Home buyers answer the call of the Karoo

Home buyers answer the call of the Karoo

Aerial view of Graaff-Reinet. Photograph courtesy of Graaff-Reinet Publicity Association.

The virtues of owning a property in the Karoo are well understood and appreciated by those who have uprooted from stressful life in the cities and relocated to any of a number of Karoo towns, says Wayne Rubidge, Pam Golding Properties area principal in the Karoo.

The Karoo covers about a third of South Africa, incorporating areas in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape and extending into the southern Free State.

Rubidge says: “The peace and serenity of the Karoo provides a natural de-stresser away from busy city living for most people, especially those seeking a regular getaway. The expansive, wide open spaces are filled with beautiful vistas – dotted with small fascinating towns steeped in history with architectural gems epitomising an almost forgotten way of life.

“What is not so obvious is the remarkable diversity of the area, taking in many types of vegetation, all located in breath-taking landscapes of varying altitudinal gradients ranging from 700m to 1 500m above sea level.”

Rubidge says the Karoo category of land is predominately used for extensive small stock farming and game farming, which are the biggest contributors to this rural economy and job creation.

Pam Golding Properties has reported a number of recent sales including a large livestock farm in Graaff-Reinet which fetched R26 million.

Says Pam Golding Properties Graaff-Reinet area specialist, Kenny Eaton: “Commercial farming in the Karoo is not for the faint-hearted or those seeking exceptionally high returns as it requires, among other things, substantial capital investment due to the vast properties and the requirements for a sustainable economic unit.

“An innate knowledge of veld management is also required for a property to be sustainable in the long term due to the low rainfall and brittle vegetation.”

Rainfall varies from 200mm a year in the west to over 600mm in the more mountainous region in the eastern parts of the Karoo. Domestic water, including that for livestock, is mostly borehole or fountain water. Irrigation is limited and originates mostly from bulk storage earth dams from the wet years, supplemented by boreholes – which must be registered with the Department of Water as irrigation sources.

Says Rubidge: “While livestock or game farming are the dominant farming activities, some areas are just not suited to these. However, there are many areas which offer other opportunities for investment – for example, the alternate, lifestyle component of owning land in the Karoo.

“This category offers a sustainable land use and is equally positive for the rural economy. It also allows for creative ways to develop sustainable land use such as eco-tourism, farm-stays, retreats and the growing of niche produce, among other uses. Or it could mean simply restoring an old farmhouse for your personal use, thereby contributing toward the safeguarding of the Karoo’s heritage while creating work for artisans from the local towns.”

Rubidge says the sizes of these properties vary, depending on category, and can range from 600ha to 2 500ha. They may be located in a number of areas, for example a farmstead on a portion of land situated on one of the major routes through the Karoo or in more rugged mountainous areas, or they could be the remaining farmstead portions of a previously consolidated larger farm in the Karoo’s great plains.

“The buyer profile is very diverse and includes farmers, businesspeople, couples and families from the northern provinces and from major urban areas around South Africa. Foreign interest remains, although with just a handful of buyers concluding sale agreements.

“Another reason why Graaff-Reinet – the oldest town in the Karoo and fourth oldest in the country – is a preferred investment destination is that it has all the required services, including a number of good schools and is one also the main tourism destinations in the Karoo. Being on a major route to the coast has spin-offs for the local tourism industry as it is less than three hours from Port Elizabeth and George.”

Dubbed the ‘Gem of the Karoo’, Graaff-Reinet is home to 220 national monuments or heritage sites. A local landmark and one of the favourite tourist destinations just outside Graaff-Reinet, in the Camdeboo National Park, is the renowned Valley of Desolation, with its piled dolerite columns formed during the Jurassic Period starkly silhouetted against the sweeping plains.

Eaton says prices for lifestyle and investment properties in the area range from R3m to R10m and often even more, depending on the size of property involved.