George offers residents the natural beauty of mountains and ocean, a municipality that regularly receives a clean audit, an airport recognised as a logistics hub and a preferred lifestyle good for property prices
Situated on the picturesque Garden Route, midway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the city of George is blessed with a temperate climate, thanks to its position between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean.
It’s also the region’s largest economy – its GDP growth has outpaced the national average for the past five years. George is the third largest municipality in the Western Cape and has regularly received a clean bill of health from the auditor-general.
The region was thrust into the spotlight recently with the news of a significant gas find off the coast adjacent to Mossel Bay. Should the deep-water test wells produce according to expectation, this project could result in huge spin-offs for an already vibrant local economy.
“We moved here from the Free State and it has been fantastic,”says resident Jen Gerber. “The people are friendly. It is a most beautiful area, complemented by mountain ranges, and the climate is wonderful. The town is well-maintained and things work.”
The Garden Route, and George in particular, are popular destinations for semigrants – the relocation of older, affluent homeowners from South Africa’s interior towns and cities to the coast, particularly the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. George airport is capable of landing a Boeing 747, and this stamped its authority as a regional logistics hub.
Passenger numbers are reported to have increased 9% annually for five years and plans are underway for a multimillionrand upgrade. There are multiple daily flights to and from Joburg and Cape Town, making it possible for semigrants to commute.
There are 51 public and private schools in the area and a satellite campus of Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. There are 27 wards in the municipality offering free wi-fi and excellent state and private medical facilities. The good economic news has had a positive effect on house prices in the area, says Gerhard Dreyer, owner/broker of Remax Outeniqua.
Lightstone reports freehold residences enjoying an uninterrupted value appreciation since 2009, topping out at a median of R1.45million last year. Interestingly, sectional title homes largely stagnated, barring a significant uptick last year, and the median selling price is in the R765000 bracket.
Estate living is extremely popular in George. Exotic Fancourt is widely seen as one of the country’s premier leisure resorts, comprising residential homes, a hotel, spa and three award-winning golf courses on a 613 hectare property. “This desirability is reflected in prices,” says Dreyer.
“Freehold properties outside estates average around R1.208m, climbing to about R2.771m on an estate. “Prices escalate even further depending on other attributes, such as a sea view, such as at nearby Wilderness, Herolds Bay and Oubaai Golf Course, or developments Kraaibosch and Welgelegen, plus a golf course such as Kingswood.”
While many parts of the Garden Route are recognised as retirement nodes, Lightstone shows most stable owners in George are younger than 65. Buyers in the 18 to 35 group made up 23% of transactions last year “Largely families are looking to relocate because of the preferred lifestyle on offer,” says Dreyer.
There are several specialised retirement communities with wide offerings. The rental market is driven by semigration. Typical prices are R4000 a month for a bachelor flat, R4500 for a one-bed, and R5800 to R6000 for a two-bed unit.
Freehold properties are in the R10000 to R12000 range. Piet Burger of JustProperty believes there are buy-to-let opportunities for investors. The returns on holiday accommodation are good and the market has shown capital growth.
In 2014, public transport was boosted by the establishment of Go George, a joint venture between the municipality, the Western Cape Government, the national Department of Transport and local bus and taxi operators. All students are encouraged to use buses. The area is well served on the shopping front. Aside from commercial malls, there’s a host of traditional markets and crafters on call. “George is the real lifestyle deal,” says Dreyer.
“The cost of living is below Cape Town’s, you get better value for money when buying, good schools, state infrastructure is excellent and one is a short drive from top tourist spots.”
Jen Gerber’s favourite things to do
Situated at the foothills of the Outeniquas, a natural feature is the extensive hiking trails on your doorstep. Within a few kilometres explore indigenous forests, fynbos, pine plantations, mountains, oceans, rivers, dams, mountain passes, farmlands and semi-desert (Karoo).
Bridge House offers a restaurant, a garden centre and antiques. For anyone who is a bargain hunter there are regular auctions (0825785392). A short drive to Wilderness to will bring you to Salina’s Restaurant, which offers seafood with a great view (0448770001).
Relax and enjoy a coffee or sip on your favourite tipple in the garden at the Deacon Bistro (0440503752). The Robertson Brewing Company was licensed in 2013 and offers its visitors a range of unpasteurised, preservative-free and additive-free craft beers (0826592650).
George and its surrounds are well served by malls housing all the main chain stores but the Outeniqua Family Market is a firm favourite for tourists and locals. There are more than 150 crafters and food stalls and lots to keep children amused while you shop (0844998148).