The super-rich home in on SA

Local properties costing more than R100m feature on Forbes’s list of most expensive homes in the world.

The search for the super- wealthy client, with assets totalling at least 30-million, has hit the SA property market.

Estate agents are discreetly scouring for buyer s to splash out a staggering R600-million on four luxury estates — two of which have cracked the latest Forbes list of the priciest homes on the international market.

Forbes has listed a private game farm and a wine estate for R185-million and R123-million, respectively.

A 6.4-million (R47.3-million) home in Umdloti near Durban also scored a mention.

Lucy Maher, Forbes’s lifestyle editor, said the annual property list was generally restricted to apartments and homes, but that “ranches or vineyards” now featured when the home on the site was worthy of such a mention.

The R185-million home is near Plettenberg Bay and has 12 bedrooms and stables, on a 1294ha estate. It is listed as: “25-million: Game farm complete with roaming lions, rhinos, buffaloes and leopards. ”

The R123-million wine estate in Stellenbosch sits on 202ha and features a thatched manor built in the 1700s, extensive gardens, a game park and a wine cellar .

Maher conceded that the Forbes list did not include the most expensive homes in the world because owners in that category tended to sell quietly to “preselected” buyers.

Local estate agents with these properties listed in their books have declined to comment, citing non-disclosure agreements with the owners.

House price indicators in the latest edition of The Economist show that the average price of a house in South Africa increased by 351% between 1997 and 2006.

Knight Frank, an international real estate company, recently called the country one of the quickest growing real estate markets in the world.

The Ritztrade International, a brokering service company, estimates the average price will be R1-million by 2010 — pocket change for the ultra-rich.

The Forbes list includes Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s Aspen ski lodge, worth 135-million , and a 64-room Istanbul waterfront mansion that cost 100-million .

The most expensive on the Forbes list is a 103-room property in London at 138-million .

For those not quite ready to fork out R100-million for a home, a compromise might be a R55- million “bargain” in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape.

Built in 1850, the property boasts a cottage-style main house, a family chapel and a boat dock — and is showcased only to a select few among the world’s wealthy.

According to Forbes, South Africa has become a sought- after destination among the world’s jet-setters looking for a second, third or fourth home.

“[They] don’t mind gassing up the jet if it means owning a beautiful property. Americans, Arabs and Europeans have long bought getaways across the globe, but increasingly the rising wealth in China, India and Russia is raising the world’s luxury watermark.”

Conrad Steinhobel, director of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, said his company only displayed top-end homes in the exclusive glossy magazines, Sotheby’s Auction House Preview and Reside, which are delivered directly to 135000 super- wealthy clients worldwide.

One of the properties is a R54.7-million modern castle perched on a cliff in Cape Town’s exclusive suburb of Llandudno. The 10-bedroom home has been on the market for six months, but has not featured in local newspapers or marketing brochures.

International property broker Engel & Volkers’ chief executive, Patrick O’Shea, said about 30% of the properties on their books were never marketed.

“We have an exclusive database of high-net-worth clients [millionaires worth more than R200-million], both buyers and sellers in SA and abroad.”

Are South African high-end properties overpriced or underpriced? Write to: tellus@sundaytimes.co.za

Article by: Simpiwe Piliso - www.sundaytimes.co.za