Small town property sales boom as people leave the city

Lightstone data shows that about 20% fewer people are now moving from cities to cities with more choosing to relocate to smaller towns, especially since the onset of the pandemic. According to the Seeff Property Group, more people are also purchasing second homes in small towns.

It is also not just older buyers in the 45-65 year age range, but younger professionals and families are also ditching the cities for the countryside, say Seeff’s property agents.

The largest exodus is out of Gauteng (44% of those leaving the cities), followed by the Western Cape (up to 30%) and KZN (up to 12%). Those moving from Western Cape and KZN cities tend to choose smaller towns in their own provinces while Gautengers are mostly going elsewhere, often to the Western Cape and KZN, and to a lesser degree to Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, and North West.

For Gautengers, Hartbeespoort is a popular choice. Donna Nass, Seeff licensee for the area, says the town’s proximity to Johannesburg and Pretoria makes it ideal. The market achieved record transactions over the last year, ending 52% higher than in 2020 and 56% higher than the annual average since 2011. The large volume of estates in the area is a big draw-card and this is complemented by leisure and basic amenities around the town.

In the Cape region, small country and coastal towns have benefited greatly from the pandemic-induced lifestyle shifts, says Ian Badenhorst, MD for Seeff Country and Karoo. Contrary to expectation, towns such as Swellendam quickly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and they have seen the highest turnover since 2017.

Buyers are mostly from other areas according to Val Anderton, a property practitioner with Seeff Swellendam, who says well-priced properties can sell within 3-5 days and there is now a shortage of stock on the market.

The town is well located as a popular stop-over on the Garden Route and boasts a strong agricultural economy, good schools, clean air, and wholesome living. It also offers many great retirement options. There is also still good value in the market in the R2 million to R3 million range while rentals average around R9,000 to R14,000 per month.

Another small town that is drawing buyers from as far afield as Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga is Ladismith in the Karoo according to Sonja Claassen, a property practitioner with Seeff. The market has seen the highest turnover in five years.

The town is only about a 90-minute drive to George and the seaside and offers an affordable alternative with the busiest price band being between R850 000 to R950 000 to around R1.5 million. Rentals are mainly around R4,500 to R6,000 per month. Aside from houses, lifestyle farms are also a popular option for those from the cities.

Meanwhile, Willie Janse Van Rensburg, a property agent from Seeff Riversdale, says the market there is also now up on the pre-Covid levels as people are flocking from the cities to the area. Lifestyle farms in the R4 million to R5 million range are particularly sought-after and a sizable chunk of buyers are from around the Cape metro looking to relocate to the Southern Cape.

The coastal town of Gansbaai, just south of Hermanus also achieved record turnover over the last year. Marlene Uys, a property agent with Seeff Gansbaai says there has been an influx of buyers, largely from Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.

Gansbaai is very accessible from Cape Town and a great place to retire or invest in a holiday home. It has good basic facilities including fibre. The busiest property band tends to be around R1.5 million to R1.7 million while the average monthly rental is R7,500.

Further south, Richard Pratt, manager for Struisbaai, Aghulhas, and Suiderstrand says the pandemic has been a big boost with property demand spiking since the onset of the first wave. Houses under R3 million seem to be most in-demand, but vacant land under R600,000 is also attracting interest. Affordable property has become very scarce.

People are mostly buying holiday houses, however, many, and especially younger people in the 30-50 year age group are starting to relocate here permanently. If priced correctly, a property can sell within a month, or even less. Mr. Pratt says properties that offer something extra, like location or views will sell very quickly.

Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route has also seen a record year with several high-value sales as people flock to the town on a permanent basis as well as investing in second homes according to Alet Ollemans, Sales Director for Seeff Plettenberg Bay.

On the Cape West Coast, the town of Langebaan also achieved record transactions over the last year amounting to a significant over R1.3 billion in market value with huge demand, especially in the R1.5 million to R3 million.

The KZN South Coast has also attracted more buyers from elsewhere since the onset of the pandemic according to Michelle Harris, licensee for Seeff in the area. Local markets here not only bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, but areas such as Amanzimtoti, Hibberdene, Port Shepstone and Margate achieved record transaction levels last year. We have seen more people looking to relocate to the smaller towns or invest in second homes to escape the cities given the rising WFA (Work from Anywhere) trend, she says.

Mr Badenhorst says moving to a small town has significant advantages. Clean air and healthy living make these a more wholesome environment to raise children who can still walk to school or ride their bikes and play in the streets. Most towns have good basic infrastructure and are not too far from big centres.

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