CAPE TOWN – Clifford van der Venter admits that his own golf game is quite useless & # 39; is. Nonetheless, he was attracted by one of South Africa's most prestigious golf estates, which cover 2,500 sloping acres with a Jack Nicklaus signature course, two full-size polo fields, three gyms and a winery.
Vines flank the boulevards. Zebra and antelope nibble grass on a small reserve.
After a fast career in the business world, Mr. Van der Venter, 54, enjoys walking through the grounds of Val de Vie, a gated community 56 km north of Cape Town that has been through South for the past two years Africa was judged by New World Wealth, a market research group based in Johannesburg. He also feels extremely safe there.
Estate developments – often built in conjunction with luxury golf courses – are immensely popular among wealthier homeowners in South Africa, which consistently outperform the general market, mainly because they combine facilities and, as with Val de Vie , state-of-the-art security.
An analysis of the sector in 2016 by Lightstone Property, a local valuation company, identified approximately 6500 estate developments across the country. These accounted for about 5 percent of all residential properties, but more than 15 percent of the market value.
Only the United States, with a population six times as large, has more of what is known there as gated communities.
In a country with a long history of racial turmoil, the South African pattern invariably leads to communities dominated by white people (only about 10 percent of the population of South Africa), while others become effective excluded by income. Van der Venter, a person of color, was a senior executive at Caltex and British American Tobacco, along with other companies, before he retired and moved here.
Many of the communities combine armed guards, cameras & # 39; s electric fences. with recreational facilities such as golf courses and gyms. Some, such as Raptor's View, near Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country, contain nature reserves.
Basil Weinrich, a real estate consultant from Cape Town, said more than 40 percent of wealthy South Africans – defined as people who earn more than about $ 70,000 a year – now live or own property at security locations, a figure that rises steadily.
Crime dominates life in South Africa. On average, 56 people are murdered every day, according to the latest police statistics, making it one of the most violent countries on Earth, according to the United Nations.
The police registered nearly 230,000 burglaries last year, or 625 daily. Some experts estimate that the actual burglary figures may be up to three times as high. Burglars and car hackers can quickly become almost brutally violent, victims are beaten and raped if they do not quickly turn over valuables or open safes. Banks and high-end shopping centers are routinely monitored by security guards with automatic weapons.
"South Africans consistently rank crime among their top executives, second only to unemployment," said Andrew Faull, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies. But, he added, "although the middle class and rich South Africans may feel limited by fear of crime, they are considerably less limited than the poor majority."
For people who can afford to go from "bubble" to safety to bubble of safety ", he said, life can be" quite easy "
It was almost it happened that Mr. van der Venter converted to this way of life.
For more than a decade he had an extensive property in Cape Town, not troubled by his long, dark driveway or dilapidated fence. in the city of Durban on the east coast, and he switched to an estate development that was popular among his new colleagues.
Shortly thereafter he said that he started "mentally free"
He no longer had to worry about locking his doors at night, his wife and children could walk across the estate in the dark, becoming aware of a subtle fear that had permeated his life and now lifted.
On his return to Cape Town, he intended to return to his old home. "But now you realized that you had this fear," he said. "We knew we would never go back again."
Instead, he and his wife bought in 2010 in Val de Vie near Paarl. It is protected by thermal camera's, 24-hour dog patrols and an electrified, wrought-iron fence.
"Safety is of course the main concern, but you also get this incredible lifestyle," Mr.
Bought in 2002 as a disused clay quarry, Val de Vie now has 1500 completed houses, apartments and hotel rooms. A second phase of 1,000 units is under construction, according to the Marketing Director, Ryk Neethling. Empty plots usually cost $ 15 to $ 20 per square foot, while houses cost $ 150 to $ 330 per square foot.
"Many residents who built Phase 1 have already invested in Phase Two," said Neethling, a former Olympic swimming champion, during a recent tour through development. "They see the dust and construction sites and know that it will look like this in a few years."
Properties at Val de Vie range from individualized small farms of 7 hectares ("Gentleman & # 39; s Estates") to one-bedroom apartments designed by one of South Africa's most prominent architects, Stefan Antoni. Most properties are single-family homes with gray roofs and large windows, according to a building code that is "flexible but provides some consistency", said Neethling.
Nate Foster, developer of a mobile telephone tower from Boulder, Colo. , moved to one of these houses in January. With five bedrooms, large living areas with glass walls and a 50 foot pool, it cost less than $ 1 million. A similar object at home, Foster said, would cost three to four times as much.
He and his wife were "really resistant" to lifestyle estates since they moved to Cape Town in 2015. Said Foster, who & # 39; more a cultural experience & # 39; wanted to. However, the reality of South Africa still exists & # 39 ;, he continued. "Keeping one eye open at all is not desirable."
There is also a convenience factor. Mr. Foster, a triathlete, said he can train better in Val de Vie before he goes to work. A new fitness center on the estate, the Yard, has an olympic size swimming pool and a gym run by John McGrath, a 7-meter Irishman who used to play in strongman competitions at Coney Island in New York.
"The special thing about this place is the community," said mr. McGrath, who remains in shape by bending metal wrenches in hoops.
But like Mr. Foster, the vast majority of the inhabitants of Val de Vie are prosperous and white. About 15 percent are foreigners, mainly from Europe, Mr Neethling said, adding that between 10 percent and 15 percent is non-white.
Adding more affordable housing options to the estate – still out of reach for everyone but the richest South Africans – has helped to widen access without "contaminating" prices, said mr. Van der Venter. The apartments introduced in 2014 are among the most successful developments in Val de Vie, with the highest average value per square foot (around $ 165) and investment returns of 100 percent in just two years.
"I signed up to buy two, but made a back-up," said Mr. van der Venter, who also has an office building on the estate. "You keep thinking that this bubble is going to burst, now I kick myself."
Even with the weak economy of South Africa with tense real estate prices in the last decade, residential areas continued to perform well, said Andrew Amoils from New World Wealth.
There was "massive growth" in the sector from 2000 to 2008, but it slowed after the global financial crisis, Mr. Amoils explained. But still, he said, "it is still consistently better than the general market."
In recent years there has been a marked trend of subdividing mansions and apartments between developers through larger houses, said Mr. Amoils. Obtaining permission to build new estates had become more difficult, especially as concerns about the use of water increased due to increasingly frequent droughts, and rising rates and taxes made large homes less affordable.
Yet there was the security problem. "People get used to life like this," said Mr. Amoils.
On a recent evening, while the sun was above the polo fields, Chad Marthinussen and Chanell Classen, both 25-year-old doctors, came back to their apartment after work. "You can come home from a crazy shift to this beauty and just turn it off," said Ms. Classes.
She grew up in Bonteheuwel, a suburb of a working class outside Cape Town. She and Mr. Marthinussen are planning to marry. They both loved the security and relaxed atmosphere of the estate, but also shared some ambivalence.
"If we have children, we do not know if we want them to grow up here," Marthinussen said. "It feels like a safe bubble, which is great, but the real world is not like that."