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Urban to rural: advising clients on their big move to the country

Urban to rural: advising clients on their big move to the country

MAIN IMAGE: Merle Nicholls, property practitioner at Remax, Yzerfontein and Darling, and Ian Badenhorst, MD of Seeff Country and Karoo

Staff writer

South Africa has a unique allure for homebuyers seeking the tranquillity and seclusion that country towns or rural settings present. For agents guiding clients towards their dream homes in remote or small-town locations, there are several things to consider: from security, cost of living and infrastructure to lifestyle changes and plans.

“There has been a notable trend of city dwellers seeking property in smaller towns on the West Coast,” says Merle Nicholls, property practitioner at Remax, Yzerfontein and Darling. “Various motivations and preferences drive this trend and includes a diverse range of individuals, including retirees, younger couples and families.” Part of the appeal, Merle explains, is that life in the country can be more economical – rentals, as well as the cost of living, are lower. “In a village like Darling, for example, younger buyers (up to 35 years of age) account for around 28% of property purchases, which shows the trend is quite strong among younger people.”


What’s the rural appeal?

Ian Badenhorst, MD of Seeff Country and Karoo, cites “quality of life” among the significant motivating factors for people moving from the city to the country. “People are moving from urban areas, as well as smaller centres that are perhaps not well serviced or that lack lifestyle amenities. Often, you’ll find a young family that decides to move to the Karoo, for example, and live on a smallholding where they can keep a few animals or even start some industry – a small vineyard or olive production,” Ian explains. ‘Others decide to live out their passion and open a small restaurant or eatery in a country town, or even a guest house or art studio.”


A big advantage is that sellers can make enough money from property sales in the city to buy a home and start a small business in areas off the beaten track. “They can often find bigger homes with ample yard space in smaller towns,” Ian says. Other benefits include clean air, a healthier lifestyle, safety (children can still ride their bikes in the streets), and access to fresh food and produce from nearby farms.

Among her clients, Merle has assisted people who’ve moved to the platteland from Cape Town but also as far afield as Kimberley and Gauteng. “An elderly lady who sold her house in Kimberley for security reasons bought in Velddrif for the same price as the property she sold in Kimberley. She was able to buy a home with a lovely big garden as she loves gardening and planting fresh produce.”

Merle’s Gauteng buyers usually want a better life for their children. “They’re not exposed to the same elements as you’ll find in larger cities,” she says.


Important considerations for agents

Merle notes there are some essential factors to consider when chatting to clients. “Always be open and upfront about infrastructure and municipal services, including water reliability, electricity, waste management and road maintenance. Other factors are proximity to amenities, healthcare facilities and schools. And, of course, there’s security.” A bonus for the West Coast is that crime statistics are lower than in bigger cities.

Questions she asks her clients, aside from discussing budgets and affordability, include: What are your long-term goals? What amenities are essential? Are you prepared for rural living? Merle says she has previously recommended that clients rent first before committing to a purchase. “This helps clients assess whether the country lifestyle aligns with their expectations. This trial period allows them to get a feel for the area, the community, and any unique challenges that rural living may present,” she says.

Five-point checklist when advising clients on rural and small-town properties

“Moving away from a familiar area or city to a small country town or a busy urban area to a smallholding or farm can be quite a culture shock,” Ian explains. “So, it’s important that agents listen to their buyers to ensure they match them with the right property. It is difficult to move your entire life from a city to the countryside only to find you have made a mistake.”

Ian highlights the following as crucial to successfully assisting your clients to find their hidden gem.

  1. Understand client needs: ensure you understand the needs and desires of your client. Encourage them to research and familiarise themselves with the area and people. (Facebook groups are an excellent source for prospective buyers.)
  2. Ensure the property matches the buyer: make sure the properties sourced and presented to the buyer match what they are looking for and highlight why these are a good fit and what needs attention. For example, the home may be large and close to a school but needs renovation. You could highlight examples of how other home buyers have managed this.
  3. Local expertise: if your Johannesburg-based client wants to buy in an unfamiliar area, speak to an agent with experience selling there. They will have the local knowledge and can match the buyer with a property.
  4. Top-class service: provide buyers with extra information about the area and contact other people who have made a similar move.
  5. Work in partnership with your client: be available for any questions and provide information and assistance wherever you can. While your client may be very enthusiastic about their new life, it is still essential to be their partner in real estate every step of the way.

Guiding clients towards their dream homes in remote locations requires blending local expertise and understanding their unique desires. By providing comprehensive advice on infrastructure, community integration, security and investment potential, agents can empower their clients to make informed decisions. Remember, remote living is not just about selling a property but facilitating a transformative lifestyle choice. And a chance, Merle believes, “for people to connect again, with themselves, with those around them and with their communities.”

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