Middle class South Africans are believed by some to be garden lovers who spend a fair amount of weekend time relaxing on patios or beside pools – right?
Well, perhaps not.
This is according to Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, who says this is no longer true of quite a large percentage of middle class South Africans. “In our group we find today that a fairly high percentage of buyers actually do not want to spend time and money on a garden, and many are averse to trying to maintain a pool which is often hard work.”
Clarke says fairly frequently these days, the buyer will be looking for a low maintenance home, one in which the garden, if there is one, is just big enough to accommodate about 10 people, most of them standing. The ground surface will probably not be grassed but paved or covered with stone chips. The few plants accepted as necessary are likely to be water wise and in pots and if there is a pool, this type of buyer would probably prefer it to be a plunge pool, just large enough to take a few people.
Pets, too, are different these days: big bouncy guard dogs are less in evidence, their place being taken by smaller dogs and/or cats.
The big change in what is seen as desirable in a home today has been brought about primarily by the steady increase in sectional title and townhouse living. This, in turn is very often the result of urban South Africans, worn out by spending literally hours a day in commuting, looking for homes close to the CBD or their work nodes – and these are usually in high density areas where big gardens are an exception rather than the rule, he says.
The changes have also come about because many couples and families today, especially young families, favour a lock-up and go lifestyle: they are looking for the sort of home which can be vacated over weekends and for longer periods without worry.
Clarke says also influencing today’s buyers, is simple economics – with South Africa’s average household debt now close to 75 percent of household income, the extra expense of maintaining a garden has to be regarded as unnecessary.
“The simple truth which many people forget is that on an average sized stand it is quite possible to spend well over R500 or more (per month) on water alone during the summer months,” he says.
How might this change affect traditional attitudes to buying a home, especially if it is being bought for renting purposes?
Clarke says right now although urban area rentals are rising, compact lock-up and go sectional title units are now the frontrunners as regards to both capital appreciation and rental in relation to investment, and there is unlikely to be a change in this trend in the foreseeable future. “Some of us might like to live where you can only just see the smoke from your neighbour’s fireplace, but the reality is that this type of lifestyle is today very seldom possible and indeed not seen as particularly attractive by the majority of buyers. Communal, high density living is becoming not only accepted but actually very popular.”