Despite the narrative that many South Africans are emigrating due to the nation’s plethora of challenges, data and insights from experts paint a different picture.
Load shedding has been chiefly responsible for the deterioration of South Africa’s economy since 2022, with high inflation, elevated interest rates and port challenges exacerbating the nation’s challenges.
With these challenges, many have highlighted a spike in South Africans wanting to leave the country.
“Over the past two years, we have seen quite a big jump in the number of candidates expressing their interest in seeking opportunities overseas,” said JP Breytenbach, the Director of Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants.
He added that South Africans have often noted a lack of growth opportunities in the country as a major reason for people moving their families, whilst political instability concerns have also created a spike in emigration enquiries.
“It is evident that with each political tension event in South Africa, the number of enquiries about moving abroad jumps significantly,” he said.
However, despite spikes in enquiries about making the jump, the latest property data shows that the number of South Africans selling their houses to emigrate is nothing out of the ordinary.
According to the latest FNB Estate Agents Survey for Q4 2023, financial pressure-induced sales have remained high at 25% of total volume – higher than the historical average of 18%.
However, this is disproportionately higher in the affordable market (53.6% in the R250,000 to R500,000 price band) amidst the increase in living and debt servicing costs.
Sales attributed to semigration (relocation within South Africa) have also normalised to 11% – down from the peak of 14% in Q3 2022, even if it is still above the average of 9%.
“Emigration-related sales were steady at 8%, significantly lower than the peak of 18% observed in 2019 but in line with the long-term average since Q4 2007,” FNB said.
Not always green on the other side
Not only are the number of South Africans selling their houses to emigrate declining, but several finance and property experts have also highlighted a return of South African expats.
Tax Consulting SA said that this is due to a variety of factors, such as lifestyle and cost of living considerations and the allure of affordable luxury home ownership – which is near impossible in many other markets and popular emigrant destinations.
“As the desire to return gains momentum, our practice has seen an increasing number of expatriates inquiring about the practicalities of coming back to South Africa,” Tax Consulting SA said.
Rory O’Hagan, principal of the Chas Everitt Hyde Park and Sandton office, has also highlighted South African expats returning, especially to the nation’s economic hub.
“A very large percentage are actually buying homes in Gauteng, and in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg in particular,” said O’Hagan.
“We receive enquiries daily from South Africans of all ages who have been living and working abroad, sometimes for many years, but are now returning to Johannesburg to take up new corporate jobs or to establish new businesses.”
“Most are highly skilled individuals with years of experience, which is a benefit to SA,” O’Hagan said.
Some of the reasons for coming back include:
- Being tired of unpleasant weather and worried about natural disasters,
- Missing family and friends,
- Fears about the fallout from the Ukraine and Middle East conflicts
- The high and rising cost of living in Europe, the UK and the US, and
- The realisation that they can purchase a much better property in SA with euros, pounds or dollars than in the adopted countries.