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A local futurist says SA is a bit behind trends overseas, but early adopters are already embracing tomorrow

The world, and the way we live in it, is evolving rapidly and these new lifestyles are shaping a future that will make the current property industry unrecognisable over the next few decades.

Urbanisation, sustainability, convenience and digital technology are rewiring the way we think about the homes we will live in one day. South Africa is a few years behind some trends seen in other countries but change is coming, says Dion Chang, a futurist and trend analyst at Flux Trends.

Chang gives us his top trends. 


The downsizing trend is becoming more “right sizing”, and while the country’s middle-class has not seen the level of nano-home living other countries have, “we are getting there pretty quickly”. One only has to look at the number of micro units going up throughout South Africa, and the tiny home movement hitting our shores.


A new student accommodation development in Joburg, which consists of small units and no individual kitchens but a shared, communal kitchen, is also a sign of the sharing trend which is infiltrating property markets across the globe. “We are seeing more shared services, especially in Asia where there are a lot of communal and shared living spaces.”

In some Asian cities even beds are rental shares. A night shift worker will rent the bed for the day, and day shift workers rent it for the night. “Sharing is becoming more acceptable. We are seeing it particularly in the student and retirement markets. The mindset is starting to embed itself in South Africa, particularly among first adopters.”


In Paris, Chang says, there is a “glimpse” of a trend where mushroom farms are being established in deserted parking areas in estates, thanks to fewer people owning cars. This is something local first adopters of micro units, Gardener Property Solutions (1 on Albert in Woodstock), say is fast becoming a trend with many of their luxury micro units sold without buyers wanting parking spaces. New parking lots being built have the proviso that they can be renovated into homes at a later stage.


Chang says the global economy is “fragile” and for millennials – also known as the new urban poor – home ownership is not at the top of their wish lists. “We are also seeing this in South Africa. The lifestyle here is about blended families and ‘black tax’, and many people are economically pushed. People want to own their own homes but can’t afford to. Millennials are still paying off student loans and can’t get the jobs their degrees promised. We are seeing a lot of renting.”


In the US a significant number of younger people cannot afford to live in big cities and are moving to secondary cities which are the equivalent of Port Elizabeth and George in South Africa. Although this trend will take longer to catch on here, secondary cities will become more popular.


Chang is also seeing a “big sweep” towards Marie Kondo-style living where people are getting rid of their possessions. This means storage places are becoming popular. “People want to spend their money on experiences and travel. This is not yet big among the emerging and middle markets in the Brics countries as they still want cars and assets, but a lot of repossessions are taking place.”


“Property is still a good investment, and those who can afford to will. However, people are now renting what is inside their homes, such as furniture cars, and even clothes. A lot of it has to do with sustainability and we are seeing it in the US and the UK, with upcycling, recycling, vintage and rental. “We will see it here too in the next five years, this trans-inter-ownership. We are moving towards ‘rent-a-wardrobe’ as people have the mindset to not get into debt.”


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