Estate living is one of the fastest growing real estate trends in South Africa and, with crime on the rise and lifestyle increasingly a priority for home buyers, the growing demand for a quality lifestyle in a secure environment is unlikely to abate.
In addition, says Grahame Diedericks of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, estate homes are generally excellent investments, often retaining better value than other residential sectors. They also tend to grow at a steady rate year on year.
“The most popular estates in particular have enjoyed a consistent upward trajectory in the average selling price in recent years, even during the disruption of the pandemic when the economy stalled, house prices dropped and sales slowed right down.”
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However, with so many estate options now available, he says it is important that prospective buyers do their homework and consider certain factors to ensure that they make the right investment and lifestyle choice.
Is estate living for me?
This is the first thing to consider because, over and above the security factor, there are some aspects of estate living which some people may find more difficult than others.
Not everyone wants to live according to strict rules and regulations and have elements like architectural design, gardening layout and guest parking dictated to them. And when you sign on the dotted line, you’re essentially agreeing to abide by the regulations, Diedericks says.
What are my lifestyle requirements?
Estates vary considerably, with some offering only heightened security whilst others have all the bells and whistles, including club houses, restaurants, golf courses, sports facilities, and some even schools.
“Demographics can also vary, and retirees and even empty nesters may not want to live in a community largely comprising families with young children.”
Should I buy in a new or established estate?
If you’re buying in a new development, everything will be fresh and new with none of the wear-and-tear of a previously lived-in property so no major maintenance, refurbishments, or repairs are likely to be necessary for the next three to five years.
A new build can also cost less than a similar existing home as there is no transfer duty (you do pay VAT) and some developers also add extras such as build-in appliances/features or even a levy holiday.
However, he says, the waiting period until completion and transfer might not suit you and if you buy early in a new development with only a few of the planned homes already built, not only will you have to live in a sparce environment for some time, you will have to put up with contractors going in and out, and inconveniences of construction works.
“In established estates there is little risk of having to endure the disruption of ongoing construction. At most the odd renovation might cause a minor inconvenience. These areas also have developed infrastructures and amenities and home gardens and communal green spaces are likely to be well established.”
What level of security do I want?
Determine what level of security you’re looking for because the tighter the security, the higher the day-to-day restrictions for residents and effort required with systems and protocol and, if there is technologically advanced security, it can be challenging for some to master and have the patience to use properly.
Can I handle the rules and regulations?
Some estates have stricter rules than others and not everyone wants things like the variety of garden plants dictated to them.
“Take your time to read the regulations of the estates in which you’re interested before making a final decision.
Am I aware of all the levies?
These are a recurring monthly expense, and it can often be quite a significant expense so add this to your overall budget when you start looking for a property to buy.
“Also make sure you know exactly how the levies are calculated, what they include and how they are spent. As a rule of thumb, the better the amenities and the more established and better maintained the communal areas, the higher the levies will be.”
Do I know everything about the body corporate/homeowners’ association?
These bodies are responsible for the general maintenance and upkeep of all public spaces in the estate and are tasked with ensuring that the overall look and feel of the estate is always on a set standard, Diedericks explains.
Regardless of whether the property is being purchased to live in or as an investment, it is important to ensure that the estate is financially secure and backed by reliable investors.
“At the end of the day, the governing body’s role – and how well they perform it – impacts your property’s future value so do some research to determine their management track record before committing to a purchase.”