Semigration: These are the provinces, towns South Africans are moving to

The KwaZulu-Natal south coast is an affordable option for semigrants. Picture: Ossewa/WikiMedia Commons

The KwaZulu-Natal south coast is an affordable option for semigrants. Picture: Ossewa/WikiMedia Commons

Published Aug 24, 2023


As South Africa faces increasing socio-economic challenges, vast numbers of people are seeking refuge in some of the country’s best-run municipalities and provinces.

Either unwilling or unable to depart the country entirely, these semigrants appear to be hedging their bets by relocating to provinces that they perceive to be better – or at least better for them.

The appeal of different education, employment, and/or lifestyle opportunities has driven a near-constant flow of cross-country migration, and while the Western Cape is still the top choice, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are worthy challengers.

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The Western Cape’s biggest attractions include better service delivery and infrastructure maintenance, and unemployment rates that are more than 10 percent lower than the national average, says David Jacobs, regional sales manager for the Rawson Property Group.

However, the province does have higher rental and house price inflation than the national average – particularly in Cape Town, and this can make semigration to the region a costly experience for those looking to rent or buy a property equivalent to what they had before. Those willing to live slightly outside the urban centres may find prices more in line with their home towns’ though, he says.

“Larger coastal towns like Mossel Bay are proving very popular with semigrants. Property prices there are still relatively affordable, but rising demand paired with ongoing growth and urbanisation will see these increase over time.”

Other slightly smaller towns seeing a lot of semigration action include Hermanus and West Coast favourites like Langebaan, Paternoster, and St Helena Bay.

Wilderness, a picturesque Garden Route enclave in the Western Cape, is also seeing demand from buyers outstripping supply, says Madelyn Kohler, principal property practitioner for Jawitz Properties in the Wilderness and Sedgefield areas.

“We are experiencing unprecedented levels of activity in the area, despite higher interest rates and economic conditions.”

Data from Lightstone indicates that 59 percent of housing sales in the Western Cape are buyers from Gauteng, with the semigration trend also playing out in Wilderness.

“We are witnessing an interesting demographic shift in the region, with buyers in the 36- to 49-year-old, middle-aged group making up a higher proportion (26 percent) of buyers than before.”

However, buyers aged 50 to 64 still make up the largest proportion of recent buyers in the region. The bulk of sellers in the region is the older 65+ pensioner demographic, who are using the favourable market to achieve record prices on their properties and retire to nearby George, Hartenbos, and Mossel Bay.

Kohler adds: “The semigration trend has also driven a significant shift from seasonal to permanent residents in the town, with the proportion of full-time residents increasing from 33 percent to 80 percent.”

Semigrants are starting to cast their eyes eastwards

But it’s not just the Western Cape’s coastline that has captured semigrants’ attention, Jacobs says, as both the Eastern Cape and KZN are giving the country’s so-called ‘golden child’ a run for its money.

“The Eastern Cape offers many of the same outdoorsy lifestyle features as the Western Cape, but has a more temperate climate and a more affordable price point, on average. There is arguably less opportunity in terms of employment, but with remote work as prevalent as it is, that isn’t a deal-breaker for everyone.”

Similar to the Western Cape’s trend, he says smaller towns in the Eastern Cape are proving particularly popular with semigrants. Port Alfred is a firm, mid-sized favourite, as is its smaller coastal neighbour, Kleinemonde, and the inland agricultural town of Bathurst.

KZN’s semigration trends are a little bit different though.

“The North Coast around Ballito is popular with affluent semigrants from Gauteng, while the mid-South Coast around Port Shepstone, is gaining traction in the more cost-conscious market. In terms of lifestyle and opportunities, estate living is very popular in these areas, offering residents private security and good service delivery.”

With so many options on the table, it can be a challenge for semigrants to pick their preferred destination, and Jacobs says much depends on budget, lifestyle preferences, and conditions of employment. No matter the destination, however, Jacobs strongly recommends preparing for the move well in advance – particularly if you plan on selling an existing property.

“We’re seeing a lot of property sales to semigrating buyers put on pause – or even fall through – because of delays in selling their previous homes. The fact is, properties in semigration hotspots are moving much more quickly than those in other areas. It’s far wiser to sell first and shop around afterward, with the ability to put a condition-free offer down as soon as you find the right home.”

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