Sectional title homes now offering the best value

The value for money and the standard of design in most new sectional title property developments that have come on stream in the last year have, countrywide, improved out of all recognition – and this has come about as a result of the recession and the huge slow-down in new unit delivery, which caused some two-thirds of South Africa’s developers to put their schemes on ice.

This is the view of Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers.

“In the boom era of 2003 to 2008,” said Henry, “the appetite for sectional title units was so great that almost all developments, good and bad, sold very 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 far 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. Certain buyers also 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.”

So – what effect did this have? Henry listed the following points as having been most transformative and evident in the last ten years.

“Firstly,” he said, “space is now far more cleverly used than previously. Corridors have been reduced or even completely eliminated and increasing use is now made of built-in cupboards and fixtures. In the smaller units, bathrooms no longer contain baths, only showers, and balconies can be very small, just big enough for one small table and two chairs. Mezzanine floors, although disliked by some, are also catching on. Perhaps, however, the most significant space saving of all has been in the greater use of in-building basement parking. This has enabled what would otherwise have been impossibly cramped sites able to offer attractive open spaces around the buildings.”

“Secondly, open-plan areas are now acceptable and they are also the preferred choice of many people, especially the young. Today kitchen, living and dining areas often form just one space, albeit with some sections possibly not visible from others, thereby giving a measure of privacy. Open-plan designs also facilitate the use of low space divisions, such as dining areas, and this prevents the food preparer from being cut-off from the family or guests.”

“Thirdly, there has been a big improvement in the standard of finishes. Granite and Caesarstone countertops, porcelain tiles and sophisticated down lighting, once considered suitable only for expensive, upmarket accommodation, are now found in the R600,000 to R1 million price categories – and always give a feeling of affluence and comfort.”

“A fourth factor, now often taken for granted, has been a huge improvement in light and warmth penetration. One seldom finds those dark, cold corners so characteristic of the mid-20th century homes these days and full length glazing, skylights and clever orientation allow units to be light-drenched.”

“Then, too, as a fifth factor, 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 extremely difficult for unauthorized people to enter the buildings.”

“A sixth point – also very significant – is that many of today’s developments have communal facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, saunas, squash courts, braai areas, laundry areas, ironing rooms and even 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.”

“The seventh and last point is that professional landscaping – at least in all the better developments – is virtually obligatory today. The cash outlay on these can be high, but the result is always definitely worth the expenditure: from day one new schemes have computer irrigated, water-wise indigenous gardens with mature trees, benches, paths and ponds.”

As a result of these and other improvements, said Henry, if they are well managed by both trusted and managing agents, sectional title units are now the fastest growing property sector in South Africa and, in his opinion, offer by far the best value per metre square of all South African housing today. 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 also appreciating in value far faster than the average home, a fact which buy-to-rent investors have become very aware of.

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