Wed. Jan 20th, 2021

Reassessing ‘home’: More South Africans opting for semigration

The lockdown has prompted growing numbers to move to coastal and ‘platteland’ towns.

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Having spent so much of their time at home during 2020, many South Africans are realising the place they call home is no longer where they want to live.

This has led to growing numbers moving away from the cities to smaller towns and coastal areas.

EFFECT OF THE LOCKDOWN ON SEMIGRATION

Months of restricted living under the national lockdown have forced many South Africans to re-evaluate their lifestyles and question what they want out of life.

Life in the fast lane has lost its allure for many South Africans living in the larger cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria.

A number of South Africans have been able to work remotely for most of 2020, and are set to continue working from home for the next few months — or indefinitely. The lockdown has also forced many to ponder the quality of their lives and realise that a work-life balance is lacking.

EMIGRATION VERSUS SEMIGRATION

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Beautiful Greyton is under two hours’ drive from Cape Town. Image: Adobe Stock

While some people choose to leave South Africa permanently and take up residence in other countries, many are opting to stay in South Africa, but move to places that offer better lifestyles.

Emigration is a life-changing decision that requires emigrants to resettle, learn a very new way of life and start over — often at huge emotional and financial cost. Semigration does not come with the same stresses.

Many South Africans are choosing to semigrate, which entails moving to a different location within the country – usually to places that offer a more relaxed lifestyle and aesthetically pleasing natural surroundings.

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Country towns are looking ever more appealing. This is Prince Albert in the Great Karoo. Image: Adobe Stock

Coastal towns like Ballito, George, Hermanus, Gansbaai, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond on the coast are becoming sought after, while inland towns of the Western Cape and Karoo, such as Malmesbury, Greyton, Riebeek Kasteel and Prince Albert, are also popular.

SEMIGRATION AN EMERGING TREND

Experts in the real-estate sector have noticed a clear semigration trend among South Africans during 2020. Dr Andrew Golding of Pam Golding Properties said there had been a marked increase in the number of people buying properties in regional centres and more remote areas of the country.

“In demand are appealing suburbs and peripheral areas in metros, as well as secondary cities and towns traditionally viewed as holiday or retirement destinations, as buyers are attracted by the more spacious homes, and more balanced and relaxed lifestyle in these markets.” Golding said.

Other real estate companies also report increasing numbers of South Africans wanting to buy homes to live in in areas that used to be sought after for holiday homes.

“There has also been a shift in interest from buyers looking for holiday homes. Earlier this year, the holiday home and investment markets were quite depressed, but we are seeing a resurgence,” Vernon Vogt of Jawitz Properties said.

WORKING REMOTELY SPURS SEMIGRATION TREND

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Semigrants often make this choice because they want a better lifestyle for their families. Image: Adobe Stock

Carl Coetzee, CEO of bond originator BetterBond, said the shift towards working from home had gained momentum globally and that South Africa was catching up with this development. He says it allowed employees to spend more time with family and improve their work-life balance.

The lure of a better quality of life, and a gentler and more relaxed lifestyle, is fuelling the desire to move to more remote areas.

“What the pandemic has done, however, is fast-forward this movement significantly along its timeline, with scores more desk-bound office workers and the companies they work for realising that, thanks to advancements in technology in recent years, work-from-home scenarios can now be the norm rather than the exception,” Coetzee said.

WHAT SEMIGRANTS ARE LOOKING FOR

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The availability of good schools tops every parent’s list when considering a move to the ‘platteland’. Image: Adobe Stock

Semigrants are choosing locations that offer good telecommunications and internet connectivity, since many of them will be working remotely. Close proximity to an airport is important for many, since they may be required to fly to other cities for work purposes.

Also essential is the availability of good educational institutions for children, decent healthcare facilities, recreational activities and safety. Many “platteland” locations and coastal areas used to be one-horse towns that could not offer the above, but this is changing.

Several small and remote towns have seen waves of South Africans settling there permanently, sparking substantial developments in infrastructure, the establishment of good schools, new healthcare facilities and recreational options which makes the towns more suitable for permanent residence.   

AREAS EXPERIENCING SEMIGRATION

Parts of the Western Cape, Garden Route and the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal are particularly appealing to South Africans from the inland areas.

“Kommetjie offers a laid-back coastal village lifestyle devoid of traffic and stress, surrounded by spectacular fynbos and ocean views. We are seeing people move from the city to the area, and the area has also been popular with upcountry buyers from areas such as Johannesburg,” said Deon Labuschagne, a Seeff agent in Kommetjie.

Golding said coastal towns and suburbs outside of the larger cities were proving to be very popular with buyers.  

Vernon Vogt, principal of Jawitz Properties, said: “The KwaZulu-Natal North Coast has seen as much as 60% of its buyers for new off-plan developments originating from Johannesburg, and we have seen a spike in inquiries from Gauteng residents wanting to relocate to the North Coast, specifically to the greater Ballito area.”

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