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How property developers are adjusting designs for a new world

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The lockdown has changed people’s relationship with their homes, and they want more green space and places to work.

The new home living trends that have been established over the past year have become so strongly ingrained that developers are ensuring their new properties cater for these demands.

Space for additional family members and adult children, home offices, and mixed-use facilities are top of developers’ priorities when adapting their new property offerings. And so too are pet-friendly homes.

Since last year’s national lockdown, companies have been adopting a far more flexible policy with regards to when and where employees need to work, and as a result David Sedgwick, managing director of Horizon Capital Residential, says people are exploring areas that offer more space, outdoor areas, and a different pace of life compared to living in the city. There has also been a “big demand” for micro and small apartments in central Cape Town, the city bowl, and the Atlantic Seaboard.

In terms of apartments, mixed-use developments which offer an array of services and facilities are in demand.

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“These range from a laundry service, parcel collection, work breakaway rooms, rooftop pools and entertainment facilities and gyms. In the smaller apartments being launched, we are seeing facilities essential to one’s overall ability to live in a confined space.”

Outside of the city, he says security estates are “still very much in demand”.

“I think medium to large-scale housing estates will continue to be in demand over the next decade, with more and more offering everything from schools to shops.”

Pet-friendly developments are also becoming increasingly important.

“We recognise the important role that pets have in people’s lives. This was particularly true during lockdown where many people only had their pets to keep them company. As long as there are appropriate rules so that one’s pets don’t cause a nuisance to other residents, I don’t see why they should not be allowed in new developments.”

Safety though is still buyers’ main consideration, says Brad Morgan, new development manager at Rawson Developers. This means estates and apartment blocks with “great security” are very popular. “Peace of mind is key. Good lifestyle facilities are also really important.”

Modern design in terms of these security features within a home is also in demand.

He adds: “A dedicated outdoor area is part of the design, because as South Africans, a braai outdoors comes naturally to us.”

Paul Upton, head of developments for Dogon Group Properties, believes there will be demand for apartments and townhouses in “fairly central locations” that offer ease of commute plus access to amenities.

“Designers have already begun a swing towards a work-from-home orientation, incorporating home office facilities.”

He also forecasts a “strong demand” for homes with modern styling, open-plan living and smaller and more manageable garden spaces.

“Security is front of mind for most purchasers these days. And most folks are opting for all bedrooms to be en suite.”

Today most developers are also open to pet-friendly projects, although many include certain rules.

Jorge Santoro, luxury development specialist in the Chas Everitt Sandton and Hyde Park branch agrees: “The pandemic has boosted the number of buyers and tenants with pets, and being pet-friendly is a big selling point, so new developments now often offer features like pet washrooms and grooming parlours, as well as pet walking areas.”

From the luxury perspective, he says, most buyers and tenants are looking for more space. The result is that the trend towards compact apartments close to commercial hubs has been reversed.

“Consequently, we expect to see fewer micro-apartment developments in the cities now and a move towards bigger units that provide enough space for working and studying from home.”

There is also still “very strong” demand for homes in secure complexes and estates, with an emphasis on larger townhouses and cluster homes that have space to accommodate one or two permanent home offices or a classroom for home studies, as well as manageable gardens.

“There is a definite move away from city centres to the suburbs and even to country areas that offer more fresh air and green space.”

Andre van der Merwe, principal of the Chas Everitt franchise on the East Rand, which is one of the busiest new development areas in the country, notes a large demand from first-time buyers who are now, thanks to record low- interest rates, able to afford to purchase a property. Developers have catered to this market due to the demand primarily in the under R1 million price bracket.

“Residential developments most in demand are under R1m sectional title units with three-bedrooms and two bathrooms… It is anticipated that residential developments will spread to more remote urban areas due to remote working and in particular, will need to accommodate a home office.”

He says most new homeowners are looking for modern open-plan designs. Security remains a priority coupled with facilities that include play parks for children and entertainment areas within the complex or estate.

When it comes to resales, Charl and Adel Louw, who head up Chas Everitt’s Cape Town Northern Suburbs, City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard franchises, say people are looking for upgraded or modern bathrooms and kitchens and additional space for older children.

“Well-off parents are even adding flats to their residences for separate but nearby accommodation for young adults. Young adults stay at home longer now or move back from rented accommodation, especially if they were away at university or college and are now studying or working online.”

Gus van der Spek, chief executive of Aview Properties, says the current mandate for homes is centred on comfort, care, ease of access and functionality.

“Everyone is looking for a multi-functional space that can be used for entertaining, work and general living.”

In the retirement home space, he says ease of access to amenities and facilities are key. Security and safety, convenience, as well as a home designed for leisure and comfort, are also top priorities.
“I think that lockdown changed things dramatically in many people’s lives. Suddenly they realised they were living in big houses with lots of empty bedrooms that are never used. These big homes became unmanageable, and I think a lot of people selling today (are looking to) simplify their lives and downscale into smaller, purpose-built structures that cater towards this next phase of their lives.”

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