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A view of The Sentinel from Chapman's Peak Drive, Cape Town


Thursday, November 27, 2003

The Cape Town Moment You've Waited For

Source: Jason Cochran | MSNBC

Reports are pouring in from abroad and from our home tourism industry: The United States' new entry rules have turned America into an unpleasant place to visit. Even citizens of countries friendly to the U.S. are being sent through a dizzying round of interviews, visa fees, and red tape—not just to enter the country but even if they're simply passing through an airport on a connecting flight headed right back out again.

Meanwhile, the media-fueled fear of SARS has given Asia a black eye. With two major continents off the maps, so to speak, many foreign tourists have (some say ironically) turned to South Africa for safe vacationing options. Particularly among British and German people, Cape Town is now among the top ten tourist cities on the planet, and middle-class tourists are flocking down to South Africa in huge numbers.

Cape Town's Cape Point - Where Two Oceans and Many Cultures Meet
Cape Point - The Southern Tip

Americans can still traipse into South Africa for free without obtaining a visa (while, conversely, South Africans must interview at an embassy for the chance to play tourist here). And South Africa's currency, the rand, is still pitifully low when measured against the U.S. dollar (trading at about 7 to 1). So even when you factor in airfare to the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa remains a terrific value for Americans. And thanks to its booming tourism, the infrastructure has caught up with demand, meaning hotel and package bargains are getting even easier to find.

Here's yet another one. Afrika, the New Jersey-based company that specializes in South African vacations, is throwing a sale for trips down to Cape Town in the depths of winter, the high season.

For trips during the entire month of February, it's selling round-trip airfare to Cape Town (from Atlanta or New York City on South African Airways, changing planes in Johannesburg) plus four nights' hotel (breakfast daily) for $995 plus $195 in taxes. February is the end of the high summer season in the Western Cape Province, and prices like these are very rarely seen outside of the South African winter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Cape Town Africa's Top City

Cape Town, voted Africa's top city in the U.S. edition of Condé Nast's Traveller magazine Readers' Choice Awards, is smiling. One of the world's most favoured cities, situated in one of the world's most favoured countries, it approaches the holiday season on the back of a resurgent economy.

With inflation at a 40-year low, the local currency rampaging against the US dollar and GB pound, and the Reserve Bank eyeing further interest rate cuts, record retail and property sales appear likely over the year-end break.

It seems only South African Airways (SAA), which controls the number of flights in and out of the city, is intent on damping Cape Town's growth. At the launch of Cape Town's six-star, ZAR260 million Claridges Hotel, Irish entrepreneur Paschal Phelan accused SAA of operating an "anti-competitive cartel", costing Cape Town and the Western Cape up to 100 000 jobs.

Ensuring the city retains its smile through summer, "Sun King" Sol Kerzner's firm, Kerzner International, is investing ZAR450 million in a 150-room, six-star resort on Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The luxury hotel and casino magnate says he is keen on pursuing other tourism industry projects attracting further investment to the city.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Cape Property Market Set to Sizzle Through Summer

Realtors expect demand for Cape Town coastal properties to remain strong over the holiday season as buyers, buoyed by low interest rates and rocketing values, queue to invest in the Cape Town property market.

Beach houses of another type at St. James
Beach houses of another type at St. James

However, offers words of caution from more conservative estate agents, who suggest that foreign buyers remain selective, allow their heads to rule their hearts, and refuse to overpay for their dream 'cottage at the coast'.

A 'euphoric' market has led to hype promising a flood of foreign buyers, encouraging some sellers to ask absurd prices based on overblown expectations. A strong ZA Rand and under-performing European Union economies mean not everybody is in a position to hunt for South African real estate at current rand values.

While the summer season might not see a 'foreign invasion', a strong local property market riding on the back of the lowest interest rates seen in years, means increasing numbers of South Africans are now able to afford coastal holiday homes.

Monday, November 17, 2003

British Property Investors Favour Cape Town over Portugal and Spain

Helen Harding, marketing director of a large South African property firm, says increasing numbers of British tourists are boosting Cape Town property sales, leading to return visits and a greater awareness of South Africa as an investment opportunity. Adding impetus to favourable sentiment, many South Africans working in the United Kingdom are buying Cape Town properties long before returning home.

