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Remote workers are heading out of cities to towns like Jeffreys Bay

Remote working is fast becoming an international trend and once borders open, South Africa is set to receive its share of digital nomads who are able to work from anywhere in the world, as long as they have fast and reliable internet, as well as a desk to operate from.

We are seeing people actively moving away from cities to smaller towns in search of a less stressful, more peaceful, country lifestyle, while still retaining their city jobs, if they wish to do so, by working remotely either at home or in a coworking space.

That’s the word from Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, who says: “Technology has increasingly freed people to work remotely – or even run a business – from just about anywhere that has a good cellphone signal and fast internet connectivity.

In fact, it has already enabled a large number of ‘digital nomads’ around the world to keep working and earning even as they indulge a love of travel to different places and countries.

“And before Covid-19, this new “digital freedom” had already given rise in SA to the super-commuter – which is the term for a professional or executive who relocates with their family to a safer, quieter coastal or country town and then commutes weekly between this location and the city.”

But now, he says, many more people and companies have had to switch to remote working mode to survive and have realised that:

*It is much easier than they thought;

*It does not necessarily mean a drop in productivity; in fact, people are often more productive when working from home; and

*Many types of work lend themselves to working remotely on a permanent basis – and from wherever one prefers to live.

“We are thus not surprised that more employees, as well as executives, are now seriously exploring the idea of moving away from a big metro to a smaller town or an estate in a more rural area.

This pandemic has been a wakeup call for many people and families who are now seriously reassessing their priorities, and seeking ways to make permanent changes to achieve a lifestyle that is less rushed and stressed, and we see this reflected in a significant increase in enquiries for country homes.

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“In keeping with international trends, however, most do not want to relocate to another province or region but just to a small town or estate that offers the possibility of a quieter life and is still within a couple of hours’ drive of their origin city – particularly if their friends or family members still live there.”

Everitt says the areas that could be prime targets for this process of “de-urbanisation” in SA are the Cape West coast, the Winelands, the Garden Route as well as the he Little Karoo.

“Of course, not all towns in these areas will immediately benefit from this trend, but those that can attract the “de-urbanites” with good municipal management, reliable power and water supplies, reliable and fast internet connectivity, reasonable proximity to an airport, good shopping and medical facilities, cowrking spaces and good schools if they have children will prosper most.”

Jeffreys Bay, which is seeing a surge of fibre being rolled out is also transitioning from a seasonal tourism destination to a town where people can live, work, play and raise a family.

St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis are also experiencing an influx of new residents who are looking for a unique lifestyle, while also being able to work remotely.

As for the type of property these new semigrants are likely to buy, he says, there is already high demand among affluent buyers for homes in out-of-town lifestyle estates such as Val de Vie, Pearl Valley and Boschenmeer in the Wineleands, for example, as well as the golf estate in Mossel Bay, the estates at the Vaal and around Hartebeespoort and the high-end estates along the KZN North coast such as Zimbali, Simbithi and Mount Edgecombe.

“And as the trend grows to include many more remote workers of all ages and all income levels, we expect to see rising demand for ordinary freehold homes and whatever apartments may be available in and around various small towns – and possibly also for smallholdings where young families can keep horses or some livestock, go off-grid and grow their own food if they wish.”

Marina Martinique in Jeffreys Bay is another popular lifestyle estate which is fibred up by Telkom, making it a premier destination for remote workers or digital nomads who want to be able to work from home semi permanently, but also have easy access to an airport (in Port Elizabeth), should they need to travel for business.

There is even coworking space available at the Green Room in Jeffreys Bay which offers remote working facilities for local residents as well as digital nomads. They can be found in the Surf Village with views of Main Beach and the Kitchen Window surf break.

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