Investment opportunity at Royalston, South Africa


If you were fortunate to grow up with wide-open spaces and great swaths of wilderness, chances are you lived within striking distance of a good zoo — ‘good’ in the sense that animals were well cared for and treated with dignity. Algae-ridden polar bears (operative word, polar) at the equatorial Singapore Zoo are not dignified. For animal lovers and anyone wanting to teach their children respect for wildlife, a home on the South African coast might be the solution to the dearth of those spaces here in Hong Kong and for a truly great zoo: nature. A holiday home at Royalston Coastal Wildlife Estate is a nice bonus too.



Ups and downs

Port Elizabeth — home to over one million people, 750 kilometres from Cape Town and 1,000 from Johannesburg — is South Africa’s fifth largest urban centre and a vibrant, booming city in its own right; at those distances, it has to be. Roughly 20 kilometres from Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay is the Royalston Coastal Wildlife Estate, enveloped in diverse wildlife and a relaxed lifestyle for residents. “Port Elizabeth lies close to the Addo Elephant National Park, the third largest national park in South Africa, and home to the African elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and many more species,” begins Royalston’s chairman of trustees Jared Watson. “It also forms the start of the ‘Garden Route’ of South Africa, a famous stretch of coastline leading from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, known for its oceans and nature.”

The Royalston is the brainchild of a group of local Port Elizabethans who were looking to exploit the best of South Africa — chiefly its astounding natural beauty, robust oceans (the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet off Cape Point) and amazing wildlife while being close to home and the conveniences of the city. Port Elizabeth International Airport is 20 minutes away from Royalston, one of the country’s biggest shopping centres is 10 minutes away, and nearby Woodridge is a solid educational choice. As an added incentive, “Time magazine last year rated South Africa as the cheapest country in the world to live in,” notes Watson. Cost of living is one of the major drivers for overseas investors, as the popularity of Thailand and Malaysia prove.

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Of course, South Africa also has some of the worst crime problems in the world, economic instability, government corruption, brain drain and ongoing racial tensions. Watson admits that yes, the country has struggled lately, “As much of the world has, however, property as a sector has continued to perform well. Average house prices in South Africa increased by 24% in Euro terms, and 36.5% in British pound terms over the last 18 months, representing extremely good returns to foreigners,” he argues. Though South Africa has its strong points — Western Cape, affluent Joburg suburb Sandton, KwaZulu-Natal, the sub-ZAR1 million (HK$575,000) sector — there are suggestions the market has yet to rebound to its pre-2008 peaks in real value terms.

And while the news out of Johannesburg, about the previously dire Ponte City’s (and surrounding Hillbrow) gentrification may be a sign of better things to come, Watson is quick to point out that crime is much worse in the north than on the coast. “Ponte City is not representative of South Africa at all… It is over 1,000 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, and it would be similar to comparing mainland China to Hong Kong.”

Best of both worlds

Set on 1,000 hectares of private reserve land, the Royalston Coastal Wildlife Estate is unique among second homes and investment properties. Ski resort investments are gaining traction for their year-round appeal, and beach resorts are perennial favourites for azure waters, white sand and lazy gatherings with friends and family. But on neither of those types of properties will owners get antelopes, elephants, giraffes, and water buffaloes wandering past the kitchen.



“What sets Royalston apart from every other development in South Africa, and Africa, is its uniqueness in being on a protected private nature reserve, with the true feeling of being in deep African nature with wild antelope and indigenous South African animals roaming between the homes, yet with views of the oceans, world-class facilities, and access to all the privileges of the big city,” says Watson. The 185 homes at Royalston will be barrier and perimeter-free, so that antelope outside the window is no joke. So far, buyers include wealthy area families and business professionals who commute to work and want peace and beauty over the weekend, and retirees from city life seeking cleaner air, leisure amenities and more space. “It is opulent yet affordable, it is beauty yet comfort, it is wild yet urban,” says Watson.

Indeed, 70% of the development is protected nature reserve where guests can hike, fish, bike, or camp among free roaming animals (test your mettle with a bush braai). The rest of Royalston is dedicated to three distinct segments: the homeowners’ estate, where investors can buy a plot of land between 16,000 and 21,000 square feet for construction of a customised house at least 3,200 square feet in size; a Lifestage Development area (the first phase launches late this year or early in 2018) of 5,000-square foot plots and houses ranging from 1,800 to 2,600 square feet, with some restrictions (residents must be 55 for one); and the communal areas that host tennis courts, sports grounds, the clubhouse, dog park and hotel. As an investment, owners are welcome to opt into the Royalston’s rental programme, and Watson expects yields of 10% on the properties.

Prices at the Royalston for freehold properties average approximately HK$570,000 for land and start around HK$990,000 for homes (at HK$550 per square foot for construction).

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