Unless you truly love nature and intend toeing the green line, don’t even consider buying property in Betty’s Bay. If, however, you’re into living lightly – and by that I mean a carbon footprint that’s hardly traceable – then Betty’s Bay is for you. A sense of humour and a touch of eccentricity won’t go amiss either. For Betty’s Bay is a quirky place inhabited by quirky folk. Don’t be deceived by those tasteless, grey face brick monstrosities – boasting Jacuzzi, built-in bar (with dart board) and Vibracrete boundary walls. They are the work of holidaymakers with more money than style. The nearly-2000 permanent residents of Betty’s Bay, on the other hand, are more into bungalow-living and sustainability. These folks have resisted everything from tarred roads and street lights to fences and electricity, which they only gave in to about 15 years ago. In Betty’s Bay you may not build on more than 40% of your property; it’s unlawful to have lights shining beyond the perimeter of your property; and residents take a dim view (pun intended) of “light pollution” which destroys the night sky and interferes with the biorhythms of fauna and flora. Home to the world-famous Harold Porter Botanical Garden, three lakes and one of only three penguin colonies in South Africa, Betty’s Bay is also a part of the UNESCO-registered Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. This natural heritage is a source of great pride among locals who are willing to fight hard to preserve their ecologically sensitive part of the world. It’s for reasons such as these that Mike Stakemire loves Betty’s Bay. Mike’s an estate agent and the proprietor of Antrim Estates. The Overberg holiday village has been his home for the past 25 years, and he has sold property in the area for just as long. When Mike bought in 1984, he paid R25 000 for a 5000 square metre block. Back then he was told that he had grossly overpaid. He’s laughing now that a 1800sqm portion of that land is worth R1m in today’s market. Given that the land has a house on it and is a two-minute stroll from the beach, it’s a give-away at that price. Not that it’s for sale. But if you are in the market for a piece of Betty’s Bay, there’s no shortage of property for sale there. Mike says that of the 3000-odd stands in Betty’s Bay, only about half have been developed. Mike, who owns Antrim Estates, says he has on his books about 80 houses for sale and 130 plots up for grabs. Because Betty’s Bay is a holiday town, property tends to move slowly. But in this sluggish market, it’s even worse. Mike reckons it’s taking longer than a year to sell a property in Betty’s Bay these days. Part of the problem is that a lot of property is overpriced. He estimates that 90% of stock is overpriced by about 20%. “There is a huge variation of type, though. I have houses from R600k to R6m and plots from R380k to R2m.” You won’t find any flats to rent or buy in Betty’s Bay, because it has no sectional title property. Probably because of the slump in the market, there are more houses to rent on short-term and long-term lease than in previous years, says Charles Verrij, of Disa Estates. You can find something decent for as little as R3500 a month if you sign a long-term lease. According to Deeds Office data supplied by Lightstone property analysts, there have been only 42 sales in Betty’s Bay this year. Over the past 12 months, there were 66 sales, and the average selling price was R750 000. The market has definitely picked up: of those 66 sales over the past 12 months, the 12 properties that sold over the past three months fetched an average of R981 000. There were three sales in the R1.5m to R3m price band. According to Lightstone, property in Betty’s Bay comes in at 14th place in the Western Cape’s municipal ranking, with a mean valuation of R885 897. Though that’s not too steep by today’s standards, it’s a lot to pay for a holiday home or a vacant stand. Mike says a large number of property owners in Betty’s Bay aren’t residents. They are people who can afford the luxury of a holiday home, and they come to town during school holidays or at weekends. Bruno and Charlotte Rasson of Bishop’s Court bought land in Betty’s Bay about 15 years ago, when their four children were of school-going age. “We got it for R75 000 and spent about R150k on building a holiday house. But six or seven years later we had to sell to free up the money for something else. We got R500 000 for the house – which was a record high at the time.” Charlotte says the house is apparently worth R2m now. Property in Betty’s Bay has proved to be such a good investment that the Rassons have bought again. “We love Betty’s,” says Charlotte. “The other day I saw a sunbird on a rock being sprayed by the surf. Where else do you see that? And where else do you find fynbos reaching the sea?” Apart from just kicking back and taking in all the natural beauty that Betty’s Bay has to offer, the little town has much to offer adrenaline junkies. Jackazz Adventures offers sandboarding (dune surfing), rocking climbing and abseiling. Another big fan of Betty’s Bay is Howell Edwards, who is a former mayor of the town. His family has owned land in Betty’s Bay since 1939. Mr Edwards’ father-in-law paid £55 for five plots, and built a rondavel on one of them. He says that property is now worth at least R1.5m The only drawback about Betty’s Bay, Mr Edwards says, is the wind, which can reach up to 130km an hour. “You get the southeaster and the north wind, which brings the rain. The summers are very worthwhile, but in the winter it really depends on where you’re situated. The closer you are to the mountain, the less sun you get.” For residents like Mike, the wind and the wet, cold winters are tolerable so long as his beloved town doesn’t lose its character. For as long as people like Mike are around, there will be no Woolies, Pick n Pay, Steers or Spur in Betty’s Bay. Nor the mooted airstrip, hotel, golf course or schools see the light of day. The joy of Betty’s Bay is that it’s wild and unspoilt, small and safe. It’s close enough to Somerset West, in cases of emergency and only an hour from Cape Town – both accessible via the magnificently scenic Clarence Drive (the R44). Aerial photograph by Cuan McGeorge, compliments of the Village Voice
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