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There is some­thing spe­cial about St Fran­cis Bay. Lea Jacobs re­cently vis­ited the area and dis­cov­ered what makes this delightful lit­tle vil­lage mag­i­cal

Business Day - Home Front - - HOME FRONT -

ONE would think that a dev­as­tat­ing fire which ripped through a small wa­ter­front com­mu­nity and de­stroyed large num­bers of homes would have a se­ri­ous im­pact on its cit­i­zens.

How­ever, de­spite the loss and dev­as­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by about 76 home own­ers in St Fran­cis Bay, res­i­dents of this pic­turesque vil­lage in the Eastern Cape have re­mained pos­i­tive and, by pulling to­gether, are re­build­ing both their lives and their homes.

With its small work­ing har­bour and canal de­vel­op­ment, it is easy to see why peo­ple fall in love and are re­luc­tant to leave, re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances. This lit­tle sea­side trea­sure that, in­ter­est­ing enough, re­mained rel­a­tively un­known un­til the news of the fire hit the main­stream me­dia has ev­ery­thing one needs to en­joy a re­laxed, laid-back life­style.

Home to some of the wealth­i­est peo­ple in the coun­try, and ex­clu­sive enough to at­tract ma­jor for­eign in­vest­ment, the vil­lage has some­how man­aged to re­tain its charm. Un­like tra­di­tional hol­i­day spots, the area — while at­tract­ing vis­i­tors dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods, is never swamped with overex­cited hordes of hol­i­day mak­ers. Things may liven up dur­ing sea­son but over­all, the close-knit vil­lage at­mos­phere re­mains.

Pic­ture post­card pretty, and just an hour's drive from Port El­iz­a­beth, St Fran­cis Bay is blessed with homes fea­tur­ing white­washed walls and thatched or grey-slate roofs. The shop­ping cen­tres fol­low the same ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs, as does the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket, which in­ci­den­tally sells the most Lindt choco­late in the en­tire Eastern Cape.

Sit­u­ated above the vil­lage, the St Fran­cis Links Golf Es­tate of­fers sweep­ing views of the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side. The sig­na­ture Jack Nick­laus golf course, de­signed by the mas­ter him­self, of­fers golfers a game like no other.

Rated as one of the top-10 cour­ses in SA, St Fran­cis Links won Golf Di­gest's Best New Course in the Coun­try award and has gone on to win con­sec­u­tive awards from Com­pleat Golfer for its five-star golf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Golfers are chal­lenged and rewarded by play­ing 18 holes that all stand alone; play­ing in the dunes, through the fyn­bos, of­fers vis­ual dis­trac­tions that … com­ple­ment the ex­pe­ri­ence. Golfers, when they play from the tees best suited to their abil­ity, will use ev­ery club in their bag and ben­e­fit from us­ing their imag­i­na­tion, as there are of­ten a num­ber of shot op­tions open to them,” says Jeff Clause — PGA mas­ter pro­fes­sional and CEO and di­rec­tor of golf at the es­tate.

In ad­di­tion to the golf course, the es­tate of­fers a whole range of other ben­e­fits in­clud­ing a mod­ern gym, com­plete with un­der cover heated pool, a spa, a club­house and a restau­rant guar­an­teed to tempt the most dis­cern­ing palate. There are also a num­ber of des­ig­nated na­ture trails for the more en­er­getic to en­joy.

De­spite the range of fa­cil­i­ties avail­able, prop­erty on the es­tate re­mains ex­cep­tion­ally well-priced. Marsha Haupt Cooper, who re­cently opened Links Liv­ing, an agency ded­i­cated solely to sell­ing homes and va­cant land on the de­vel­op­ment, ex­plains: “Like so many de­vel­op­ments in this coun­try, St Fran­cis Links Golf Es­tate bore the brunt of the ma­jor fi­nan­cial fall­out of 2008. Va­cant land in par­tic­u­lar be­came a no-go area as banks rethought their lend­ing poli­cies on new builds. De­vel­op­ment came to a vir­tual stand­still as in­vestors scram­bled to sell what they could no longer af­ford or did not want. The re­sult — va­cant land on the es­tate is now sell­ing for what many con­sider to be ridicu­lously low prices.”

She notes that this sit­u­a­tion is not go­ing to last for­ever. “There has been a dra­matic in­crease in buyer in­ter­est in the whole of the St Fran­cis Bay area. This is, in part, thanks to a num­ber of ex­ter­nal fac­tors in­clud­ing the Jef­frey's Bay Wind Farm pro­ject that is al­ready well un­der way.

“At this stage, there sim­ply isn’t enough stock of ex­ist­ing homes for what we know is com­ing and those who take full ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion now are go­ing to reap the ben­e­fits in the short, mid and long term.”

The es­tate com­prises 567 stands and prices start at the R175,000 mark for 550m² stands. The aver­age price for a 1,000m² stand starts at R300,000.

“We are also mar­ket­ing homes on the es­tate and are cur­rently in ne­go­ti­a­tions with de­vel­op­ers to con­struct ‘lock up and go’ free­hold homes priced be­tween R1.3m to R1.5m, hav­ing re­ceived nu­mer­ous en­quiries for such a prod­uct,” says Haupt Cooper.

Homes on the es­tate boast a Na­tal farm-style ar­chi­tec­ture and in­clude, among other things, large ve­ran­dahs cou­pled with high-end fin­ishes. All homes on the es­tate have to fol­low the aes­thetic look of the St Fran­cis Bay vil­lage and must fea­ture white walls with char­coal slate or thatched roofs.

“Now is the per­fect time to in­vest,” says Haupt Cooper. “For the first time in decades, the Eastern Cape is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing growth with the in­vest­ment of re­new­able and sus­tain­able en­ergy sources. St Fran­cis Links Golf Es­tate is the only se­cure gated es­tate within a 120km ra­dius and is ideal for those who want to en­joy both an idyl­lic life­style and ex­cel­lent se­cu­rity.” Price: Stands from R175,000 Con­tact: Links Liv­ing Marsha Haupt Cooper 081 709 6261 Of­fice 042 294 1630

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