Upper-middle income South Africans are selling up to emigrate

FNB has published its latest property barometer for South Africa, showing some of the key reasons why South Africans are selling their homes right now.

While most homeowners plan to sell to downscale due to financial pressures, FNB said that a number of people are also looking to sell their homes to emigrate.

The barometer shows that the key reason for home sales is due to financial pressure, with as many as 20% of people planning to sell to downscale or for affordability reasons.

By comparison, around 8% of people are selling their homes with plans to leave the country. Notably, the data shows that wealthier South Africans – even those in upper-middle-income brackets – are more likely to sell up to emigrate.

As many as 14% of home sellers in the R2.6 million – R3.6 million house price bracket are selling to emigrate, with this figure dropping to 11% in the R3.6 million+ house band.  Emigration-related sales in South Africa increased steadily between 2015 and 2019, rising from 5% of total sales in 2015 to a record-high of 13.4% in Q2 2019.

This number subsequently dropped to around the 8% mark in 2021 due to a confluence of factors, including international restrictions and a strong property market. However, this is up a percentage point compared to the Q2 2020 report.

Market sentiment

Market strength indicators show that growth in demand has moderated, but market volumes are still running above pre-pandemic levels, FNB said.

“Deeds data, supported by internal applications volumes, shows that mortgage approvals in the first 9 months of 2021 were approximately 34% higher compared to the same period in 2019

The resurgence in market volumes was more pronounced in the affordable segments, following a more severe decline in 2020 due to the harsher impact of the pandemic on lower-income households.

Lower-income buyers tend to be more sensitive to economic shocks, FNB said. It added that prior to the pandemic, the more “affordable” segments were experiencing a faster-paced growth in demand compared to all the other price segments. Thus, the surge also reflects the continuation of that trend and would have been fuelled by ultra-low interest rates.

In line with improved activity, average time properties spent on the market for sale shortened to 7 weeks and 6 days, from 8 weeks and 6 days in the previous quarter.

“The slow recovery in the labour market, combined with rising interest rates suggests a less supportive medium-term environment for home buying activity.

“However, if sustained, the ongoing shifts in housing needs, which has lent support to homeownership, could mitigate the impact,” it said.


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Upper-middle income South Africans are selling up to emigrate