coupled with this, in the light of economic constraints domestic tourism has flourished, with cost-conscious South Africans eager to visit easily accessible destinations without even having to cross the borders or travel overseas. This has made the acquisition of a tourism or accommodation establishment very attractive to those wanting to relocate permanently to a country location”.
“And, with the expansion of wireless ADSL service providers many towns now have faster internet connections which is increasingly important and of benefit to businesses or those working remotely.”
Rubidge says considering the Karoo encompasses no less than four provinces which include the Free State and all three Cape Provinces, its central location ensures that all road travellers going from north to south must pass through it – with a high probability that due to the distances involved they will sleep over in one of the Karoo’s numerous towns.
The region is well serviced by five national roads and is accessed from all the major centres. The N1 highway dissects the Karoo and links with other national routes that also cross the Karoo from the major centres and airports such as George on the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town in the Western Cape. Besides the N1, other popular access routes are the N10 for visitors for the Karoo Midlands via Cradock, the N6 for the Eastern Karoo which passes Queenstown, the N9 to George via Graaff-Reinet and the N12 from Kimberley to Beaufort West.
Due to this location and the perennial interest in exploring the Karoo, accommodation establishments have proved over time to be a popular investment. Many of the leading destinations include towns like Prince Albert, Graaff-Reinet and Cradock and many others which all have their own unique attractions, including three National Parks.
Speciality destinations like beautiful villages such as Rhodes, Nieu Bethesda and Loxton are as popular as the larger towns. The diversity of attractions and activities that the Karoo has to offer is also an important component for visitors and includes the adventure destinations found along the Orange River and two of South Africa’s largest dams, the Gariep and the Vanderkloof dam.
Says Rubidge: “We find that many visitors either come to the Karoo having done their property searches via the internet and go to a specific town with the intention of buying a property as an investment or holiday house or alternatively, the growing trend is to seek a property in order to relocate to the country – and here the Karoo is an ongoing favourite”.
“Alternatively, visitors travelling to the Karoo for a holiday or an event fall in love with an area or a town and decide to investigate property investment opportunities. Normally these buyers will not buy immediately but will start with an internet search and then visit the region again to inspect various properties. This process can take up to six months from the first visit and sometimes even longer or during the next holiday season”.
“Due to the wide range of towns in the Karoo people display diverse interests in properties of all types, but the most popular are the properties with historic value built in the classic Karoo style and either a larger Victorian style or the simple lock up and go Karoo flat-roof cottages. In the instance of relocation for lifestyle purposes, a guest house or a business component is often a request. Price varies substantially, depending on mostly the size of the town and the facilities available such as schools”.
“Each town has its own unique culture and offerings for visitors or travellers who converge on or travel through the region from all the quarters of South Africa. Buyers at the top end of the market are mostly successful businessmen or families who come from the bigger metropoles, where a lifestyle change is high on the list of reasons for investing. They also find that a guest house or hospitality business is a great way to stay involved and meet with people from all walks of life who visit the Karoo.”
Recent sales by Pam Golding Properties in the Karoo include the prestigious Bergkant Lodge in Prince Albert which with its luxurious rooms and lavish gardens fetched R11.5 million.
Some sound opportunities for investment in this popular town include a 4 star, seven- room complex with Karoo style cottage architecture which is priced at R9.3 million while for those wanting a more space with a country feel there is a small farming opportunity on 2.4 ha of prime land, ideal for buyers seeking a permanent relocation. The farm includes an appealing four bedroom main house, five self-catering guest cottages and two further self-catering units for R6. 87million.
In Graaff-Reinet, another bustling town full of tourists and visitors, recent activities include the restoration and refurbishment of the historic, landmark Drostdy Hotel. Not far from the Drostdy and for sale through Pam Golding Properties in Graaff-Reinet is a luxurious 4 star guesthouse with eight air conditioned en-suite room, pool and private parking in a sought after area within walking distance of restaurants and shops. With luxurious finishes the property is profitable and sold as a going concern priced at R6.5million.
In nearby Cradock, a bustling regional centre located on the Fish River irrigation scheme, is a classic period home with 3 star rating and seven guestrooms in an ideal location off the N10 and with a lucrative bed and breakfast trade. Here is the opportunity to own an expansive home and gardens totalling 4 564sqm. Added to the main residence is a separate building with another three bedrooms and five further offices which are currently being rented on a semi-permanent basis. The provision of water from the ‘leiwater’ privilege attached to this property enables the buyer to grow his or her own vegetables with ease, while the expansion of guest facilities is a further option to explore. This well established and lucrative business opportunity is on the market for R6.5million.
Rubidge adds that more affordable investment opportunities can be found in Aberdeen, a smaller community which is just 50 km from Graaff-Reinet and offers excellent value in the lower price ranges, with a recently renovated Victorian 600sqm home with high ceilings, sturdy Oregon pine floors and seven bedrooms priced at just R1.45million.
“The main difference between the smaller towns compared to larger towns like Cradock, Graaff-Reinet and Prince Albert is the somewhat lesser number of tourists or visitors they attract as well as the lower average house price.”