In 2016, a landmark property deal amalgamated two of the country’s most sought-after residential lifestyle estates, with Pearl Valley and Val de Vie becoming a single luxurious, self-sustaining community in the Winelands known as Val de Vie Estate.
And just more than a year down the line, the concept has not only been cost-effective and efficient on a practical management level, but is also demonstrably valuable as an investment proposition for current and future residents.
This according to Val de Vie Estate’s Marketing Director Ryk Neethling, who says the past year has unquestionably provided far more highs than lows.
“The main challenge has been blending the cultures of the two estates, because an estate is a community and it develops a unique culture. Our management team has overcome this by working transparently and encouraging the cross-over use of facilities and outdoor recreational spaces”.
“Another teething issue has been merging services, such as security systems and maintenance contracts”.
“But in January next year a whole new world of leisure activities and facilities will open up for residents who haven’t yet fully explored their expanded domain, because that’s the completion date of the bridge and link road that will bring the two sections of the Estate together”.
“This infrastructure will also massively reduce residents’ commute time to Stellenbosch, making the Estate more attractive to a much wider market.”
Neethling says as Marketing Director one of his biggest challenges is condensing the representation of the Estate’s environment and lifestyle offering into consumer-friendly information bites, “because it’s completely unrealistic to have an 82-page marketing prospectus, but that’s the space I’d need to do it justice”.
Its many appealing features include elegant housing, expansive lakes, vineyards, lush polo fields, farms and beautifully landscaped gardens as well as a vast range of lifestyle offerings and outdoor activities catering to a diverse group of homeowners with different interests and pastimes.
From jogging trails alongside vineyards and fishing spots along the 7km of Berg River and the Pearl Valley Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, residents also enjoy outstanding restaurants and world-class security.
Chris Cilliers, Winelands CEO and Principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says residents have certainly benefited by the merger of the two estates with reduced costs and augmented lifestyle advantages.
“The term ‘super-estate’ has been used to describe lifestyle residential developments in South Africa that are substantially bigger than other estates and more facilities and amenities”.
“South Africa’s two super estates are Val de Vie in the Western Cape and Steyn City in Gauteng and both offer numerous upmarket lifestyle amenities”.
“Pearl Valley and Val de Vie were already well-established, award-winning developments in their own right and they have therefore each added value to the collective by leveraging off one another’s unique offerings with very little duplication. Pearl Valley has the golf course and clubhouse whereas Val de Vie has the polo fields and pavilion. The houses at Pearl Valley are also generally on larger stands, creating a luxury suburb within the master estate”.
“Val de Vie has a strong and established management team and it was therefore easy to extend this expertise into Pearl Valley in the merger.”
Cilliers says the primary economic advantage to residents has been the levies remaining at a reasonable level as a result of the economies of scale due to the consolidation of security, maintenance and landscaping costs. And residents enjoy easy access to amenities on both estates, including fitness centres, tennis and squash courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and equestrian facilities.
Neethling says from a broader perspective the merger has benefitted the local community with numerous jobs created on the Estate. “Local businesses are well supported by the use of sub-contractors for a variety of services.”
The Val de Vie Foundation has also been established and Neethling’s ambitions for the project are large, to say the least!
“Our hearts are in it, because while Val de Vie might be a self-contained community we are also part of a larger community that spans the valley from Franschhoek to Wellington and Paarl, as well as Stellenbosch”.
“The Foundation’s base funding is being amassed through the donation of 1% of the proceeds of all development plot sales, which should realise more than R200 million. After that 5% of Estate levies will go into the Foundation to fund it in perpetuity”.
“The Foundation’s motto is ‘A better life for all’ and empowerment is the entire ethos of the management team at Val de Vie, so we intend to build that for our greater community”.
“The Foundation focuses on a range of needs from early childhood development – anything from building extra classrooms to supplying educational toys – to feeding schemes, sports programmes and supporting local entrepreneurs”.
“But the most amazing and gratifying thing for me has been the involvement of the Val de Vie residential community in the work of the Foundation”.
“It’s easy to throw money or things at a ‘problem’ and feel you’ve done your part, but we have 1 200 families on the Estate and they have an array of skills. More and more they’re pooling their passion to contribute to the community”.
“Some are, for instance, retired educators who give extra maths lessons to the valley’s children, while others help coach sports teams.”
Neethling says by partnering with other foundations who share similar goals, the impact of their work should last though several generations to come.
Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says investors who buy property in Val de Vie Estate buy an unparalleled lifestyle.
“The Estate offers a massive range of options from developer stands to luxury apartments, and modest houses to mansions”.
“Property values have notably increased since the merger and continue to rise in spite of general market conditions, with the price of vacant ground showing the most growth.”
In 2015 developers plots on the Pearl Valley side sold for between R800 000 and R1.9m. The same plots are now selling for between R1.8m and R3m. Residential properties prices have increased by as much as 40% t0 60% in some parts of the Estate, depending on the nature of the property.
Cilliers says: “Because of the variety of property on offer there is a wider buyer demographic, including young executive families, empty nesters, retirees, international swallows and investors who want to take advantage of the rewarding buy-to-let opportunities”.
“They are attracted by the facilities and high level of security on the estate as well as the excellent local schools and medical facilities, and the easy access to Stellenbosch, Paarl, Cape Town and the airport”.
“There are still developer’s erven and plot-and-plan options priced from about R3.9m up to R13m, although the developer’s stock is selling out quite fast. Additionally, there is a selection of existing homes available, which generally vary in price from R4m up to R35m.”