The growing coastal attraction fuelled by a shifting buyer demographic and the ‘new normal’

Over the past two years, the Garden Route has become one of the country’s fastest growing property hot spots, but the coastal attraction is becoming more widespread with agents in areas like False Bay in the Western Cape and Ballito in KwaZulu Natal also reporting a recent spike in market activity.

Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says that their February 2021 year-on-year annual report depicts exceptional year-on-year growth for many coastal areas; both in terms of sales and turnover.

“Whilst there has been a significant drop in sales volumes in many inland towns and metros, some as high as 70%, conversely and almost without exception, the coastal regions have fared extremely well this past year with the dramatic market shifts being largely due to the impact of Covid-19.

“The Garden Route is still consistently the star of the show and maintaining momentum with our offices in towns like Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay seeing a 56%, 69% and 45% jump in sales volumes respectively during the past 12 months ending February 2021.

“But more recent sparks of buyer interest and increased in other regions like Noordhoek (37%) and False Bay (86%) this past year are a clear indication of a growing trend - and the resurgence of semigration.”

According to Arnold Maritz, Co-Principal for the group’s Southern Suburbs and False Bay offices, says that the new work-from-home culture has certainly been a driving factor in the growing popularity of coastal towns and villages.

“Many of our recent buyers are those who would normally live nearer to the CBD for closer proximity to work but who are now able to prioritise lifestyle and we are therefore receiving many more enquiries from young professionals in areas like Noordhoek and suburbs along the False Bay coastline.

“Noordhoek, in particular, attracts equestrians who want to be able to ride regularly and those want to escape the pressures of the ‘rat race and run their business from home, whilst enjoying a quaint village lifestyle.

“There has also been an upswing in semigration, especially from Gauteng buyers as well as an encouraging an uptick in foreign enquiries, mainly from Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia from which investors can still access flights to South Africa.

“Our overseas buyers consistently mention escaping an increasingly uncomfortable European lifestyle, exacerbated by Covid-related issues and restrictions.”

Maritz adds the most popular properties with Gauteng buyers are the gated communities with estates and complexes like Lake Michelle, Stonehaven, De Goede Hoop and Chapmans Bay attracting considerable interest.

On the increasingly popular Garden Route, George is fast becoming a vibrant second tier city and according to George and Wilderness Principal, Tim Kirby, this has been spurred by a completely new buyer profile.

“Traditionally, our out of town buyers were retirees wanting to scale down both their homes and city lifestyles, but since the hard lockdown ended in June last year, we have been inundated with queries from young professionals in their 30’s and 40’s, many with very young families.

“There are many excellent schools in the area, there is very little violent crime in the area and with easy access to an airport, those who still need to visit their offices in other cities occasionally, can easily do so.

“Many of the older buyers still prefer existing homes in estates, but we are finding that younger buyers often like to build their own homes so plot sales have been very brisk, with the most popular house price band being from the late R3 millions to the upper R 4millions.

“Ultimately, the market has been buoyed by very strong and growing demand over the past nine months and this has contributed to a firming up of prices and market shifts spurred by a new and younger buyer profile who have different needs, greater income and, often, more available cash.”

Last year, the group’s office in the sought-after enclave of Plettenberg Bay enjoyed a record year, despite the impact of the pandemic and Steve Neufeld, Manager Principal for the area, believes that they are on track to achieve the same again this year.

“So far, 2021 is far outstripping 2020 and is looking like it could well be by far the best year we have ever had.

“Since the hard Covid-19 lockdown was lifted in June, we have experienced demand equivalent to our traditionally high-demand peak summer season and, to date, there has been no slowing down.”

As seen in the other coastal areas, Plett’s market is also being fuelled by semigration, with less than a third of their recent buyers being locals.

“Roughly 30% are local buyers, 30% from Gauteng, 13% from Cape Town and around 7% from Pretoria, 13% from a mix of other South African towns and cities with international investors accounting for the remaining 7%,” says Neufeld.

He adds that the town has seen substantial population growth in recent years, and as it continues to grow, it will become more and more enticing to younger couples and single professionals.

In Knysna, there has not only been a spike in sales to semigrants but also to international investors, says Peter Maré, Co-Principal in Knysna and Sedgefield for the group.

“Around 10% of our recent buyers have been foreign, with the lion’s share being German investors who are losing confidence in the European economy. They are attracted by the idyllic lifestyle and also the excellent value to be found in the region.”

According to Maré, the scenic town is also popular with buyers from Gauteng (31%), other Garden Route towns (23%) and Cape Town (10%).

“Buyers are still generally value driven with properties under R2m being extremely sought after and strong activity up to about R5m, although we have recently concluded a number of sales in the R10m to R24m range, but these buyers are very discerning and somewhat limited in number.”

Maré concludes: “Covid-19 has had a negative impact on so many aspects of our lives, but the one silver lining is that, with remote working now the new normal, many people now have the option of living in a place that makes them truly happy.”

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