Not quite Portugal...

Harding says that although most Britons rent out their properties for the greater part of the year, Cape property buyers fall into two distinct camps. The first buys in the ZAR500,000 bracket. Owners comprise those needing a holiday home for three to four weeks. The second group is prone to spending between two and four months in South Africa annually and invests between ZAR1,000,000 and ZAR2,000,000.

For most foreign buyers, the Cape Town real estate market's twenty percent annual capital growth more than makes up for a ZA Rand that has strengthened to what many believe is its optimal level. Crime remains a worry for those yet to visit Cape Town, says Harding, but those who have visited are not troubled by it.

Not quite Spain...

Harding expects the introduction of direct flights to Cape Town from Dublin's Shannon airport, cutting four to five hours off visitors' flying time, to see an increase in Irish buyers on the Cape Town property market.

Adding lustre to Cape Town's shine, traditional rivals Spain and Portugal are being hit hard by rocketing property prices. Although only a few hours away from most parts of the UK, many Britons now feel Cape Town offers far greater value and a better quality of life than Western Europe.

Cape Property Market to Boom Through 2004

Leading Cape realtors predict the Western Cape property sales season will be more strongly affected by foreign buyers than ever before.

A recent Financial Times article highlighting South Africa’s status as a safe haven in an unsettled world indicates rapidly changing perceptions of the country's investment potential.

In addition, the stronger rand is seen as a positive trend by overseas buyers, who are increasingly attracted to Cape property on an investment basis and not merely for lifestyle reasons.

Realtors expect the percentage of Western Cape home sales made to foreigners to rise significantly during the summer sales season. more...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Obervatory's Character Wins Secure Property Investments

Interest in value-for-money property investments in Cape Town's perennial Cinderella suburb and eternal home of youth, Observatory, is riding high among young professionals and first-time home buyers.

Ten minutes from Cape Town's central business district, Observatory (named after the South African Astronomical Observatory overlooking the Liesbeek River but referred to as Obs by generations of University of Cape Town students), offers a welter of Bohemian activity, diverse lifestyles, and an eclectic mix of city and suburban living.

Observatory' s Africa Cafe, a highly succesful venture that has now moved to the CBD
Obs' legendary Africa Cafe, now a CBD tourist Mecca

In the shadow of Table Mountain's Devil's Peak, thriving art galleries, theatres, pubs, tea and coffee houses, bookstores and busy restaurants jostle compact Victorian homes crowding streets as prone to improvised theatre as they are to neighbourhood parties.

Its development hindered by poor security, Observatory has turned its back and the corner on crime. A longstanding, tried-and-tested neighbourhood watch system bolstered by additional police officers funded by local businesses has seen a suburb struggling to hold its own turn into a favoured and secure investment opportunity for the young and trendy and the old and wise.

Obs Tourist Suites offers self-service and the comfort and security of self-sufficiency to foreign guests
Self-service and self-sufficiency for foreign guests...

With prices as low as ZAR360,000 for a two-bedroom home and a surfeit of new or refurbished sectional title apartments on offer, Observatory is integrally linked to Cape Town's foreign visitors and its strong inner-city market. With prices surging in Claremont, Newlands and other southern suburbs, Obs offers first-time buyers easy access to the city, the University of Cape Town, other business areas, highways out of the city, and a legacy boasting more colour and character than most Cape Town suburbs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Cape Town Property Market Offers UK Buyers More for Less

According to the UK Land Registry's quarterly residential property price report, published yesterday, you can expect to pay GBP161,665 for an English house. What, asks the average South African, constitutes an English house? The Guardian offers several clues.

In Cornwall, GBP160,000 will buy you a "...two-bedroom traditional double-fronted stone cottage with two reception rooms, a garden and parking, situated within the centre of the delightful village of Helston." Although this seems an exorbitant sum for a modest abode, a stone cottage in Cornwall sounds infinitely better than one of the alternatives, a modern, four-bedroom, three-storey, semi-detached family house stuck in a Stirling Road cul-de-sac, surrounded by "mixed designed homes" just to the north of Norwich's city centre.

