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Owning a piece of history

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Owning a piece of history

6th June 2018


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If you are interested in owning a historical property, but unsure about its investment value or whether you will be able to place your own personal stamp on the property, here are some useful tips from Pam Golding Properties.

Firstly, owning a piece of history comes with certain responsibilities. Any structure older than 60 years is protected by the National Heritage Resources Act. This means that any changes to these buildings require approvals from the relevant provincial authorities.


If you are looking to buy a heritage home, it’s important to work with an experienced agent who can advise you about the regulations and restrictions applicable to your home and refer you to specialists experienced in historical renovations should you want to make any structural changes.

Careful restoration and preservation will not only make it a sound investment, but will also ensure that it remains an asset to the area as some buyers are prepared to pay a premium to take ownership of a unique property.


Estate agents say there is a very specific buyer for heritage homes - not your usual buyer looking for modern, contemporary houses for sale, but someone who likes the look, feel and even the particular scent of an older home steeped in history and with a tangible sense of heritage and character, much like a well-matured wine.

There’s a sense of pride in taking ownership of a home built with the high standards of days gone by and which has baronial-size rooms, lofty ceilings and thick walls.

The Western Cape offers an array of historical properties ranging in style from the stately Cape Dutch with thatched roofs and ornate gables, to the bold Art Deco evident in many of the apartment blocks in Vredehoek and surrounds. Many were built in sought-after locations near to the sea or the mountain, making them popular investment properties today.

Good advice is to bear in mind that your home could also be located in a Heritage Area, known in Cape Town, for example, as Heritage Protection Overlay Zones, which means that any building or renovations would also be subject to the requisite approvals.

Buildings in Heritage or Conservation Areas are protected. These are areas with identified boundaries within which specific development guidelines apply. Approvals are required for any external changes and alterations that could affect the way a place appears or is used, internal alterations that would be visible from outside, the removal of trees and changes to a historical landscape and any below-ground excavation.

Ensure that you know your own requirements and budget for any renovations needed before taking on a heritage property. Significant changes to the building could alter the distinctive historical features that made the property appealing in the first place.

Some areas in Cape Town have historical significance for the communities who live there, and often conservation bodies have formally lodged an interest in their respective area with Heritage Western Cape (HWC). Any development in these areas that triggers the National Heritage Resources Act will therefore require consultation with the conservation body as well. HWC will not consider an application from a property owner if there has not been a property consultation process with the relevant conservation body.

Style and atmosphere in the Karoo

Steeped in history and dating back to the 18th Century, the picturesque towns of the Karoo, spanning all three Cape provinces and extending into the southern Free State, continue to capture the interest of those wanting to escape the stresses of urban living.

Somewhat aptly, the unique architecture of the Karoo has in recent years provided the stimulus for the economic revival of its towns. For those who love the style and romance of bygone eras, there can be no greater find than a Karoo heritage home to call your own.

These range from large Victorian palaces and stately mansions to the typical Karoo vernacular architecture one finds in a variety of styles, including impressive farm homesteads, with lock-up-and-go historical Karoo cottages in high demand due to their affordability.

The Karoo’s older towns, which form the bulk of them, boast an abundance of heritage homes. Some towns have many in all the different styles that have occurred in the last 150 years. Towns like Bethulie, Graaff-Reinet, Phillipstown and Loxton are but a few. Then there is the tiny hamlet of Rhodes in the Eastern Cape, where the entire town, with its gorgeous Victorian cottages and homes, has been declared a National Monument.

Some aspects of an older house, which in days gone by were necessities, are today very attractive and fashionable features in a house, for example, multiple fireplaces with wood or cast iron trimmings, elaborate staircases, Yellowwood or Oregon floors and ceilings, stained glass doors, sash windows, beautiful Art Deco fittings and spacious verandas.

Besides the luxurious wood trimmings there are also Victorian homes with their magnificent fireplaces and pressed steel ceilings--these authentic and original building materials are impossible to replicate.

In many Karoo towns there are strong heritage associations which play an important role in safeguarding the look and feel of these homes, buildings and towns. In many cases the interior of the house can be converted if needed into a form of open-plan house but often this is a fundamental mistake as the bigger volume rooms are not easy to heat in the cold winters and often structural damage is a concern.

This is why it is important to get an architect or qualified builder involved who understands the importance of safeguarding the integrity of these heritage homes. Historical homeowners are therefore placed in a very responsible position of being a custodian to a distinct Karoo and South African heritage. The façade is often the most important attribute as far as the heritage of the town is concerned so make sure that whatever you do is in line with heritage legislation by which any building over 60 years is bound.


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