The ‘Zoom Town Boom’ Moves Inland

By Antonie Goosen, Principal and Founder of Meridian Realty

Antonie Goosen, Principal and Founder of Meridian Realty

The advent of work from anywhere and the resultant migration of families within South Africa has not only had a ripple effect on Central Business Districts around the country, but the new Zoom town phenomenon is now moving inland, where it was initially predominantly restricted to coastal towns. Towns in the Overberg in the Western Cape, traditionally holiday or retirement destinations, are experiencing an influx of permanent residents.

Sales figures show a definite increase in terms of permanent residents moving from cities into smaller towns as families seek a better lifestyle.  Meridian agents in smaller towns are seeing an increase in sales and permanent residency in some of South Africa’s smaller and most scenic towns. People are not only seeking out coastal locations, but also inland locations that offer outdoor, country living. Two notable examples of this are Greyton and McGregor in the Western Cape. They have both seen an unusual number of residential properties sold in the last two to three years.

Greyton in the Overberg area of the Western Cape is a good example. Although most roads in the village are dust roads, the infrastructure is sophisticated and service delivery is commendable. The village still maintains its Cape vernacular architectural heritage, which has been well preserved. Greyton recently won the Kyknet ‘Dorp van die Jaar’ competition and is a popular weekend-breakaway destination.

Christoff Coetzer, Meridian Agent in Greyton, says he has seen a substantial increase in transactions in Greyton. “In 2019, the total number of homes sold in Greyton were 37, with 26 sold in 2020 and 93 homes in total for the 2021 year to date, which is over a 100% increase compared to the previous years. People are not just moving from inland areas; we are seeing a lot of movement from Cape Town. Greyton offers families in Cape Town a location out of the city to raise children, while not being too far from the city. In addition, Greyton offers good primary schooling in two government and one private school. Plans are also underway to develop a high school,” says Coetzer.

Coetzer says the ratio of permanent residents versus holiday residents buying holiday homes has changed dramatically. “The demographic setup in town has changed over the past number of years. In the past, permanent residents were typically pensioners and now there are many young families moving onto the village,” says Coetzer.

His buyers are predominantly from the Western Cape and Gauteng, but there is a noticeable influx from international buyers from the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium.

Nestled at the foot of the Riviersonderend mountains, McGregor is referred to as a village and is part of the Breede River valley. The village has maintained its quaint look and feel of nineteenth century whitewashed buildings and thatch rooves, that is credited to an active Heritage Society. It is also located on the wine route and has a significant art community.

“McGregor not only showcases beautiful scenery and architecture, but it also attracts cyclists and runner to races like the cycling event called ‘The Road to Nowhere’ and the running race ‘The Run to Nowhere’,” says Chris Steytler, Meridian Agent in McGregor. “I have seen a shift from the village being made up of 60% holiday homes or as I term it ‘weekenders’ and 40% permanent residents to 90% permanent residents and 10% ‘weekenders’ over the past two or three years.

“My sales have also increased significantly, having sold 15 properties in 2019, 16 in 2020 and 32 out of a total of 47 sales in 2021. McGregor has a total of 1169 freehold properties with 31 transfers in the last 12 months. In addition, the average price is increasing, with the average price in 2019 being R1 550 000, then increasing in 2020 to R1 700 000 and currently sitting at R1 756 000 in 2021,” says Steytler.

He says that his most recent buyers were from KZN, Johannesburg and Cape Town. He also sold two unseen properties to international buyers from Switzerland and Kuwait respectively. He did this via the Matterport technology during lockdown.

Greyton and McGregor are connected by more than just the famous Bosmanskloof hiking trail and the beautiful Breede River valley. The Zoom town trend seems to be moving inland. Both villages have seen an influx of permanent residents with increasing sales over the past two years. Semigration has certainly spanned longer than the Covid pandemic, however the pandemic and new working arrangements have certainly accelerated this trend.

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