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The possible future of property

Published Sep 9, 2020


Some gloom faces the sector say trend analysts, but the pandemic means people will have a different emphasis on what they seek in their homes.

Property values in South Africa are at the start of a possible 10-year decline and the market is facing its most testing period ever, experts and trend analysts predict.

But this gloominess will also lead to a massively transformed property sector to meet the needs of homeowners and tenants who have had their priorities changed by Covid-19.

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“Everything has changed because of Covid, especially property,” says Dion Chang, a futurist and trend analyst at Flux Trends.

From the types of houses, people will be living in to what (and who) the notion of “home” will encompass, change is inevitably on its way. The country’s struggling economy will also contribute to this altered property market.

FNB property economist John Loos says property values are in decline in real terms and this will be the case for the next five to 10 years.

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“Values are high in the historical context and have to correct quite dramatically.”

In the short-term, the market will not be buoyant either, predicts trends analyst and futurist psychic medium Belinda Silbert.

“This is the most testing time that the industry has ever faced and the resilience that is demonstrated by industry professionals right now will shape the timeline.”

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The government will be forced to monitor the housing market very carefully and be particularly careful about the timing of interest rate hikes. Premature hikes could intensify a downward trajectory that would be “very difficult to reverse”.

“I foresee South Africa as a whole taking at least 10 years to recover from the economic mayhem caused by the coronavirus.”

The nation will not have disposable income for a long time and high-end properties for sale will be adversely affected. “Homeowners are going to demand value for money,” she says.

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Communal living

At the end of 2019, Silbert predicted the property market in 2020 and beyond would see micro-economic challenges driving the average South African towards co-housing and tackling shared resources and communal living in “novel ways”.

Fast-forward six months into Covid-19, she says this prediction has not changed.

Chang agrees, saying intergenerational living is a global trend which will continue gaining traction here too.

“People’s family values have increased due to Covid and there is going to be more intergenerational living. Homes will have to be designed to cater to that.”

Already youngsters are living at home for longer. “They are no longer moving out when they reach the age of 18. Now, people in their 20s, even up to the age of 28, are staying at home.”

Migration away from main metropoles

Much of the movement that is going to be seen will be a result of the pandemic and the impact it has had on people’s priorities, Chang says.

People are moving away from main metropoles and are casting their eyes towards second-tier cities, such as Durban and Port Elizabeth, as opposed to staying in Cape Town or Joburg.

“Moves like these will be made for lifestyle and affordability reasons.”

The “Zoom boom” and remote working also encourage such movement, which includes migration to more rural locations, Loos says.

“Even those who were working from home before Covid needed to live close to their company offices for the purposes of attending meetings. But now, if they only have to go in for a meeting once a week, for example, they will not mind a two-hour drive from their homes.”

In Gauteng, there is already a busy commuter corridor from Hartbeespoort Dam and Loos wonders whether the Vaal Dam area could be another location for such commuters. In the Western Cape, he says there are many rural options including the likes of Betty’s Bay and Darling.

For Durbanites, there could be more opportunities for employees to move up the North Coast.

“There was also always a small market of people commuting to different provinces for work and this group may grow now.”

Specific inclusion of home offices in property design

It is well known that the remote working trend was not new pre-Covid but has now been accelerated by it and this “must have a significant impact on residential design”, Loos says. He is not sure exactly what this design change will entail but notes that homes are no longer places where people just go to daily to eat and sleep.

“Homes fulfil a different role now, so we need more practical workplaces and furniture design. In developments, this may even mean having communal workplaces.”

Echoing this Chang says people are looking for dedicated home offices, not spare rooms or spaces that have been converted.

“Working from home is going to be with us for a long time, so functional office spaces are needed. People are sorting out fibre and better wi-fi connections for efficient home offices.”

Silbert adds that communal “smart buildings” – fully tech-enabled boarding-houses that allow singles to work from home – could also be on the cards.

“The need to work remotely that has been emphasised by the pandemic and the desire for a greater quality of life, without the commitment of maintaining one’s own property, would make this a very attractive proposition for young, single people.”

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