Here’s how many people are semigrating in South Africa – and the towns they are moving to

Data analytics group Lightstone has published new data showing a significant shift in semigration movement across South Africa.

The group said that nearly 15% of homeowners who sold and bought homes in the three years leading up to 2020 have moved from cities to smaller towns.

Most of these purchases from the Western Cape and KZN show the appeal of opting for a quieter setting within their respective provinces, but Gautengers are moving all over the country.

“Most homeowners move to and from the big three provinces,” said Hayley Ivins-Downes, head of Digital at Lightstone Property.

“However, nearly 84,000 homeowners sold and bought elsewhere between 2018 and 2020 – with 76% moving from city to city, 14% relocating from a city to a smaller town while 10% headed the other way.”


Decline

Lightstone’s data shows that movements from metro/city to metro/city have been declining over the years, from 22,919 in 2018 to 21,861 in 2019 to 19,005 in 2020.

This is a significant number given the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and lockdowns which restricted movement by people across the country.

Nearly 12,000 homeowners left cities for smaller towns over the three years documented, with a slight decline from 2018 to 2019 (4,297 to 4,080) and then a more significant drop in 2020, to 3,502.

Approximately 44% of homeowners relocated to smaller towns from Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape (between 26% – 30%) and KZN (11%-12%).

In contrast, the number of homeowners moving from smaller towns to cities has declined over the past three years, from 3,031 (2018) to 2,658 (2019) and then to 2,262 in 2020.

“Movement within provinces show that more homeowners bought in small towns in the Western Cape and KZN over the past three years, than left the cities,” Ivins-Downes said. “While in Gauteng many more left the cities compared to those settling in small towns.”

The movement out of the major cities and metros in the Western Cape and KZN is lower than movement to the desirable smaller towns in these provinces (60:40).

Meanwhile in Gauteng, the majority of people moving from a city to a smaller town is a far higher ratio (80:20), Ivins-Downes said.

Lightstone’s data also shows the provinces of choice for those moving to small towns. The majority of people in the Western Cape and KZN who left cities for smaller towns stayed within provincial borders (Western Cape – 81% average; KZN – 77%).

While those leaving Gauteng’s cities were more evenly spread across the provinces, with the Western Cape and KZN being the most popular destinations outside the province, while Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and North West were also well-liked destinations.


Inter-provincial travel

Data indicates that the city or province of origin for homeowners now in small towns who left their home in the city for a new life in a smaller town, mostly do so in the province in which they already live.

More than 80% of homeowners who live in small towns in Gauteng moved there from a city in the province. Homeowners moving from the Western Cape accounted for between 2-5%, while those from KZN accounted for between 1-3%.

Almost 90% of homeowners who have settled in smaller towns in the Western Cape have come from cities in that province or Gauteng. The remaining 10% is evenly spread among other provinces.

Approximately 90% of homeowners who have settled in smaller towns in KZN have come from cities in that province or Gauteng, with 7% relocating from the Western Cape and the balance spread across other provinces.

The types of properties homeowners opted for when they relocated to a smaller town in KZN in 2019 was freehold, while in 2020 slightly more chose a sectional title.

Estate living came in third in both years. This is significantly different in the Western Cape, where the vast majority of homeowners chose freehold, followed by estate living with limited numbers opting for sectional title dwellings.

Homeowners moving from Gauteng to smaller towns overwhelmingly preferred freehold and estate living over sectional title.


Where people are moving 

Information on the preference variations boil down to availability and price, said Ivins-Downes.

“In KZN, the availability of housing in estates is on average more expensive than the other provinces, and so there is not the spread of price options that is available in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

“Interestingly, we see that there was almost no sectional title or estate stock available in Gauteng, while the Western Province had 10% availability in estate properties and KZN had 14% availability in sectional title properties”.

Looking at who is moving, where and what are they buying, the majority (63%) of homeowners who moved in 2020 were between 45-65 years in age (2019: 62%), and most of those moving are buying mid-value (58%, 2019: 57%) and high-value homes (32%, 2019: 31%).

“If we take a look at the towns in favour, we see quite a different picture from the rest of the country compared to the Western Cape,” said Ivins-Downes.

The top three choices for those moving from Gauteng to KZN were Margate, Port Shepstone and Ballito.  While those relocating within KZN chose Howick, Ballito and Salt Rock.

Port Edward and Southbroom were among the favourites for those coming from Gauteng but did not make the KZN relocation list, while Howick nor Hilton were not favoured by those moving from Gauteng.

Those relocating from within the province’s borders and those coming from Gauteng shared a liking for Groot Brakrivier, while the other top choices for the Western Cape were Langebaan, Hermanus and St Helena Bay.

The top four choices for those moving from Gauteng were as mentioned Groot Brakrivier, and then Hermanus, Plettenberg Bay and Knysna.


Read: The gap is widening between coastal and inland prices in South Africa

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Here’s how many people are semigrating in South Africa – and the towns they are moving to