This month we began running a series of exclusive real estate features showing off unique properties around the world. We’ve contacted dozens of notable luxury real estate agencies in order to present these amazing properties, many of them one of a kind. A South Africa estate we found ended up introducting us for the first time to Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate, and to one of the agency’s most successful franchise owners, Aimee Campbell.
The timing seemed right to ask this SA professional for some key takeaways for the international market. The Q & A below is the result of a conversion we had the other day.
RealtyBizNews: The coronavirus and 2020 has revealed that the real estate market does not always react negatively to negative events. Given that the industry proved to be quick on its feel during this crisis, what can you say about the post-COVID luxury market?
Aimee Campbell: I’m not sure we can call it a post-Covid market yet, but I'll be optimistic and say it's looking like we headed that way. What I can say about the past 24 months however, is that the “luxury market” seems stronger than ever in the Cape Winelands of South Africa. We have had record sales particularly over the past 12 months. Some notable transactions include the sale of a US$ 4 Million historic homestead and farm set on 20 acres on the boundary of Franschhoek Village – the property includes vineyards and stables. Another significant sale we at Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate recently concluded is that of a 47-acre equestrian estate, listed at US $4.5 million. The property boasts iconic mountain views, a luxury homestead, stables, landscaped gardens, a health centre and separate cottages. In addition to these, several noteworthy historic wine farms have also been sold during this time. The residential market, which includes family homes, has also been excellent.
RealtyBizNews: How has this crisis helped industry professionals to serve clients?
Aimee Campbell: The last two years have certainly put a new perspective on client service. The real estate industry, like many others had to adapt, and fast. We had to continue to serve our clients, but obviously lockdowns put an end to show days and often actual private viewings. In order to keep both clients and agents safe and healthy, we did everything we could from creating virtual tours for clients who could not be physically present for viewings, to filming video walk-throughs to add value to our online listings. These new tactics have proved highly effective and certainly provided comprehensive and quality services to buyers and sellers alike.
RealtyBizNews: Has there been a shift in demand in the SA market? And how are you adjusting?
Aimee Campbell: As with many countries around the world the property trend here in SA over the course of the last two years has sent many buyers out of larger cities into quieter country regions. Franschhoek’s allure is not a recent development, it has long been a highly desirable property hot spot in South Africa. However, now that the shift to working remotely seems to be something that could be a permanent way of life for many, more and more executives and business owners are taking the plunge and leaving Gauteng, Durban or Cape Town to purchase in the winelands and live in their dream destination, as opposed to just having weekend breaks or holidays there.
Many foreign buyers have also sought refuge in Franschhoek due to its upmarket European countryside ambiance. Our sales to foreign buyers are largely due to our prestigious affiliation with global property giant Christie’s International Real Estate. Their worldwide network comprises approximately 138 affiliates, hand-selected for their success in luxury property sales and their ability to meet strict standards of excellence.
RealtyBizNews: Will the market/demand continue to escalate, or are we going to see a normalisation in 2022?
Aimee Campbell: The market has certainly changed over the course of the last two years. Actually, Lightstone reveals that the majority of recent buyers in Franschhoek are aged between 36 and 64, with a growing number (almost 40%) in the 36 to 49 bracket. It’s clear Franschhoek is no longer just a weekend destination or a haven for the retired. Retirees were often the majority buyers in the area , but now we’re seeing more buyers under 50 years of age. They are either executive couples or they have families.
I foresee a growing trend in this direction. COVID has made retired buyers wary regarding moving and of course international travel. This has made it difficult for our ‘Swallows’ to return from Europe and the UK for the summer months. Again, the trend of being able to work from home has allowed wealthy younger families to live where their hearts desire. In fact, Franschhoek became a ZOOM town, almost overnight. And it’s no surprise, the town and surrounding areas offer fantastic private school education, world-renowned wine farms and restaurants on your doorstep and lots of wide open space to hike, bike and run.
Experts say that the Western Cape’s market rebound in 2021 will continue into 2022, largely because of steady demand buoyed by what's known as semigration, or people migrating to the seaside and to more luxurious digs. The semigration has pushed luxury property prices up. One interesting trend in SA is the move away from low-maintenance, compact condominium-style living toward owning big freehold properties. Wine country, an area in which Aimee Campbell's agency excels, has seen demand outstrip supply for months now. And as she suggests, the area around Franschhoek, SA's most famous wine region, is prime investment territory.