Asked recently to define what changes are taking place in the South African residential property market, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, summed them up in one sentence: “Big is no longer always seen as beautiful”.
Especially when buying into sectional title units, said Rawson, today’s buyer tends to accept that space is expensive and he does not have to have 110 m2 to 130 m2 of floor area. He might well be satisfied with 80 m2 – provided the décor, finishes and design are clearly excellent.
“The smaller spaces being marketed today, for example in Rawson Developers’ Southern Suburbs projects,” added Rawson, “are surprisingly often more attractive than the larger spaces of a decade ago. Today’s architects have learned how to maximize the potential space. They eliminate corridors, they make the kitchen and living areas open-plan and they ensure that these flow into patios or balconies, which are then used almost as much as the indoor spaces.”
The exception to this trend, on which many buyers are not prepared to compromise, said Rawson, is garages. Although in some areas it has now to be accepted that garages are simply not available, a great many buyers are willing to live in smaller apartments or homes but will only do so if secure garaging is available for one or even two cars.
The other clearly defined trend, said Rawson, is towards greater security. Buyers, he said, will pay a big premium for a home if it is protected by electrified fencing and/or guards, sensor beams and intruder prevention technology.
The swing to smaller units, added Rawson, is also driven by a growing reluctance to pay ever higher rates and taxes. This, he said, is now so evident throughout the middle class urban areas of South Africa that people, particularly those on limited incomes such as retirees, will even shun a precinct in which values are seen to be appreciating rapidly because they realize this will lead to an increase in rates and taxes. This, he commented, is all the more understandable when it is realized that pension fund investors are now warning their clients that the heady growth of previous eras is unlikely to be achieved again in the foreseeable future.