More South Africans are leaving their homes empty as they emigrate

A growing number of homeowners on Johannesburg’s East Rand are opting to leave their homes empty as they emigrate – with the hopes of selling the property at a later date.

Speaking to BusinessTech, real estate agents from the area said that this was likely due to a combination of factors – including a desire to leave the country, but being hamstrung by the fact that it is a buyer’s market and they had difficulty selling.

However, a number of Seeff agents across the country noted that while this was not unheard of, it was not the case for the majority of South Africans choosing to emigrate.

Below they outlined some of the biggest emigration-related sales trends in their respective areas.


About 5% of sellers in Centurion want to sell their property in order to emigrate, said Tiaan Pretorius, an agent with Seeff Centurion.

“While there is a slight uptick from people wanting to emigrate who live in affluent estates, it is witnessed throughout most of Centurion,” he said.

“The reasons for emigrating include personal views about the government and expropriation without compensation, crime, the current economic climate and better job opportunities.

“The countries they prefer to emigrate to include Australia, The UK, NZ and Canada.

“While it does happen very occasionally it is extremely rare for people to leave their homes empty before they leave. Most prefer to finalise their home sale before moving on.”


Charles Vining, Seeff’s MD in Sandton, noted that he has seen a number of homes sold in his area with emigration as a driving force.

“That’s not only due to crime rates or family ties abroad, but because the majority of homeowners in our area are professionals and have skills that are needed in foreign countries,” he said.

“From teachers and professors to audiologists, specialist doctors to bankers and attorneys.”

He added that there’s no specific country or continent that these South Africans were emigrating to – although English-speaking countries are prevalent choices.

“A fair amount of sellers are relocating to other African countries on expat contracts,” he said.

“We have not experienced homeowners abandoning their homes to emigrate. That would be financially devastating. Some homeowners however do need to move before a sale is concluded on their homes – due to work or school schedules.

“In these instances they work closely with our agency from afar and we continue marketing or negotiating on their homes.

“In some instances, if financial pressure is mounting, we will assist the homeowners in finding a rental tenant and putting the house back on the market to sell, at a later stage, once the lease has run its course.”

He added that it would be useful for homeowners to start the process of working with an agent well before they emigrate.

“In the instance when the relationship will be over great distance, we strongly recommend working on a sole mandate basis,” he said.

“Trying to stay in contact with and coordinate between several agents could become very difficult. Work with an area expert and a trusted industry name.”

Dolphin Coast

“Over the last six months, we have been mandated to sell at least 4 properties for clients looking to emigrate,” said Tim Johnson, sales director of Seeff Dolphin Coast.

“It seems that those people in the higher LSM groups with the means to relocate are the ones making the move. The clients in question have all been from our upmarket gated communities.

“It is difficult to say why are they emigrating as each case is different, but it seems that many people looking to emigrate are doing it with their children’s future in mind.

“Most people are not under any illusion that it is easier or less expensive in countries like Australia and New Zealand, but securing a future for their children seems to be the general reason,” Johnson said.

Cape Town

Natalie Muller, sales and marketing manager for Seeff Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl, noted that while she had observed an increase in foreigners looking to sell as a result of concerns about property security, she had not seen any real uptick in emigration-related selling among South Africans.

“Our Waterfront and Mouille Point team though are reporting that they are still experiencing many people saying they do not want to bring money into SA and would rather take money out,” she said.

“That said, our recent sales meeting seemed to point towards a slight uptick in sales to foreign buyers over the last month, possibly as foreigners are again looking to return given the improved water situation in the Cape metro as well as the efforts on the part of president Ramaphosa to clarify the policy around land expropriation without compensation.

“We are also finding that most people do not really want to leave South Africa and do so only as a last resort. Over the last few years, Cape Town has emerged as an alternative for those looking to emigrate and that could possibly be why we are not seeing such a prevalence here of sellers looking to emigrate and emigration-related selling,” she said.

“In terms of tips for those looking to emigrate, we are currently in a buyer’s market which means that prices are under pressure, there are fewer buyers and more properties on the market for them to choose from.

“Price has therefore become an important consideration as overpriced properties simply sit on the market. If you do want to sell quite quickly now, you will have to be negotiable on your price,” Muller said.

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More South Africans are leaving their homes empty as they emigrate