“City living has become very expensive in recent years, with property prices in and around most metros having become inaccessible to most first-time buyers and young families and escalating rental prices have also forced people to move to cheaper outer-lying areas.
“And, until 2020, this was becoming a pressing challenge as living in close proximity to work was the holy grail for those who work in city centres and prefer not to waste hours battling traffic congestion or overcrowded public transport on a daily basis.
“However, since the advent of Covid-19, remote working and flexible office hours have become an accepted norm and, with high connectivity available almost everywhere, many people can now live where they’d prefer rather than be limited to areas from which the commute to work is easiest,” says Odendaal.`
Born in the age of technology, millennials are now the largest property-buying demographic and they’re also leaving the biggest footprint on an industry which saw very little change for decades.
“Millennials have very different needs, priorities and expectations than their predecessors and their entry into the property market has initiated a number of significant market shifts but now that they're getting older and are settling down, they’re following in their parent’s footsteps and heading out of town.”
The question many potential investors are asking is whether the exodus from cities is likely to continue for the foreseeable future or if it’s little more than a knee-jerk reaction to lockdown confinement and a short-lived response to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Odendaal believes that the answer lies midway: “People who endured months of lockdown in compact apartments will certainly have a new appreciation for outdoor living spaces, and families who recently traded city living for the suburbs may not want to give up the newfound luxury of space.
“Others may have become accustomed to the privacy and tranquillity of suburban living or be loath to start paying city rental prices again if it would require a belt-tightening lifestyle adjustment.
“And, of course, the current work-from-home opportunities mean that those moving to the suburbs don’t have to worry about commuting because they’re working from home.
Odendaal says that the result is that we are likely to see more demand for suburban office space as companies seeking to attract and retain talent will see some benefit from locating at least a portion of their regional occupancy in the suburbs.
“However, at the end of the day, CBDs and major commercial centres like Sandton are still the main financial hubs where business is done and money is made and, with the pandemic already becoming a distant memory, they will always attract those who thrive on being in the midst of the action.”
He adds that the cause-and-effect principle can’t be ignored and, as high demand will always drive prices upward, which is already becoming evident in sought-after suburbs, so city homes that were once exorbitantly priced will become more accessible and therefore more attractive to buyers and tenants once again.