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Living with your (extended) family

14 Oct 2008
With the worsening economic situation causing many people to lose their jobs, families are being forced to tighten their belts. For many, one ideal way to save money is to combine living expenses by moving in with other family members.

"This is leading to an increased demand for properties that can accommodate extended families," says Mike Bester, CEO of Realty 1 International Property Group. "It's common practice in some cultures, and with the western model of the nuclear family no longer always practical in today's economic environment, substantial savings can be achieved if families are prepared to share accommodation."

And he is not referring to over-crowding the average three bedroomed house, either. "There are some lovely big family homesteads in the older parts of our cities, in areas such as Auckland Park in Johannesburg, Rondebosch in the Western Cape and the suburbs around towns like Witbank," says Bester. "Many of them date back to the early 1900s when it was completely acceptable to have two homes or more on one large property, plus several smaller staff homes and outbuildings."

Bester says until recently the trend was to either subdivide the large, older properties or to demolish the existing structures and build new residential complexes on the sites. However, all that may be starting to change, he says.

"The original 'granny flat' or cottage is one way for a young family to take care of older members," says Bester. "and it is still as popular as it always was. It enables the older folk to stay close by and still maintain some independence and privacy, and the younger ones to know there is someone home when they want to lock up and go. The increased security for all is an added benefit."

However, there is also demand for homes with rooms that have separate entrances for teenagers and students who come and go independently but are not yet old enough to live alone. And in many cases an outside building can be converted into a home office, he says.

A land management use policy recently approved for various suburbs in Cape Town actively supports residential densification and home offices. "The policy generally encourages the development of home industries as well as housing densification in the form of second dwellings (granny flats) and subdivision of residential plots," says Cllr Brian Watkyns, committee chairperson for the City of Cape Town's Department of Planning and Building Development Management.

Ronel Breedt, manager of the Limpopo Realty 1 office servicing Ohrigstad, says she recently had an ideal property for sale for the extended family. "The property consists of three houses on a stand of around 1600 sq m," says Breedt. "One of the houses was three-bedroomed and two were two-bedroomed, each with its own back garden. The houses shared a communal garden area in front."

"The property was a good investment for someone wanting to buy to let," says Breedt. "The rental income for the three houses together was R9500 per month, while the asking price on the property was only R960k."

And of course, selling the property in its entirety saves on the hassle and costs associated with subdivision or rezoning, says Bester. However, he advises families who decide to buy property together to ensure that they have a proper legal agreement drawn up by an attorney. The agreement should specify the share of the property belonging to each of the owners, as well as the responsibility and bond repayments that apply to each share.

"This is critical in the event of something happening to one of the owners,"' he says, "as is the compilation of a new, valid will that stipulates what should happen to each person's share in the event of his death."

Bester believes that buyers looking to find a suitable home for their extended family should discuss this with estate agents in their area of choice.

"These are not the type of homes one stumbles across every day," he says, "but if your agent knows what you are looking for he can scout around for something suitable and you might be able to secure the property by making an offer, even if it's not actually on the market."

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