One of the reasons I became an estate agent was that there weren’t an awful lot of exams to be passed. I’m not good with exams and when I think of my matric exams all those years ago I get hot flushes. It’s not the exams themselves that scare me…it’s the study you have to do before them and all the stress that goes with it. You learn all about one part of the syllabus and then the exam questions ask you about something completely different. How fair is that? So once I’d got my matric out of the way I was determined not to put myself through all that agony again. Several of my girlfriends went off to university and studied things like accounting or law and they were always stressed. I, on the other hand, got into the real estate business and had the last laugh because a) I didn’t have to study for a lot of stupid exams and b) I was earning more money at an earlier age than all of them. Plus the hours were better.
I know we’re supposed to be available 24/7 for prospective buyers but you can always turn your phone off or tell a little white lie. This was a lot easier before cellphones when only the agency telephone number appeared in the advertisements. Now we’re compelled to put our personal cell phone numbers in the ad so I can be halfway through dinner with friends when the phone rings and someone wants to view a property immediately because they are flying back to Germany tomorrow night.
You can usually tell a genuine enquiry and a German accent always does it for me. I’ve sold more Cape Town property to Germans over the past few years than any other nationality and the great thing is they know exactly what they want and they have the money. The promise of a fat commission cheque on a Bantry Bay property is about the only thing that will get me wolfing down the crème brulee at a dinner party and making my apologies for an early departure.
Which is why I did precisely that a few weeks ago when I got a phone call in the early evening from a German gentleman who was interested in buying a wine estate. When you get a call like that you have to assume it’s genuine and since there are so many wine estates on the market, either officially or unofficially, I was eager to please. I knew of one in the R100 million asking price range and mentioned that just to test the water. Apparently that was slightly more than he wanted to pay and it transpired that he wasn’t really looking for an established wine estate so much as several hectares of prime wine growing land on which he could build his retirement home and grow grapes, perhaps making enough to fund a sybaritic lifestyle. I arranged to meet with the man in a coffee shop in the V&A Waterfront the following day.
He was about ten minutes late for our meeting and dressed immaculately in an expensive golf shirt, well fitting yellow slacks and a linen jacket. An expensive Breitling Bentley watch squatted on his left wrist and he looked as though he had just stepped out of the tanning room. My guess is that he was around 55. It soon became apparent that he knew nothing about wine apart from drinking the stuff. He hadn’t a clue where he wanted to buy apart from the fact that he wanted the very best wine growing land. I pointed out that the very best wine growing land, by definition, was already owned and had been in some wine-making families for many generations. The chances of there being an available pocket of terroir ideal for the growth of grapes to make the definitive Cabernet Sauvignon were slim.
Then I remembered that one or two wine estates were attempting to boost their bottom line by selling off bits of their farms in a sort of cluster house complex for winos project. That could be a way of owning a small bit of prime grape-growing soil while getting someone else to do all the hard work. My German client was not enamoured with the idea of sharing his winelands with the hoi-polloi and so we’re still looking for something spectacular from a viticultural and vinicultural point of view where he can build his haus. Maybe I should wean him off the idea of buying in the winelands and get him interested in buying a polo estate. I gather there are a few of those going cheap at the moment.
Winging it in the Winelands
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