The travel brochures, the travel writers and the advertisements are right. Cape Town is a beautiful place. Table Mountain, Cape Point, the wine country, the coast, and the Kirstenbosch Gardens are all impressive. And if you are minded you can visit the African penguins at Boulders Beach (two feet tall, cute and indifferent to humans, provided they maintain a respectful distance of around three feet). Alternatively, you can stroke or even walk a cheetah at Cheetah Outreach.
But the current, special attraction of South Africa is value. Recently, the local currency, the rand, has depreciated by around 60 per cent. Consequently, a quality dinner, in a restaurant, hotel or winery, with wine will cost between HKD200-500 for two. One evening at a wine bar where the peak evening offer was a two-for-one deal, we consumed six cocktails for HKD175.
Unfortunately for South Africans, but happily for visitors, the currency is unlikely to appreciate in the near future. The financial sector is struggling and there are concerns that Moody’s will shortly downgrade government debt to junk. This has implications for investment in the property market.
Prices vary between different parts of Cape Town but in a good neighbourhood the price of a four-bedroom house (with a security system, possibly featuring a high wall topped by an electric fence), will be roughly the same as a one-bedroom flat in Hong Kong.
We inspected a couple of properties and spent time with a ‘localist’ agent. We asked her if there were many foreign buyers in the market. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, ‘quite a lot, including some from Johannesburg. Everybody wants to live in Cape Town.’ You really should take a look.