Moving to the city next year? Here’s how to find a great apartment

You just have to look at the vibrant Maboneng and Braamfontein precincts in Johannesburg or the City Bowl in Cape Town to see how the rising demand for centrally-located accommodation is speeding up the revitalisation of SA’s big cities.
“As well as those moving to the cities from country towns and villages, thousands of people - most of them young but some of them in their 50s and 60s - are now moving from the suburbs and former townships to rental apartments in the CBDs and inner city areas,” says Greg Harris, CEO of Chas Everitt Property Rentals.
“A major reason for this migration is obviously to cut down on the time and money they would otherwise spend commuting to jobs in the city, but another big driver is the desire to enjoy a 21st century, new-urban lifestyle, with places of work and study, food and clothing shops, restaurants, health clubs, galleries, theatres and nightspots all just a comfortable walk away from the front door.
“And as demand rises, more and more business owners and service providers are finding that there is a great living to be made, as well as a great life to be lived, in the city centres, with the result that whole areas are not only being re-populated, but also cleaned-up, improved and turned back into the thriving, lively, mixed-used precincts that they used to be.”
Harris says that finding an apartment close to a public transport hub like a Gautrain station or a Bus Rapid Transport stop is also important to an increasing number of young city residents, and that in this they are following the lead of their US counterparts, according to the latest national housing survey by the Urban Land Institute.
“It is also interesting that in this poll, 62% of the Millennial generation people who responded said they would also prefer to live in mixed-use developments – that is, new or redeveloped buildings that house shops, restaurants and offices as well as their apartments. This is an increasingly common occurrence in New York, London, Paris and other old city centres around the world, and now also appears to be a growing trend in the CBDs of SA’s bigger cities.”
However, while living above your local supermarket or fast-food outlet can be wonderfully convenient, mixing businesses with residential units can also be problematic if the buildings are not well-managed. For this reason, you should try always to rent in a complex with a professional and reputable managing agent that has things under control.
He says an ideal situation would probably be to live above offices, banks or retail businesses that have regular operating hours, security and minimal noise. However, that’s not always possible, and when the apartment they like is located elsewhere, potential tenants should make sure they do the following before signing a lease:
*Double-check the opening and closing times of any businesses below the apartment to prevent any clashes with your sleeping schedule. It’s no fun to be stuck in an apartment above a restaurant or bar with loud music, or a bakery which fires up its ovens at 4am. Additionally, pay attention to businesses in the area that might require lots of parking or foot traffic at night, which could add to the street noise when you are trying to sleep.
*Ask about how the maintenance and utilities payments for the building are allocated. Residential tenants should not be subsidising the commercial tenants in any way and individual water and prepaid electricity meters for each flat are best.

*Take notice of any smells that vent through the building or come through the windows. Not all restaurants or businesses have the correct ventilation or odour control systems, and while the smell of coffee or baking bread might not bother you, the fumes from the drycleaner downstairs might be an entirely matter.

*Find out about waste disposal. Does the restaurant or supermarket downstairs dispose of waste in an alley at the back of the building? This can present health and sanitation issues, increasing the risk that the building could have vermin. Ideally, mixed-use buildings should have separate trash rooms for residents, and more frequent rubbish collection to avoid trash piling up.

“As a first-time tenant new to the city,” Harris says, “you need to remember that you will be paying a large part of your earnings for your accommodation, and that you don’t have to take the first apartment that you view. Although you do need to be realistic about what you can afford, you should also make sure that you are getting the best value for your money - and a good managing agent from a reputable company like Chas Everitt Property Rentals will be happy to show you several possible options.”

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