Lockdown may have curtailed travel, but a surge in remote working and a relook at lifestyle choices means semigration is gaining popularity again

WORDS: KIM MAXWELL – PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

With remote working a viable option for many after the Covid-19 lockdown regulations forced a rethink of the office commute, semigration is having a resurgence. First-time owners, expanding families and mature buyers are all reconsidering how well their homes suit their lifestyle. In the latest Absa Homeowner Sentiment Index for Q3 2020, 71% of respondents say now is an appropriate time to buy property and 77% consider market conditions are right for buying rather than renting. The report concludes that current property prices and interest rates are the most prominent drivers of increasing confidence and a positive market sentiment.

There’s also an increase in respondents who are positive about selling property, thanks to improved buyer affordability – good news for those selling up and relocating. While many feared that pent-up demand would not last past July before the market dips, residential property commentators are reporting continued buyer momentum. Seeff Property Group chairman Samuel Seeff says the industry has seen some of the best trading months in six years. Thanks to the “best bond approval rates in more than a decade” and buyers benefiting from favourable mortgage loan terms, he expects this market buoyancy to be sustained.

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Tech Effect

“Technology and remote working management systems have removed the need for employees to visit the office daily. Many employers only require limited ‘connect’ days during the week. This feeds semigration to areas that offer better living, often for less,” says Adlab property specialist Claudius Combrinck, who markets various gated communities in the Winelands and the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town.

“We’ve seen areas such as Malmesbury benefit. For just more than R1m, a new home with quality finishes can be purchased at Olive Place at Klipfontein Farm, a secure gated estate with mature olive trees and rural charm. Buyers are diverse – many are young professionals and those wanting to scale down to the countryside.” Verdeau Lifestyle Estate in Wellington is also getting a lot of interest, with freestanding homes starting from R1,795m. “Wellington is a hidden gem. It will continue to grow in popularity due to its fantastic lifestyle, attractive pricing and its proximity to business nodes,” says Combrinck.

The Sibaya Coastal Precinct speaks to those looking for a safe place to leave their family should they need to travel for work. Stephan Botha, director, Rainmaker Marketing

Kwazulu-Natal

Traditionally, proximity to the airport has made the KZN North Coast attractive. “Sectional title makes sense because the lock-up-and-go lifestyle allows people to travel to and from places such as Johannesburg and Durban conveniently,” says Rainmaker Marketing‘s director Stephan Botha. “Sibaya Coastal Precinct speaks to those looking for a safe place to leave their family if they have to travel for work.”

Professional couples and families are attracted to Parc at Gold Coast Estate in Sibaya for secure semitropical living. SA’s property sales are strongest in the R1,5m to R2m space. So with Parc’s stylish two-bedroom villas starting from a pricier R3,7m – have elements been added to accommodate remote working lifestyles? Aside from appealing lap pools and direct access to Umdloti Beach, Botha says he’s noticed more Sibaya estate developers are incorporating business centres or pods and private meeting rooms. “In terms of Wi-Fi, fibre is a given in secure estates, as is back-up power, so there are no interruptions.”

Retiree Shift

Retirees or those thinking about scaling down their lifestyle soon, are the biggest group shifting to new locations. “About 30% of Oasis Life Clara Anna Fontein purchasers are semigrants, with the largest contingent from Gauteng, Bloemfontein, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. We also have purchasers moving here from elsewhere in the Western Cape,” says Rabie Property Group director Miguel Rodrigues, commenting on this popular upmarket Durbanville development. The estate’s semirural location provides good views and nature, with quality shopping nearby. “The sense of security and freedom Clara Anna Fontein offers, plus a hospitality-based lifestyle as a retiree – it includes 24/7 primary healthcare – is an enticing proposition,” says Rodrigues.

South Africans are following a global trend of people moving from cities to semirural destinations that are still close to airports, with access to healthcare and core amenities. “Although most retirees tend to retire within 10km to 15km of their family home, our Evergreen villages in the Western Cape have always seen a steady demand from retirees in Gauteng,” says Evergreen Lifestyle sales director Phil Wilson. “Evergreen Val de Vie in the Winelands has added another option for these upcountry retirees. Cape Town retirees are moving to Val de Vie too,” says Wilson. He notes that adult children often help determine where their parents retire. “We recently had a son in Hout Bay purchase a life rights property at Evergreen Noordhoek for his parents from Johannesburg. His parents’ safety and health were his two big decision-making factors.”

Given the choice, most retirees want to live in beautiful, safe surroundings, close to shopping malls, beaches, golf courses and airports. “The Western Cape in general has a very limited supply of retirement villages, and the influx from the north is creating an over demand, causing properties to surge above the norm within most well-placed villages,” says Devmark Property Group national sales manager Bruwer de Jager. Val de Vie’s group sales director Reiner Swart adds that this large estate’s secure environment has been a huge retiree drawcard during the past year. Homes here are priced from R3,9m. “Since South Africa changed to lockdown level 2, we’ve been overwhelmed by demand for our Evergreen homes, with more than 20 life rights sold during October and November.”

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As anyone over the age of 50 can stay in a retirement village, it’s the ideal work-from-home scenario. Jean Ehlers, director: residential development, Devmark Property Group

Time is of the essence

Unsurprisingly, the Garden Route is a top semigration destination too. “We’re definitely seeing increasing gravitation to this region. George is the de facto capital of the Garden Route and undoubtedly its largest urban centre – but without the traffic congestion factor,” says Stephen Murray, Pam Golding Properties area manager for George. Jean Ehlers, director of residential development at Devmark Property Group, says the pandemic has changed how people live and work. “As anyone over the age of 50 can stay in a retirement village, it’s the ideal work-from-home scenario.”

Devmark’s Plettenberg Manor is one of the more popular residential retiree choices, boosted by state-of-the-art security, garden and cleaning services and affordable levies. Residents also have access to Plettenberg Bay’s natural beauty, Blue Flag beaches, magnificent mountains and gentle climate. Moreover, access to Plettenberg Bay has improved since the introduction of flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town. Alternatively, Devmark’s latest development, Langebaan Manor, offers excellent value for money and an attractive lifestyle on the West Coast. Civil works commenced on site at the end of November, and construction of the freehold houses will start once the first phase of civil works is complete.

“This development is only an hour’s drive from Cape Town, which makes it ideal for over 50s who want to lead a more relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle but still need to be close to the city,” says Ehlers. Currently, South African property buyers are negotiating strongly to ensure they get value from their property purchases, particularly at the higher end of the market. That said, property developers have already adapted post lockdown. Potential semigrators would do well to heed the signs. “Astute buyers are making the most of it, but the specials and ‘limited units only’ offers won’t last,” says Combrinck.

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