Cape Town residential property, Constantia
No GBP160,000 Cornwall cottage...

Well, yes... Quite frankly, it's not surprising South African property buyers prefer to invest locally, competing with increasing numbers of British residents keen to join them. Not able or willing to move up to London, where GBP260,000 buys a second-floor, one-bedroom apartment in an "executive development" close to Waterloo station, many Britons would rather travel to Cape Town and set up house in a style to which few become accustomed.

The Guardian tells us the above single-bedroom executive apartment in Europe's economic capital enjoys a "total area of 400sqft" and "includes a double bedroom with fitted wardrobes, lounge/dining room, fully fitted kitchen and bathroom, leisure facilities and 24-hour concierge." In other words, you eat in front of the telly and can count yourself lucky the kitchen has a geyser and the bathroom a bath.

So what does the equivalent buy in South Africa? Exclusivity, security, and peace of mind are givens. The above photograph is of a three-bedroom (main en suite with dressing room), two-bathroom family home in an up-market Cape Town suburb, Constantia. It offers a formal lounge, dining room, family room and study, and boasts a kitchen with Cherry wood fittings topped with black granite. A double garage with automatic doors is thrown in for good measure.

Crossing the irrigated garden protected by security laser beams, you reach a swimming pool overlooked by an electronically fitted gazebo sporting an inbuilt barbecue. How this is all crammed on to 2,000m² beats me. Do the bedrooms have fitted wardrobes? Well, yes, South Africans tend to take such things for granted. Of course they are.

Most would agree. Such a house constitutes reasonable value at GBP160,000.

Cape Town residential property, Hout Bay
No GBP260,000 single-bedroom London apartment

With GBP260,000 to spare, you can buy yourself a holiday forever on Cape Town's famed Atlantic seaboard or move along to Hout Bay, a suburb also offering value for foreign currency. The above property, which will leave you enough cash to buy an up-market house elsewhere in Cape Town (to which you can chase the kids), overlooks the sea from a secure private estate back-dropped by stunning mountain views.

Besides the ubiquitous double garage, swimming pool and security features, it offers you two reception rooms, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen.

Good news for those who decide to stay put in England, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) also released its house price figures yesterday, putting house prices at a lower level than the Land Registry's reports. It "...said the average price had dropped from GBP159,010 in August to GBP158,408 in September."

That should go some way to cheering beleaguered British homeowners. Those investing in Cape Town real estate, however, have no need of cheering. From green-leaf suburbs overlooking the sea, things look good enough as they are.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Chapman's Peak Reopening Boosts Cape Town Property Sales

With the scheduled re-opening of Chapman's Peak Drive just over a month away, reports the Cape Town property market readying itself for yet another boom in the seaside suburbs of Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Hout Bay and Scarborough.

Chapman's Peak Drive built was built by World War II Italian prisoners of war. Six-hundred metres above the sea, it offers some of the world's most spectacular ocean views. Linking Hout Bay and Noordhoek, it has long been one of the Cape Peninsula's top tourist attractions.

The instability of the cliff face and roadway forced authorities to close the road so that a massive upgrade could be undertaken. After spending some ZAR150 million and the clearing away of more than 6,000 rocks, approximately four kilometres of hi-tech catch-fences have been installed and a half-tunnel (open on the sea-side) has been built to protect motorists. Other areas have been reinforced with concrete covering structures and columns covered by natural rock and vegetation to maintain the scenic beauty.

One of the Cape's top events, the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, will again use the route in 2004. Its popularity as a tourist destination is as high as ever and the drive should see a bumper tourist season this December and January.


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Web-based Property Sale Makes UK Couple's Holiday's DistrictMail carries a delightful story of a young UK couple who bought their Somerset West home (half-an-hour from central Cape Town) on the World Wide Web seven months ago.

Searching for a secure property investment and following an advertisement placed in South Africa News, a newspaper distributed in the United Kingdom, East Sussex couple Steve and Christine Stanfield visited the agent's Web site, liked what they saw, and decided to contact him.

