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Ditching city for country

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Technology opens chance to work from home in villages

With urbanisation at its peak and population density in major cities reaching frustrating levels, it is not surprising more South Africans are choosing to move away from the chaos to a quieter life.

According to global statistics company Statista, there was only a 5.22% increase in urbanisation from 2006 to 2016. In addition, a study conducted by the City of Cape Town found that, on average, Capetonians spend about 40 days in traffic per annum, a number significantly higher than the rest of the country.

Considering the rising trend for working remotely, flexi-time and a push toward work-life balance, country life is quickly gaining appeal. This is not limited to retirees, says Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate.

Young families and young, single professionals are exploring the idea of living further from the city to create a clear distinction between work and home, and to stop spending hours in traffic.

Technology is also changing the employment landscape as many organisations are willing to hire individuals who are located all over the globe. Online collaboration and telecommunications connectivity have created a virtual office wherever you may be.

This is one of the leading factors in the de-urbanisation movement. According to Iris.XYZ and Regus International, about 63% of South Africans work remotely in comparison to the global average of around 54%. Another pertinent motivator for considering a country lifestyle is the array of recreational and lifestyle activities in the outlying areas of Cape Town, Greeff says.

Areas like Kommetjie and Hout Bay are excellent surfing spots with a relaxed, community-orientated lifestyle. Many towns along the Breede Valley route, such as Robertson, McGregor and Ashton, also offer a relaxed, community centric lifestyle.

“A notable trend would be to have the best of both by having an apartment or pad in the city and a country home for weekends and holidays. Areas such as Robertson and McGregor are popular choices for the young and young at heart.

Located at the heart of the Wine Route, they offer lifestyle activities from hiking to skydiving and are famous for their wine farms and eco-tourism.”

Entrepreneurship and the desire to be your own boss has seen the demand for smallholdings and farms around Cape Town rise quite sharply over the past three to five years.

The opportunities presented by these properties range from micro-breweries and wineries to designer restaurants and guest houses.

“The economic ecosystem of the Western Cape has nurtured a new generation of small, medium and micro-enterprises that make an invaluable contribution to the economy.”

According to Forbes, the working from home phenomenon has increased by more than 80% in the past 10 years and has seen roughly a third of working millennials telecommuting to work at least two days a month.

Add to this the benefit of minimal travel and a cloud-based office space and you have a winning strategy that appeals to a large sector of the tax-paying population. When one considers the growing importance of environmentalism and eco-friendly living, Greeff says moving to the country becomes more viable. 

“Renewable energy sources can be more easily installed and used, and being off the grid appeals to millions of people along with the potential to create dams in catchment areas and drill boreholes and wells if necessary.” 

Semigrants drawn by Kommetjie’s prices
In 2017 the property market in Kommetjie took a significant knock in sales volumes, with registrations dropping from an average 70 over the previous four years to 47, but it also saw an increase in the median house price, which grew by 10.3%, from R2.9million in 2016 to R3.2m in 2017.

Citing Lightstone data, Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says vacant land did not fare as well, with the median sale price dipping by 26.9% to R1.188m after a high of R1.625m in 2016.

“The top end was the worst hit. Propstats data reveals in 2016 there were 10 transactions for more than R5m, with two in the R10m plus price band, but last year there were four sales above R5m and none in the higher bracket.”

Houses priced below R3.5m have continued to sell reasonably well if realistically priced. Natalie Cooper, area specialist for the group, says buyers are more cautious due to factors including political uncertainty, the drought and limited realistically priced stock.

“Changing buyer needs also affected the market, with a growing demand for water-wise homes with boreholes, wells and grey water systems. We are also fielding more requests for dual living properties.”

For decades, Kommetjie was inhabited by long-term residents who seldom moved away, but this has changed.

“In 2013 the market in Kommetjie began to pick up, with the number of registrations jumping from 58 to 71 and the median house price nudging the R2m mark for the first time. This was largely fuelled by semigration from Gauteng and the growing number of people seeking a more tranquil lifestyle,” says Geffen.

Although semigration has slowed, Cooper believes the lifestyle Kommetjie offers and its affordability will continue to attract buyers.

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