File picture: Richard Vogel/AP.
CAPE TOWN  -  Emigration-driven house sales may be at an all-time high, but the impact in terms of loss of skills and people to the country appears less alarming considering the number of South Africans that are returning and a resumption of high-end property sales by foreigners in some areas.

Although formal figures on emigration and immigration are hard to come by, estate agent surveys and housing data have indicated that emigration accounted for about 13 percent of house sales across the country last year.

For instance, an FNB Residential Property Barometer survey for September, 2019 showed that emigration had risen to about 15 percent, year-to-date, of all homes coming on the market for sale, which was about double the figure 3 to 4 years before.

However, many South Africans were also choosing to return to their country, said RE/MAX of Southern Africa CEO and regional director Adrian Goslett.

There is no official bureau that collects immigration data, which means there is no current record of these sorts of returns.

He said the closest one could get to these insights was research compiled by Stats SA.

Its latest report reflected that 442 436 South African residents arrived and 453 266 departed between May 2018 and May 2019.

This translated into a difference of 10 830 more departures, which was only a 2 percent net movement between South Africans who had come in and out of the country.

Goslett said that although this was far from the full picture of South African emigration, it did present a more hopeful outlook for local sentiment.

In addition, Stats SA data showed that foreign traveller arrivals totalled 1 213 675 and departures amounted to 1 106 649 between May 2018 and May 2019.

This translated into 107 026 more arrivals, which represented a 9 percent net movement of foreign visitors who came in and out of South Africa in that period.

Gostlett said the Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations, 2019 edition, placed Johannesburg in the 54th spot. Johannesburg was also the most popular African destination city in the annual Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index for 2017.

Polokwane and Cape Town grabbed two other spots in the top five African cities ranked in the Index.

“These reports suggest South Africa is still a sought-after destination favoured by many locals and foreigners alike. Property prices are far more affordable here, which gives locals a reason to stay and foreigners a reason to invest. Though some are choosing to leave, our country still has much to offer potential investors, both foreign and local,” Goslett said.

Popular destinations for South African expats are the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the US.

Chas Everitt International Luxury Portfolio division CEO Rory y O’Hagan said at the end of last year that high-end property buyers from other African countries, China, India and 

Russia had become particularly active in the Johannesburg market.  

“And as a result we have seen a sharp turnaround in luxury home sales...a contrast to the first half of (2019) when all the talk among luxury property owners was about emigration, the market was oversupplied with the homes of those wanting to leave SA, and sales were really sluggish.”

He said the groups’ Luxury and New Developments Company and Sandton & Hyde Park sales team had, in the three months to November 2019, been selling more than R100 million a month of luxury apartments and houses in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

BUSINESS REPORT