Sent photographs of several properties, the Stanfields were able to choose their home, select its finishes and trimmings, and arrange for a tenant. Last week, the Stanfield's visited South Africa and their ZAR440,000 three-bedroom home for the first time and were thrilled with their real estate investment, the value of which has appreciated 39 percent in seven months.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Local Property Investors' Confidence on a Lasting High

The Cape Argus reports South African investor confidence driving the local property market with foreign buyers - to whom South African estate agents are frequently accused of selling out - taking a back seat.

Residential Property Price Ranger figures for September reflect a 26 percent rise in units sold at an increased value of 53 percent. Average property values rose almost 20 percent to ZAR760,000. The slowdown in foreign buying, from R198m in July to R97m in September, represents only eight percent of the value of Western Cape residential sales for the month.

With a firmer rand seen as a short-term brake on foreign sales, increased domestic confidence and higher property values are a sure sign the market will profit further from the annual holiday surge of overseas investment, perpetuating the current property boom.


Monday, November 03, 2003

CBD Development Showcases City Living

Construction on Adderley Terraces, a new 'luxury lifestyle' apartment building comprising 42 terrace apartments built in a horseshoe around an outdoor deck area with a swimming pool and gym, is set to begin in the new year. Offering individual terraces with views of the city and Table Mountain, the Adderley Park development signals a move away from converted office blocks and a recognition of the needs of more sophisticated and better-heeled inner-city dwellers.

Upmarket eateries, galleries, museums, streets dedicated to pedestrians and the greening of the city center offer ample evidence of investor confidence in the area. Garage parking will be available at Adderley Terraces and a lift will carry owners to their apartments, set on four levels. Another will take them down onto Adderley Street. Prices, including VAT and one under-cover parking bay, range from R515 000 with 10% payable upon signature and the balance due on completion and transfer, expected to take place from December 2004.

Although confidence in building new inner-city apartments might lead to vacancies in a rental market hit by falling interest rates, the conversion of older office buildings in Cape Town into residential apartments is dramatically reducing B-grade office space in the CBD.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Cape Town's Waterfront Style Seduces the Emerald Isle

Irish buyers have bought three quarters of the 84 units making up the V&A Waterfront's Harbouredge apartment development.

Building on the R148 million contract will begin soon, with occupation scheduled for the end of 2004. At the intersection of Buitengracht Street and the Western Boulevard, just outside the V&A Waterfront and across the way from the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the area will receive millions of ZA Rands to develop a canal and canal-side attractions.

An upmarket homeware store, a restaurant and delicatessen will complement Harbouredge's custom-sized and designed apartments. Buyers can choose a studio apartment for R1.1 million, a two-bedroom apartment for R1.99m to R2.3m, or a R6m penthouse.

All main bedrooms will have en-suite bathrooms and living and dining areas will be open plan. Studio apartments will include one under-cover parking bay and two-bedroom apartments will have two, with additional parking available.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Western Cape Property Sales Top ZAR1.2 billion in September

Independent Newspapers reports Cape property sales, boosted by strong domestic sales and continued foreign investment, soaring beyond R1.2 billion during September. Close on 1,600 houses and flats were sold. In addition to a demand for homes, the rental market was heartened by an equally strong demand for properties to let, particularly in secure complexes.

The ability of foreigners to take out mortgage bonds for 50 percent of the value of acquired properties inures them to the vagaries of the South African Rand. Should its value fall, they will take advantage of its weakness to pay off their bonds. With property prices bolstered by continuing demand from a growing South African middle class and revived confidence in property as an investment, property values are unlikely to fall in the near future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Interest Rate Cuts Promise an Upbeat Summer

Last week's cut of 150 basis points in the repo rate looks set to extend the present residential property boom, says Business Day. However, with houses becoming more affordable, the already over-supplied rental market will feel the heat through the summer months.

With SA approaching internationally acceptable interest rate levels, increased consumer confidence should translate into greater numbers of first-time buyers. An already over-supplied letting market will see rentals dropping further before the market stabilises in four to six months time. Until it does so, buyers will enjoy a market catering more readily to the individual's taste and budget.




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