Reverse migration sees expats return home | Everything Property

Reverse migration sees expats return home

Expats enquiries for homes such as this four-bedroom designer home in Silverhurst Estate - on the market for R36 000 000.

Reverse migration is seeing expatriates who once sought greener pastures abroad heading home in increasing numbers. Agents in areas such as Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs are noting a spike in inquiries. Two local property veterans take a look at this emerging trend.


For many South Africans who’ve chosen to live abroad, the allure to opt for home shores is made easier by numerous compelling factors that make the move well worth it. This includes everything from economic opportunities, to lifestyle appeal and the advantageous exchange rates that enable expats to leverage their foreign-earned currency for property purchases – which give them a lot more bang for their buck than in places like Europe or the UK.

Despite popular belief that South Africans are emigrating in their droves, figures actually show a steady decline in net migration rates in recent years, and many expats are in fact returning to South Africa and investing their foreign earnings in property.

Stephan Thomas and David Burger, Secure Estate Specialists for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, say that, “Over and above the wave of semigration to the Cape and the growing interest of high-net-worth foreign investors, we’ve seen a notable increase in enquiries from expats.”

They add that, “Many of these buyers left South Africa in their teens or in their early 20s, are now in their 30s and 40s with families of their own and are keen to return for a number of reasons, including lifestyle and the advantageous exchange rates that enable them to leverage their foreign-earned currency.”

“Others are retirees looking to escape the harsh European winters to enjoy their golden years in a temperate climate where they can pursue outdoor leisure activities and their hard currency pensions will stretch that much further.”

Foreign-earned currency

One of the most significant drivers behind expats’ return to South Africa is indeed the advantageous exchange rates that enable them to maximise the purchasing power of their foreign-earned currency.

“With currencies like the US dollar, British pound, and euro continually strengthening against the South African rand, expatriates find themselves in a favourable position to invest in property and capitalise on attractive opportunities,” say Thomas and Burger.

Factor in the lifestyle

Lifestyle is the other key driver, and Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs are especially appealing, as not only are many of the city’s best schools are located in the area, residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to leisure activities and sports facilities, from beautiful beaches nearby to golf courses and restaurants.

South Africa’s vibrant cultural offerings, culinary diversity and rich heritage also offer a unique and enriching experience for returnees and their families.

These days, many people living in the UK and Europe also feel burdened by social issues specific to these areas. In Burger and Thomas’ view: “The other reality is that people living in the UK and Europe are becoming more miserable every day with wars on their doorstep, uncontrolled immigration and cost of living increases and, at the end of the day, we all aspire to a better lifestyle and will seek it out.”

Secure estate sector

Another compelling drawcard in South Africa is that buyers have a wide choice of property options, particularly in the secure estate sector.

“Estate properties are very popular with these buyers and estates in this area offer everything they need, including controlled access, first-class lifestyle amenities and a sense of community, as well as property options to suit most budgets. Although we find that our expat clients generally purchase within two price bands – R9 million to R18m, and R25m plus.”

Growth potential

Despite the country’s enduring economic and political challenges, South Africa still boasts pockets of resilience. Growth potential and burgeoning sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism offer ample opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures and career advancement.

“For many expats, reconnecting with their roots and embracing their cultural heritage is a compelling motivator for returning to South Africa,” add Burger and Thomas. “And the sense of belonging, community, and identity they experience fosters a profound emotional connection, prompting them to rediscover and contribute to the nation’s social fabric.”

Image: Expats make enquiries for homes such as this four-bedroom designer home in Silverhurst Estate, which is on the market for R36 000 000.

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