South African home buyers are semigrating to coastal towns – here’s where they are moving to

The Garden Route in the Western Cape has become one of the country’s fastest-growing property hotspots over the past two years, but the coastal attraction is becoming more widespread with agents in areas like False Bay, and Ballito in KwaZulu Natal, also reporting a spike in market activity.

This is highlighted in new data from Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, with the realtor’s annual report showing ‘exceptional’ year-on-year growth for many coastal areas – both in terms of sales and turnover.

“Whilst there has been a significant drop in sales volumes in many inland towns and metros, some as high as 70%, conversely and almost without exception, the coastal regions have fared extremely well this past year with the dramatic market shifts being largely due to the impact of Covid-19,” said Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s.

Geffen said that the Garden Route is still consistently ‘the star of the show’ with towns like Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay seeing a 56%, 69% and 45% jump in sales volumes respectively for the 12 months ending February 2021.

But more recent spikes have been recorded in other regions like Noordhoek (37%) and False Bay (86%) this past year as part of a clear resurgence of semigration, he said.

Arnold Maritz, co-principal for the group’s Southern Suburbs and False Bay offices, said that the new work-from-home culture has been a driving factor in the growing popularity of coastal towns and villages.

“Many of our recent buyers are those who would normally live nearer to the CBD for closer proximity to work but who are now able to prioritise lifestyle and we are therefore receiving many more enquiries from young professionals in areas like Noordhoek and suburbs along the False Bay coastline.

“Noordhoek, in particular, attracts equestrians who want to be able to ride regularly and those want to escape the pressures of the ‘rat race and run their business from home, whilst enjoying a quaint village lifestyle.”

Garden route 

George is fast becoming a vibrant second-tier city, said George and Wilderness principal, Tim Kirby.

“Traditionally, our out of town buyers were retirees wanting to scale down both their homes and city lifestyles, but since the hard lockdown ended in June last year, we have been inundated with queries from young professionals in their 30’s and 40’s, many with very young families.

“There are many excellent schools in the area, there is very little violent crime in the area and with easy access to an airport, those who still need to visit their offices in other cities occasionally, can easily do so.”

Kirby said that many of the group’s older buyers still prefer existing homes in estates, However, he said that younger buyers often like to build their own homes – leading to the most popular house price band being from the late R3 millions to the upper R4 millions.

“Ultimately, the market has been buoyed by very strong and growing demand over the past nine months and this has contributed to a firming up of prices and market shifts spurred by a new and younger buyer profile who have different needs, greater income and, often, more available cash.”

The group’s Plettenberg Bay office enjoyed a record year in 2020, despite the impact of the pandemic said Steve Neufeld, manager principal for the area. He said that the office is on track to achieve the same again this year.

“So far, 2021 is far outstripping 2020 and is looking like it could well be by far the best year we have ever had.

“Since the hard Covid-19 lockdown was lifted in June, we have experienced demand equivalent to our traditionally high-demand peak summer season and, to date, there has been no slowing down.”

As seen in the other coastal areas, Plettenberg Bay’s market is also being fuelled by semigration, with less than a third of their recent buyers being locals.

“Roughly 30% are local buyers, 30% from Gauteng, 13% from Cape Town and around 7% from Pretoria, 13% from a mix of other South African towns and cities with international investors accounting for the remaining 7%,” said Neufeld.

He added that the town has seen substantial population growth in recent years, and as it continues to grow, it will become more enticing to younger couples and single professionals.

Knysna has seen not only a spike in sales to semigrants, but also to international investors, said Peter Maré, co-principal in Knysna and Sedgefield for the group.

“Around 10% of our recent buyers have been foreign, with the lion’s share being German investors who are losing confidence in the European economy. They are attracted by the idyllic lifestyle and also the excellent value to be found in the region.”


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South African home buyers are semigrating to coastal towns – here’s where they are moving to