Soaring living costs fuel growing co-buying trend in SA property market

Co-buying: This collaborative purchasing trend is transforming the property market, offering a solution to the affordability crisis that many face today. File photo.

Co-buying: This collaborative purchasing trend is transforming the property market, offering a solution to the affordability crisis that many face today. File photo.

Published Jun 4, 2024


By: Pearl Scheltema

As property prices continue to climb and economic conditions tighten, South Africans are increasingly turning to co-buying as a viable path to homeownership. This collaborative purchasing trend is transforming the property market, offering a solution to the affordability crisis that many face today.

With the growing financial pressures on potential homeowners, co-buying is not merely a trend but a necessary adaptation in our approach to real estate. It’s enabling more South Africans to pool resources, enhancing their buying power in a market that is otherwise becoming inaccessible for many.

Economic drivers and benefits of co-buying

The co-buying trend in South Africa’s property market is primarily fuelled by economic necessities that challenge individual homeownership. As property costs soar and living expenses climb, combined with a tightening lending climate, the financial barriers to entering the housing market have significantly increased. In response, co-buying emerges as a strategic solution, allowing individuals to pool resources to manage these economic pressures more effectively.

By joining financial forces, co-buyers can collectively afford larger deposits that would be out of reach for them individually. This pooled capital not only increases their purchasing power but also positions them to negotiate better mortgage rates and terms. This collaborative approach opens up opportunities in the property market that might otherwise be inaccessible, broadening their choices and allowing access to more desirable properties or locations.

Co-buying allows individuals to share the costs associated with homeownership – from the initial deposit to ongoing maintenance and home loan payments. This approach not only makes property investment more attainable but also enhances the investment potential of each individual. By investing in properties that might have been beyond their solo financial reach, co-buyers can capitalise on market growth and stability, which ultimately provides a more secure living arrangement and financial asset.

The economic benefits of co-buying extend beyond mere cost-sharing. It creates a pathway for individuals to build equity and creditworthiness, potentially leading to better financial opportunities in the future. The collaborative purchasing model also offers a buffer against economic downturns, as the financial risk and responsibilities are shared, reducing the burden on any single individual.

South Africa's global context and local relevance in co-buying

Co-buying is not a novel concept on the global stage, with established prevalence in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where high property prices and economic barriers push individuals towards more collaborative forms of property ownership. However, in South Africa, this trend taps into deeper cultural roots, aligning with the country’s communal traditions and societal norms that favour shared resources and mutual support.

In South Africa, the practice of co-buying resonates particularly well due to the strong sense of community and extended family structures that are a hallmark of many of its cultures. This societal framework supports the idea of pooling resources not just as a financial necessity, but as a continuation of long-standing communal living practices. The concept of Ubuntu, which emphasises community unity and mutual aid, further enriches this trend, making co-buying a culturally fitting approach to addressing economic challenges in property acquisition.

In areas such as Pretoria, where the pursuit of affordable housing continues to intensify, co-buying transcends being merely a trend. It represents a significant evolution in our approach to property ownership and investment. This method is increasingly seen as a viable strategy for securing residential properties within a supportive community framework.

The demand for affordable residential properties in Pretoria and other major cities drives the necessity for innovative solutions such as co-buying. As urbanisation increases and the economic landscape evolves, co-buying offers a sustainable model that not only alleviates individual financial burdens but also fosters community development and social cohesion.

This cultural and economic context sets South Africa apart in its adoption of co-buying. It's not merely an economic response but a culturally rooted practice that enhances the social fabric and provides a robust framework for dealing with the challenges of modern real estate markets. By embracing co-buying, South Africans are not only accessing the property ladder but are also reinforcing their community ties, showcasing a powerful blend of tradition and modern necessity.

Challenges and considerations of co-buying

While co-buying offers numerous benefits, it also presents specific challenges that require careful consideration to ensure the stability and longevity of such arrangements. The primary concerns revolve around the legal complexities and interpersonal dynamics of jointly owning property.

Legal agreements and clarity

One of the most critical aspects of co-buying is establishing clear legal agreements that define each party’s rights, responsibilities and contingencies. This includes deciding how the property costs are divided, the process for selling the property, and what happens if one party wishes to exit the agreement early. These agreements need to be detailed and legally binding to prevent disputes that could arise from misunderstandings or changes in personal circumstances.

Legal foresight is important in co-buying arrangements: Entering into a co-buying agreement without a clear legal framework is risky. It’s crucial to outline every conceivable scenario in a contract, from the division of mortgage payments and handling of maintenance costs to the procedures for one party wanting to sell their share.

Management of shared property responsibilities

Co-ownership requires effective management of the property, which involves regular maintenance, payment of bills, and possibly dealing with tenants if the property is an investment. These responsibilities must be shared equitably among the owners, and there should be agreed-upon processes for making decisions about property management, renovations and other significant expenditures.

Interpersonal dynamics

The success of a co-buying arrangement can often hinge on the quality of the relationship between the co-buyers. Differences in lifestyle, financial stability and long-term goals can lead to conflicts. It’s vital for potential co-buyers to have honest discussions about their expectations and ensure that their investment goals and timelines align.

Mitigating financial risks

Financial discrepancies between co-buyers, such as differences in credit scores, can affect loan conditions, potentially complicating the financing process. Co-buyers must also consider the long-term implications of their joint investment, especially if one party experiences a change in financial circumstances, such as job loss or significant debt.

Exit strategies

A well-defined exit strategy is essential for handling situations where one co-buyer wants to leave the partnership. This might include buyout clauses or mechanisms for selling the property, ensuring that all parties maintain financial security and fairness.

As the property market evolves, so too must our approaches to buying homes. Co-buying represents a forward-thinking, collaborative way to address the challenges of modern homeownership. It's about more than sharing costs – it’s about building communities.

* Scheltema is the chief executive of Fitzanne Estates.