Why Sectional Title Offers Best Value

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16 Aug 2013

The value for money and the standard of design in most new sectional title property developments around South Africa has improved dramatically in recent years.

An artist’s impression of the parking area at Rawson Developers’ sectional title Stellenbosch development, “The Acorns”.

This is according to Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers, who says this is a result of the recession and the huge slow-down in new unit delivery, which caused two-thirds of South Africa’s developers to put their schemes on hold.

Henry says that in the boom era of 2003 to 2008 the demand for sectional title units was so great that almost all developments, good and bad, sold fast. "However, once the economic crunch began to make itself felt, buyers were less in evidence – and a great deal slower to commit themselves.”

They had also learned to be more discerning, comparing, for example, the values per square metre of the different developments on offer and the values of the different areas where they were situated, and certain buyers became adept at analysing the performance of all properties in that area. "Research via the Deeds Office and other surveys began to be done not just by agents but by the general public too.”

What effect did this have? Henry lists the following points as having been most transformative and evident in the last ten years.

An artist’s impression of the open-plan living area of an apartment at “The Acorns”. Open-plan configurations are now the accepted and preferred choice of many people, especially the young.

  1. Space is now more cleverly used than previously. Corridors have been reduced or completely eliminated and built-in cupboards and fixtures are increasingly used. In smaller units, he says bathrooms contain showers instead of baths and balconies can just be big enough for a small table and two chairs. Mezzanine floors, although disliked by some, are also catching on. Henry says the most significant space saving of all has been in the use of in-building basement parking. "This has enabled what would otherwise have been impossibly cramped sites being able to offer attractive open spaces around the buildings.”
  2. Open-plan areas are now acceptable and they are the preferred choice of many people, especially the young. Today kitchen, living and dining areas often form one space, albeit with some sections not visible from others, giving a measure of privacy. Open-plan designs also facilitate the use of low space divisions, such as dining areas, and this prevents the cook from being cut-off from the family or guests.
  3. He says that there has been a big improvement in the standard of finishes. Granite and Caesarstone countertops, porcelain tiles and downlighting, once considered suitable only for upmarket accommodation, are now found in the R600 000 to R1 million price categories – and give a feeling of affluence and comfort.
  4. “A fourth factor, now often taken for granted, has been a huge improvement in light and warmth penetration." There are seldom dark, cold corners that were characteristic of the mid-20th century homes these days and full length glazing and skylights allow units to be lit naturally.
  5. He says one has to mention that today’s sectional title units probably offer the safest accommodation of all South African housing. Electrified fences, sensor beams, guarded gates, patrol guards along with foyer concierges (in the more expensive developments), intercoms to all units and biometric fingerprint recognition or access swipe cards have made it difficult for unauthorised people to enter the buildings.
  6. Many of today’s developments have communal facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, saunas, squash courts, braai areas, laundry areas, ironing rooms and coffee shops or bistros in some cases. "These enhance residents’ lifestyles and make it possible for them to meet others in the complex, which is wonderful for single people, especially single parents.”
  7. Henry adds that professional landscaping – at least in all the better developments – is virtually obligatory today. The cash outlay can be high, but he says the result is worth the expenditure as from day one new schemes have computer irrigated, water-wise indigenous gardens with mature trees, benches, paths and ponds.
  8. As a result of these and other improvements, Henry says sectional title units are now the fastest growing property sector in South Africa and, if they are well managed by trusted and managing agents,  in his opinion, offer the best value per metre square of all South African housing today.
  9. Units in high demand areas, such as Rondebosch and Claremont in Cape Town, all of the university suburbs countrywide and suburbs like Fourways in Johannesburg and Umhlanga in KwaZulu-Natal, are appreciating in value faster than the average home, a fact which buy-to-rent investors have become very aware of.

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