Somerset West is Best

Private Property South Africa
Angelique Arde

Up until two months ago, Somerset West had almost everything going for it: Idyllic environs, excellent amenities, and a lifestyle irresistible to people of all ages and a multitude of races. But there was just one thing: If you worked in Cape Town, the 45-kilometre commute in peak-hour traffic twice a day would routinely rob you of the joy of living in this near-perfect part of the country.

Enter the Northern Express...

Somerset West residents are now able to escape the bumper-to-bumper grind and catch Metrorail’s stylish new fast train which runs between the Strand and Cape Town every day of the week. The premium service costs up to R750 a month and includes secure parking.

On board, passengers get to sit in comfort, catching the daily news the leisurely way, with a newspaper and coffee in hand or browsing their favourite sources of news online. Internet connectivity on board is a big plus, allowing passengers to get a head start to the day, catching up on email or spending the one-hour journey prepping for the day.

Life in Somerset West just got that much sweeter – not only for the hundreds of people who have taken to using the Northern Express, but also for those who are still using their cars on a now less-congested N2.Homestead in Somerset West

Of course for some folk this doesn’t matter one iota. Proverbial wild horses – or manic traffic – couldn’t drive them from Somerset West. They love the place. And it’s no wonder.

At the foot of the Helderberg and minutes from the Strand beach and Gordon’s Bay, Somerset West offers an enviable lifestyle. It’s a paradise for nature lovers and a playground for every sport under the sun.

In Somerset West, you’ll find a club or interest group for just about everything: golf, hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, quad biking, fishing, diving, boating, swimming, surfing, kite surfing, baseball, tennis, squash, hockey, cricket, karate, croquet, bowling, yoga you name it, they’ve got it.

Somerset West is a hit with botanists and ramblers too thanks to the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a 100 000-hectare reserve that stretches from Gordon’s Bay to Bot River in the east, the Groenlandberg Mountains in the north, and Betty’s Bay in the south. The reserve is home to 1880 different plant species, giving it UNESCO status as one of the richest sites of plant diversity in the world. And the fauna’s not too shabby either. Look out for black eagles, cobra, and the elusive Cape leopard.

Having top wine estates in the neighbourhood is another one of Somerset West’s big attractions. Last year Wine magazine readers voted Vergelegen the best South African winery (for the fifth consecutive year). The estate is great for picnics under the ancient camphor trees, tea in the rose garden, or fine dining at the Lady Phillips Restaurant.

Then there’s Lourensford Estate, a popular venue for a variety of events from music festivals such as the recent Coca-Cola Zero Fest, to flower shows and adventure charity challenges.

And don’t forget Morgenster Estate, which produces Bordeaux-style wines and award-winning extra virgin olive oil.

Somerset West has absolutely everything you’d want in a town: great shopping centres, notably Somerset Mall; a grand hotel and many gracious guest houses; good private and government schools (Parel Valley High School is regarded as one of the top schools in the province and is in the Department of Education’s “100 Club”); and good medical facilities, including the Vergelegen Medi-Clinic.

Evidently it’s all about the good life in Somerset West. And so it comes as no surprise that it is the home town of many famously wealthy families, such as the Ruperts.

Residents proudly claim to have more millionaires than any town in the country, though you need not be one to own property here. There’s a good range of property on the market in Somerset West, from plush homes in the exclusive Spanish Farm to starter homes in Victoria Park.

What’s on offer at the sought-after Erinvale Golf & Country Estate provides a reasonable snapshot of the market. At Erinvale (which includes the world-famous 18-hole course designed by Gary Player) you can pick up anything from a little two-bedroom townhouse for just under R2m, to a 600m2 four-bedroom mansion for R23m.

According to Lightstone property experts, the average price of a freehold property in Somerset West is R1.3m and the average price of a sectional title property is R680 000. These prices are based on the 11 sales that have taken place in Somerset West this year alone.

Lightstone records 194 sales last year, 113 freehold and 81 sectional title. The average price of a freehold property last year was R773 000 and the average price of a sectional title property was R665 000.

Estate living is big in Somerset West. Golf, wine and equestrian estates are all popular, as are retirement villages, such as Helderberg Village, which boasts a nine-hole golf course, restaurants, hair salons, tennis courts and frail-care facilities among its many amenities.

Owing to the idyllic lifestyle and climate, Somerset West apparently has a large population of “swallows” – people who spend six months here and six months abroad.

But for long-time resident Chantal Callaghan, of Open Acre bond origination, there’s no place she would rather be. “We don’t ever want to move; there isn’t anywhere nicer. We’re a part of a real community here in Somerset West. It’s easy to make friends across different social networks because people are friendly and welcoming. And if you need help, you can pick up the phone or pop in at friend’s place. People are always willing to oblige.”

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