THE village of Franschhoek is one of the jewels of the winelands, but has always been out of reach for many interested investors.
While property prices practically doubled between 2004 and 2008, they have since largely settled because of subdued demand, opening the door for buyers from around the country, including the Eastern Cape.
Franschoek is close to the city, surrounded by towering mountains and rolling vineyards including fine wine estates such as La Motte, L'Ormarins, Backsberg, Boschendal and Haute Cabriere.
Le Quartier Francais and La Provence offer some of the best accommodation in South Africa, and the village is home to top-ranked restaurants with chefs such as Reuben Riffel and Margot Janse.
The exclusive Bridge House Private School there is also rated highly.
The village has a certain avant- garde French chic about it and aside from its world-renowned eateries, there are fine art and decor stores. Not surprisingly, it was ranked as one of the top 10 property investment destinations in the world by The Telegraph in the UK last year.
Local estate agent Pierre Germishuys said this had benefited South African buyers and had created an opportunity to buy in Franschhoek. And South African buyers have taken advantage of the favourable conditions.
While there was still demand from foreign buyers, about 90% of the 69 properties to the value of close to R150-million sold in the last year were bought by local buyers. UK and European buyers have opted mostly for cottages priced between R3- and R3.8-million, Germishuys said.
Local buyers, especially from Johannesburg, have snapped up homes at slightly higher prices. These include two L'Avenue Estate homes that sold for between R5- and R7-million, and three houses in Domaine des Ange Street that sold for between R4.4- and R6.5-million.
Land sales have also started to pick up again on the back of improved market sentiment with vacant plots selling in the picturesque Fransche Hoek Estate for up to R1.6-million per plot, estate agent Melina Visser said.
While you may be hard-pressed to find a property in the sought-after Cabriere Street, just off the main road for under R5-million there are plenty of exceptional buys on offer.
One of them is a three-bedroomed cottage in the heart of the village with stunning mountain views on offer for R2.5-million, Visser said.
At the top end, an exceptional buy is Mayflower Cottage – a gem of a home that dates to around 1860.
Priced at R9.8-million, the place was renovated and historically restored under the watchful eye of UCT professor and heritage practitioner Fabio Todeschini.
The work was undertaken by well-known architect Jenny Mills, while internationally renowned landscape architect Ann Sutton was responsible for the beautiful gardens.
This home offers three spacious bedroom suites and large, open-plan living rooms. It includes a lounge with a fireplace, an entertainment- sized dining room, a library and a study that opens onto a private courtyard with a herb garden.
The French-styled kitchen has a separate pantry, wine cellar and a grand veranda overlooking the garden and swimming pool.
Finishes include wooden floors and French chandeliers. There is a separate cottage set in the garden.
There are a number of exclusive security estates in and around Franschhoek that offer luxury homes, priced upwards of R6-million, Visser says. Yet another property option for those with the budget are lifestyle farms. These are typically about 20ha with vineyards or orchards, luxury residences and often additional cottages. These will cost upwards of around R20-million.