This time of year a lucky few leave the dull winter months behind, and head to their properties around vibrant Cape Town to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, stunning beaches and heavenly winelands, finds Cathy Hawker
When the autumn daylight starts to fade in the Northern Hemisphere, it signals the start of a flight of the fortunate few to South Africa’s second city—and its immediate environs—in search of winter warmth and sunshine. These are the so-called ‘swallows’, visitors seeking prolonged sunshine in one of the world’s most geographically blessed locations. Vibrant, cosmopolitan Cape Town has dramatic mountains and mighty seas that provide a blisteringly beautiful outdoor lifestyle matched by the perfect climate.
The swallows are an important part of Cape Town’s property market, purchasing across all price ranges and choosing between inland homes among the vines or beachfront living on the Atlantic seaboard. They generally make the city their home for anywhere from four to six months, says Basil Moraitis of Savills South African associates Pam Golding Properties. ‘The majority of swallows hail from the UK, but it also attracts buyers from other countries where the weather is dull and dismal from October to April. Apart from its sunny climate and picturesque scenery, Cape Town offers excellent sporting and cultural facilities, fabulous restaurants and a sophisticated lifestyle.’
Sophisticated it may be, but it’s also affordable, notes Jacques Ellis of Cluttons, with a good bottle of wine in a restaurant a bargain ZAR200 (approximately £9.50) and the going daily rate for a housekeeper ZAR250 (£11.80). ‘Thanks to the current exchange rate, buyers from the UK can live like a king here.’
The property wish list starts with excellent security—crime remains a top concern—followed by standout views, easy access to sports facilities and a home that’s easy to lock up and leave. ‘The swallows are very sociable and like property that provides generous entertaining space,’ adds Mr Ellis. ‘We call them our “half-year friends”—people we see for half the year, but by April are gone.’
Victoria Mitchell, who lives in Kingsclere, Hampshire, has owned a house in the prestigious Cape Winelands for six years after a successful Christmas holiday with her partner persuaded her to invest in a permanent Cape Town base. Until this autumn, Mrs Mitchell was a con sultant director at Savills—she set up their Residential Research department in 1989—and so, although she went out to Cape Town every November for at least three months, she would return to London fortnightly for business reasons.
Now she’s recently retired, the appeal of her Cape Town home has only grown. ‘Franschhoek is the prettiest South African town and we’re only a mile away, set among the vineyards with a tennis court and pool. We spend our time swimming and playing tennis and golf. I’m a keen hiker, too, so I love to climb Table Mountain and our house backs on to the national park, where we can walk for miles and miles.’ There are lots of other attractions, too. ‘Cape Town is a very active, outdoor place, but there’s also fantastic culture, with regular concerts of classical and popular music, ballet and opera and wonderful gardens to visit.’
For Mrs Mitchell, Cape Town is a sociable place and she receives a steady flow of visiting family and friends. ‘In a six-week period last year, we had 34 visitors as house guests, with an average stay of five nights,’ she notes with apparent delight. Fair weather, rich culture, affordable and varied housing choices and an easy lifestyle will continue to ensure migratory Europeans keep returning to Cape Town says Mr Moraitis. ‘These swallows count the time from the day they leave for home at the end of April until October or November, when they can return for another funfilled, relaxing and sunny summer.’
Where to buy properties near Cape Town
Winding down in the Winelands
Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are the two best-known towns in the prestigious Winelands, which lie about an hour’s drive of Cape Town. Franschhoek (which means ‘French corner’ in Afrikaans) is regarded as the gourmet capital of South Africa, with its boutique hotels and charming restaurants, and is the more expensive of the two. Be aware that it gets packed at weekends with visitors attracted by its delightful French and Cape Dutch heritage. Sotheby’s International Realty have a substantial detached five-bedroom house on the cobbled streets of the Domaine des Anges Estate for ZAR19.5 million (£927,790) and a three-bedroom thatched home on a vineyard estate for ZAR9.95 million (£473,410).
