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Property feature: Sharing homes to reduce costs

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Many South Africans are choosing to live together to save money and have fun

The increasing need to cut living costs and the desire for more socialising is contributing to the rise in popularity of sharing a house. House sharing, or co-living, differs from multi-generational living because the housemates are not related and usually share to ease the costs of rent and utility bills.

Many of these tenants also enjoy the social aspect of sharing homes. Stats SA’s most recent Living Conditions survey found that in 2014/2015, a total of 2.9% of South Africans were living in “complex” households, defined as those where some of the members are not related to the head of the household.

Although this is a small percentage of the country’s population, it translates to about 1.5 million people, based on results of the 2011 census. This trend of sharing homes is expected to grow as the cost of living increases and people look for added security.

At HouseMe, an online platform that connects tenants and landlords, almost 10% of the rental contracts since April have been for house-shares or sub-letting within a single property, says founder and chief executive, Ben Shaw. This figure has more than doubled since the start of the year, he says, adding there is also a growing number of landlords wanting to let their properties room by room.

Read: What most people prefer in house mates

“We estimate close to 20% of these communal properties have been let to tenants over the age of 30 – often people with secure jobs and stable incomes. Pricing pressure is driving tenants to convenient, value-for-money rentals and communal living can no longer be perceived as a deal-breaker.”

Ingrid le Roux, principal of the RealNet Platinum franchise in Cape Town, says a trend in the operations area, which covers a large part of the northern suburbs and western seaboard, is for property owners/landlords to convert or add on to their properties to accommodate different types of tenants.

“This is done by adding flatlets, sectionalising large homes into duets, and letting houses by the room instead of the whole house, which enables them to generate extra income and create more affordable spaces for tenants.”

Usually, each separate unit has its own water meter due to the drought and water restrictions. The main reason for the growing trend towards house sharing is the “steep increase” in Western Cape rents over the past few years, as a result of the shortage of rental properties and the influx of people moving to the Western Cape.

“It is also interesting that sharing of rentals or homes is not restricted to certain areas. Even apartments in and near the CBD are being shared by tenants now because of the high prices.”

But this trend is not only being seen in South Africa. New research from Pew Research Centre shows that in the United States last year, almost 79 million adults – or 31.9% of the country’s adult population – lived in shared households. In fact, more adults live in shared households than multi-generational households, it said.

The Singapore Business Review recently published an article saying that Singaporeans are also getting in on the co-living trend. In the piece it quoted The Ascott Limited vice president for brand, marketing and digital innovation, Mindy Teo, as saying millennials are highly adaptable and much more willing to share facilities. \

When they seek accommodation they are also looking for a social experience, she said. In the same article co-founder of co-living technology at Hmlet, Yoan Kamalski, said: “I believe Singapore is moving towards this trend. Many studies show humans are happier and more fulfilled thanks to the connections and people in their lives, not so much because of money, success or fame.

“Real estate in Singapore and Hong Kong is highly priced, and because of our demanding type of mentality, the co-living concept is a necessity.”

Yet while saving money appears to be the main benefit of co-living, another new survey, namely Ikea’s One Shared House 2030, which surveyed 7 000 people from 147 countries online about how they would like to live in 2030, found the main reason most people find shared living attractive is because it creates new ways of socialising. 

The survey results, which showed the popularity of co-living is on the rise, also revealed that respondents want to:

  1. Live in tight-knit communities of four to 10 people.
  2. Live with a diverse group of people.
  3. Live mostly with childless couples or single women.
  4. Live with their pets.

However, while most people are willing to share utilities, the internet, gardens and workspaces, they will not share bedrooms, and would prefer to not share groceries or bathrooms.

No laws on maximum occupancy

Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act provides guidance with regards to the occupancy of commercial properties like B&Bs and guest houses, there is currently no legislation dealing specifically with the issue of maximum occupancy in respect of residential properties, says RealNet’s Ingrid le Roux.

“Even municipal by-laws seem to be silent on this particular issue, except in some cases relating to student housing/ communes. While body corporate rules do usually contain a maximum occupancy clause, the position varies from complex to complex.

“However, from both the health and safety and wear-and-tear perspectives, determining maximum occupancy is becoming a pressing issue in some areas.”

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