One of the big surprises of the recent Rawson Properties quarterly awards function was to find a country franchise, Melkbosstrand, run by David and Anne-Marie Evans, coming second in the groups national competition.
Country franchises at Rawsons have their own category - in which they compete fiercely - but they seldom challenge the bigger regional franchises in the overall group rankings.
'The success of Melkbosstrand,' said Bill Rawson this week, 'is symptomatic of what is happening throughout the Western Cape: there is a growing appreciation of country homes and a desire to live out of town. This seems particularly to affect professional and highly paid people'
David Evans confirmed this.
'Our sales both at Melkbosstrand and at Malmesbury,' he said, 'have tripled in one year. The only problem now is a shortage of stock'
Average values for a three bedroom home in Malmesbury have risen in one year by just over 20% to a price of R1,2 million, while in Melkbosstrand the average price has risen to R1,6 million. Nevertheless, these prices, said Evans, are still about half of what would be paid for homes of a similar quality in the more popular Cape Town suburbs.
Derek and Jenny Crisp of the Rawson Properties Bettys Bay and Kleinmond franchise, which took the first prize in the latest Rawson quarterly country franchise competition, also reported slight but significant rises in prices.
'The average home in Kleinmond now sells for R1 049 000, a 5,2% rise in one year while in Bettys bay the price has risen to R1 184 000, 11,9% up on last year,' said Derek Crisp.
'The really strong demand here, however, is for plots, partly because buyers feel that sellers are overpricing and partly because todays designers often feel they can do better than their predecessors'
Plot sales rose by 19,8% to an average of R453 000 in this area.
Crisp said that the actual number of sales dropped this year '“ partly because his territory relies heavily on holiday and summer buyers who only become evident from November onwards.
'The message that we continue to get from many local and upcountry visitors is that this is where they would like to live '“ it seems probable, therefore, that we could be in for a very busy summer'
Lizette Joubert, Rawson franchisee for Paarl and Wellington, who ran second in the Rawson quarterly country franchise competition, has said that there is now a perception, particularly among educated people, that Paarl offers the best of both worlds: a cultural life that is equal to that of the big cities, but a lifestyle that is infinitely more gracious and 'sensible'.
'We ourselves sometimes cannot credit the way in which demand for Paarl homes is escalating month-by-month,' she said. 'The larger homes in the central main street areas are now never sold for under R2 million and even in the outlying areas you will seldom pay less than R800,000'
Jouberts sales in the second half of this year have been more than double those in the first half - and she is predicting further increases for the year ago.
'The overall picture,' said Rawson, 'is that the Western Capes country districts, particularly those in beautiful surroundings, are now more popular than ever before - and offer investors an exceptionally safe haven'