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The real value of real estate home-ownership

There has been so much said, since the financial crisis that overtook the world in 2008, about real estate as a good or bad investment – so much analysis, discussion and dissection – that there is a danger of forgetting that what the South African real estate market is really about is the individual, human benefits of home-ownership.

So says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, who believes that it’s time to re-focus on these home-ownership benefits, “the first of them being, as shown in many studies over the years, that homeowners are happier in their homes and in their neighbourhoods than tenants.

“According to Habitat for Humanity, for example, homeowners only move every eight years, on average, while the average length of stay for tenants is only two years.”

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says the second benefit of home-ownership, and probably the most important for those with families, is that the children of homeowners have been shown to do better in school, have more chance of obtaining a tertiary qualification, have less problems with alcohol or drugs, and earn more in their own adult lives than the children of those who remain tenants.

“This is probably not that surprising, since home-ownership also provides social stability, and makes for better neighbourhoods. Those with a longer-term stake in their area are of course more likely to participate in local organisations and work for the good of their community through schools, churches, neighbourhood watch and ratepayer associations. They are also more likely to garden!”

And generally, Everitt says, suburbs and neighbourhoods with high rates of home ownership will “give back” to those owners in terms of lower crime rates, better schools, more demand in the future from homebuyers and higher property values.

“Which brings us back to finances – but not just to the cold ‘investment value’ of home-ownership. There is a warm truth to the fact that home-ownership, unlike tenancy, enables individuals and families to create wealth with which to better their own lives and those of the people they care about.

“Just by paying off their home loan (instead of paying rent) they can build up equity that can then be used to educate children, start a new business or provide for their own retirement – all prospects that are much more ‘real’ and enduring for most prospective homebuyers than the possibility of making a killing in the next property boom.”


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