There’s little denying that housing estates do a great job of selling an image of a very particular kind of lifestyle that is hard to not find appealing.
The scene is typically filled with lush greenery, open spaces, blue sky, happy families, healthy-looking dogs and that intangible sense of community that most of us long to be part of.
While the scene above isn’t necessarily the reality in your typical South African neighbourhood it is what many estates endeavour to create an offer.
Here at Leapfrog, our trusted property advisors are often asked about the benefits of living in a housing estate, and while each case should be individually considered and evaluated, here are some of the pros, cons and general considerations.
“Residential estate living in South Africa is definitely on the rise, particularly amongst more affluent families and individuals,” says Bruce Swain, CEO at Leapfrog Property Group. It is estimated that some 2.5% of all residential properties in South Africa are on security estates.
Wide open spaces
The reality today is that many of us spend the working day indoors and in front of a screen. We’re all craving more time outdoors, which is one reason why residential estates that offer opportunities to enjoy more of the outdoors is growing in popularity.
“It’s about living somewhere that offers you a safe and beautiful space to enjoy nature near your home that people are drawn to. And it generally comes with the added benefit of not needing to manage the garden space yourself, as we’re all pressed for time,” Swain explains.
If this is something that is high on your list be sure to consider how the green spaces in your residential estate of choice have been designed and laid out. “The good ones are typically optimised to encourage interaction – think playtime with the kids, picnics with the neighbours, after-work strolls with your loved one – and ultimately promote a sense of community,” Swain adds.
Safety and security rank as a key concern for most South African property owners, and understandably so. “We all want to feel safe at home and we find that a residential property estate that offers that is generally very sought after,” says Swain.
He adds that estates with features like access-controlled entrances, perimeter fencing, dedicated security guards and alarms managed by a third party offer residents that ultimate peace of mind, which is often something that people are willing to pay a premium for.
Higher Property Values
Community and lifestyle benefits aside, property remains a massive investment and one that you want to be sure will appreciate in value. “The good news is that properties in residential estates tend to grow at a satisfactory rate year-on-year,” Swain says. He adds that the benefits a good residential estate offers, particularly heightened security and lush open spaces, are what things people appear to be willing to pay a premium for.
And the other side?
“Looking at all the benefits listed above, it’s hard to imagine that there is any downside to living on a residential estate,” Swain quips, but adds that there are always two sides to a story and this is certainly also true of residential property estate.
Here are some of the things to take cognisance of, according to Swain:
The neighbours: Sure, everybody wants good neighbours but bear in mind that certain types of estates will attract certain kinds of people. For example, you might not want to settle your young family in a place that is overwhelmingly occupied by retirees, or vice versa, so do some investigation before signing on the dotted line.
Building and aesthetic restrictions and regulations: Visual uniformity is usually a defining feature of residential estates, and a key part of maintaining the appeal and integrity of the place is ensuring things stay looking the same. “This could mean strict guidelines about the changes you’re allowed to make to the appearance of your property, including renovations and structural alterations, so just make sure you’re familiar with these before making a long-term commitment,” Swain explains.
Levies and taxes: Firstly, make sure you budget for this as a recurring monthly expense, as it can often be quite a significant expense. “You also make to make sure you know exactly how the levies are calculated, what they include and how they are spent as their explicit purpose is to contribute to the upkeep of the estate,” Swain explains.
General rules: Many, if not most, estates are governed by a set of rules or a code of conduct that residents must adhere to. “These are typically to protect the residents and to promote a pleasant culture, so do bear that in mind if at first, it puts you off,” Swain advises. It’s important to note that the rules may include a clause on whether pets are allowed or even how many pets are allowed on a single property, so make sure to pay attention to that if you can’t bear to live without Charlie and Milo!
As with any decision related to a property purchase and/or where to live, one around whether a residential property estate is suitable for you depends on various factors, including your budget and preferences.
“It never hurts to consult a trusted property advisor for advice, guidance or even just an opinion. It’s our business to know what’s going on in the property market and help you make the best property decision for you,” Swain concludes.