Action packed: V&A Waterfront
Twenty minutes from the international airport and a short walk away from Cape Town’s diverse shopping district, the V&A Waterfront is a modern mix of shops, restaurants, museums and live entertainment as well as South Africa’s most popular attraction, welcoming 23 million visitors annually.
Construction on the development started in 2000 and, today, the Waterfront has 550 apartments (which come with in-house security), more than 200 boat moorings and a One & Only Hotel. The construction of a new cruise-ship terminal has been recently approved. Studio apartments start from ZAR800,000 (£38,000) reaching to ZAR38 million (£1.8m) for exceptional penthouses with panoramic views. These homes rent well to celebrities and foreign visitors, says Mr Ellis of Cluttons, who dealt with the sale of the late former South African president Nelson Mandela’s apartment there.
Big waves: Atlantic seaboard
The exclusive seafront residential towns of the Atlantic seaboard stretch south from the V&A Waterfront to Hout Bay. Prices range from ZAR25,000 (£1,190) to ZAR100,000 (£4,760) per square metre, with the expensive enclaves of Clifton, Bantry Bay and Fresnaye commanding some of Africa’s highest property prices.
‘The prized properties of the Atlantic seaboard have always been a favourite with foreign investors,’ says Mr Moraitis. ‘With the mountains behind and the sea in front, we’ve seen prices double over the past five years and, in some suburbs, increase by as much as 1,000% since 2005.’ At Sea Point, where property prices have risen 25% since 2012, demand is at an all-time high, he claims.
Expect to pay ZAR2.5 million (£119,000) for one-bedroom apartments and up to ZAR15 million (£755,000) for three bedrooms with sea views. Blustery, west-facing Camps Bay, which is 15 minutes from central Cape Town has good restaurants and bars facing a long sandy beach and is a firm favourite with British buyers, who like the Saint-Tropez-style buzz. Pam Golding Properties have a light-filled, modern family house with four-bedrooms, pool and good views for ZAR16.995 million (£808,000) and a wind-sheltered three-bedroom town house with terrace and plunge pool for ZAR10.995 million (£554,000).
An immaculate three-floor town house on a secure resort close to Hout Bay is ZAR7.45 million (£523,000) through Knight Frank (www.knightfrank.com), who are also selling a modern three-bedroom open-plan apartment by the sea in Bantry Bay for ZAR20 million (£951,00).
Family friendly: southern suburbs
The southern suburbs, which lie at the foot of Table Mountain National Park, boast handsome houses in large walled gardens set back along quiet, leafy streets. Constantia, Upper Claremont and Bishopscourt are close to excellent private schools and are popular with returning expatriates, especially families from the UK.
These are mainly principal residences for affluent locals and be aware that many properties in the suburbs lose the sun early in the afternoon. However, there is a bohemian vibe, albeit a wealthy one, in places such as low-level, historic Wynberg Chelsea with its Italian coffee shops and small-scale art galleries that are hugely popular with Europeans.
The best houses for sale near Cape Town
Franschhoek ZAR £30m
Part of an historic farm of 1694 and less than one mile from Franschhoek, this six bedroom house comes with two separate guest houses and views over the vineyards to the mountains. Pam Golding/ Savills (020– 7016 3740; www.savills.com)
Hout Bay ZAR £12.5m
V&A Waterfront ZAR 6m
Apartments in V&A Waterfront, in the heart of Cape Town, start from ZAR6 million for one-bedroom flats and can rise to ZAR40 million for three-bedroom apartments and penthouses. Pam Golding/Savills (020–7016 3740; www.savills.com)
Upper Claremont ZAR 15.5m
Set in Upper Claremont in the southern suburbs and close to several leading schools, this spacious four-bedroom house lies on a secure estate with a one-bedroom guest house and staff accommodation. Pam Golding/Savills (020–7016 3740; www.savills.com)