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SECTIONAL TITLES: Giving up the garden

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Many families are opting for sectional titles that offer their children amenities instead of an outdoor lifestyle

South Africa is known for great weather and an outdoor lifestyle, and it is often these factors that stop parents emigrating to countries with wet climates and mostly apartment-style homes with no, or very little, garden space. Some family expats even return to raise their children in a more outdoor lifestyle.

But with densification, high crime levels and more flexible living driving more people into apartments and other sectional title homes, the question is whether families are also making such a move.

Although family buyers and renters still prefer free-standing homes with gardens and outdoor play areas, Andrew Schaefer, managing director of Trafalgar Properties, says security, budget parameters and proximity to school and work are equally important considerations.

“Couples with very young children may be able to manage in a sectional title property and expand to a property with more space as children grow and require more space and facilities to play,” he says, adding that it is “always important” to have a “good and clear understanding” of the sectional title/ HOA conduct rules and how these impact on children playing.

Susan Jaffe and Gisele Cuyler, sectional title agents for Jawitz Properties in Joburg, are seeing an increase in the number of families buying or renting, or at least considering townhouses. Security, less maintenance and an easier lifestyle are the main reasons behind this.

Another reason many families want to live in sectional title properties is the communal feel and way of life, says Tobie Fourie, national rentals manager for Chas Everitt International.

Many also have playground facilities or communal areas for children, but he cautions that such spaces will be managed by rules that guide noise and usage. 

“Landlords and tenants in sectional title schemes must keep in mind that, as with all the common or shared property and facilities, these are there for the benefit of all residents and they must be used in accordance with the governing rules.”

While the majority of family buyers still prefer houses with gardens, Samuel Seeff, chairperson of the Seeff Property Group, says there is “a definite move” towards more compact living.

The reasons behind this move include: 

  • Security and convenience.
  • Location and lifestyle. 
  • Pricing.
  • Reduced levels of home maintenance. 
  • Proximity to nearby amenities.

Seeff says many high-density areas offer larger apartments that accommodate families. “Not all sectional title complexes mean sky-high buildings, as you would get overseas.

In South Africa, you still find many low-rise options where it feels more like your own little home rather than a flat on the 50th floor.” He says while it does tend to be younger families with smaller children who opt for apartments or compact townhouses, developers are increasingly catering for families.

“Where sectional title blocks were once bland blocks of flats, they are becoming more sophisticated developments, catering for changing needs. Families who need more space can find bigger units with ample sized rooms, but with limited land size.”

Estate is safe, but leisure time is lost

GOING STRONG Many suburbs are still dominated by free-standing homes. Picture: Bart Jaillet

Some suburbs are dominated by free-standing homes, and have very few complexes or gated estates, says Myles Wakefield, chief executive of Wakefields Real Estate.

“If your children are being schooled there, and your place of work is there, it’s a tossup between a free-standing home close by, or hours on the road.” “The perception is that living in a gated community is safer.

Now, with many upmarket estates including retirement components, leisure facilities and even schools, living there almost replicate the alternative. But this is at the high end of the market.”

For most families, affordability rules. A family may like the idea of a gated estate but when comparing accommodation size, it doesn’t make sense, Wakefield says.

Families value outdoor facilities in complexes

EXERCISE Parents of children living in sectional title properties ensure they have enough time outdoors by taking them to the beach and to public parks. Picture: Ulrike Mai

Families living in apartments and sectional-title properties with no gardens or little outdoor space are placing increased importance on public amenities to ensure children get enough outdoor play time.

Susan Jaffe of Jawitz Properties says parents take their children to parks or, should they live in a complex, the communal gardens. These residents place “quite a lot” of importance on the public amenities available in suburbs where they are considering to buy or rent. Seeff Property Group’s Samuel Seeff says developers are also making more provision to cater for families, so many new developments have suitable facilities for children.

Many complexes now have communal grounds where children can ride their bikes or play, and some even have play parks and jungle gyms, he says. “Many suburbs also offer parks or other lifestyle amenities, such as being close to beaches or sports facilities.

Most schools offer large grounds so there are plenty of opportunities for children to be outdoors.” Acknowledging that outdoor recreation opportunities are a challenge for families living in some sectional titles, Andrew Schaefer of Trafalgar Property says some buildings have substantial gardens and/or playgrounds.

“Proximity to green belts, neighbourhood parks and school playground facilities accessible after school hours would be alternatives and location advantages.”

Schaefer says if there are limited family facilities within a building this would “certainly influence” purchase and rental pricing. Tobie Fourie of Chas Everitt International agrees: “These public amenities can be true deal breakers and changers.”

Considering the following aspects is also important, he says:

  • Is the neighbourhood safe?
  • The proximity of emergency and medical services, and shops and stores.
  • Nearby schools and their standards.

Recreational sites or amenities in the area, such as parks, pools, cycle areas, gyms, tennis courts, dog parks, outdoor braai and picnic areas, walking trails and outdoor gyms. Indoor space and the number of bedrooms are also considerations for families moving into some sectional title properties, Fourie says. 

However, many would have their children share rooms in return for the security and added amenities of sectional title homes.

“In most cases, both parents are usually employed full time or not always available so the children are secure. Friends might live in the same property and parents can ask neighbours for help.” He says younger children are more inclined to share bedrooms.

“With older children who need more privacy, sharing can become a household issue and constant battle.

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