Looking for a tranquil small-town life? These 5 Western Cape spots may be for you

Tranquil and picturesque small towns are attracting young and old homebuyers. Picture: Erik Mclean

Tranquil and picturesque small towns are attracting young and old homebuyers. Picture: Erik Mclean

Published Nov 10, 2023


As affordability and security concerns grow in major cities and key commercial hubs, young and older homebuyers are choosing small-town lifestyles that offer peace, fresh air, and quality of life.

And they choose these lifestyles for varying reasons, including raising families, working remotely, or even starting businesses.

While semigration is nothing new, Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group, says many buyers, including younger people, are turning to appealing small towns where they find they can relax and ‘breathe’, and feel closer to nature in a more secure environment.

“These include Swellendam, Villiersdorp, Napier, and Greyton in the Western Cape’s Overberg region, and the coastal hamlet of Stilbaai on the province’s Garden Route, all of which have their own rich architectural charm, including character homes – some even with Heritage status.”

Citing recent Lightstone statistics, he says these towns have also enjoyed sound price appreciation over the past decade, with standout metrics particularly in Stilbaai and Swellendam.

1. Swellendam

Picture: Swellendam Municipality

The third-oldest magisterial district in South Africa, Swellendam enjoys well-established infrastructure that resonates with younger home buyers – an appeal which extends to parents seeking a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle, without compromising on their children’s education.

The town has excellent schools, making it an ideal choice for families relocating from bustling cities or other provinces, says Michelle Badenhorst, Pam Golding Properties agent in Swellendam. And, with the option to work remotely becoming increasingly prevalent, the area provides a serene environment for families to thrive, offering a secure and wholesome upbringing.

The town has an array of Cape Dutch-style houses and Victorian-era structures, and is positioned centrally between Cape Town and George.

Property market in Swellendam

Badenhorst says:

  • There is currently high demand for properties between R2 million and R3,5m
  • Freehold properties with two to three bedrooms on spacious plots in desirable locations are in consistently high demand
  • Vacant plots are in high demand and priced between R900,000 and R1.2m
  • Prices of starter homes range from just below R2m to approximately R2,4m, with some options available in the R1,75m to R2m bracket
  • Comfortable, well-maintained three- or four-bedroom family homes in desirable locations typically range in price from R2.9m to R3.9m

2. Villiersdorp

Picture: Pam Golding Properties

Centrally located less than an hour’s drive from towns and business hubs such as Worcester, Somerset West, Paarl, and Hermanus, and only just over an hour’s drive to Cape Town International Airport, this town provides easy access to excellent hospitals, schools, and universities. It’s also a popular weekend getaway.

Local Pam Golding Properties agents Kosie Fourie and Sterna Botha note that growing numbers of young people are settling here.

Just 25km further than Franschhoek, the town’s appeal is broad, extending to parents who seek a quieter and more countrified lifestyle. This is an affordable choice, enabling young buyers to gain a foothold on the property ladder sooner than in more expensive locations.

Property market in Villiersdorp

Fourie and Botha say:

  • The past five years have seen increased interest in homes to buy and rent in Villiersdorp
  • Freehold properties with two to three bedrooms on spacious plots in desirable locations are consistently in high demand
  • Vacant plots are also in high demand, and are priced from around R350,000
  • Houses between R1m and R2,5m in the town are the most sought-after
  • Those buying in the price band above R2,5m tend to look at houses near the golf course or in Theewaterskloof Country Estate, where homes are priced mainly from R3.5m to R6m.

3. Napier

Picture: https://www.overberg-info.co.za/

Just 169km from Cape Town and offering fresh air, less traffic, peace, and a good community lifestyle, the village of Napier is set among rolling farmlands of wheat and canola. En route to the seaside villages of Arniston and Struisbaai, it offers more value for money than a major metropole such as Cape Town, says Louisa de Jager, local agent for Pam Golding Properties.

“With free-standing vacant stands and smaller homes on generous plots, we are seeing a good mix of buyers, with more retirees downscaling from the city.”

Property market in Napier

De Jager says:

  • A three- to four-bedroom home on a good size stand is priced at around R2,3m while two-bedroom cottages can be bought for R1,5m and R1,8m
  • Homes are generally priced between R1,5m and R2,5m
  • R1m homes are the most sought after

4. Greyton

Picture: https://www.greyton-info.co.za/

Less than a two-hour drive from Cape Town, this town is “the perfect destination” for a weekend in the country or for permanent residence, says the real estate company’s agent Douglas Legg.

“No visit is ever a waste of time, even if it’s just for a lazy lunch under the majestic oaks that line every street, and this is definitely an experience best appreciated in ‘slow time’. Over the years many leading academics and business leaders have made Greyton their home and you are never sure whom you may see at the table next to you. Our many festivals throughout the year draw visitors from all over the country.”

Greyton is one of the few towns that have a Heritage overlay.

Property market in Greyton

Legg says:

  • The town offers a wide range of properties, from small weekend cottages on 800sqm to large permanent homes on 4,000sqm with multiple dwellings
  • Prior to Covid, 50 percent of buyers were of retirement age, but post-Covid, 50 percent were young families enjoying the ‘zoom boom’
  • Currently, less than 30 percent of buyers are looking at retirement
  • There is very strong interest in homes in the R3m to R5m price range, and these sell quickly. Due to the demand, stock is low
  • Annual residential sales have doubled in the past three years and property prices have risen by 37 percent

5. Stilbaai

Picture: https://www.stilbaai-info.co.za/

This coastal town offers a tranquil, seaside environment, extensive sandy beach, and safe swimming,. It has a temperate climate with abundant sunshine, few extremes, a great outdoor lifestyle, and panoramic views, says local Pam Golding Properties agent Nico Kellermann.

Access to the town is easy, via the N2, and health care ranges from private doctors to “excellent” government clinics

“While at one stage Stilbaai was predominantly home to retirees and holiday home owners, there is growing evidence of semigration here. There are also a number of young adults who have settled here, possibly due to the work-from-home trend which now seems to have momentum of its own.”

Property trends in Stilbaai

Kellerman says:

  • Currently, the price range most in demand is between R2m and R3,5m
  • A four-bedroom home costs from R4m to R5m+
  • Vacant plots are selling and there are a good number of new houses being built and then being placed on the market

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