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Staying at home golden for the oldies

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The concept of “ageing in place” has been around for years, and with affordable retirement accommodation in short supply, it continues to gain ground in South Africa, says Berry Everitt, chief executive of the Chas Everitt International property group.

“Extensive research has also shown there are many potential health and social benefits when you remain in your existing home and community as you grow older, as long as the property is easy to live in and maintain,” he says.

“As in other parts of the world, this is driving a trend in South Africa towards home alterations and improvements that not only facilitate ease of living in the present, but will also assist owners to age in place safely, comfortably and independently.”

He says this trend is explored in the latest Ageing in Place report from HomeAdvisor. It says many homeowners are laying the groundwork for ageing in place rather than making aesthetic improvements to their homes.

“They would rather lay a new, level pathway, for example, than install a water feature, and rather have self-cleaning gutters than change the colour of roof tiles.

“Smart home management and security systems are also popular choices, as are energy and cost-saving measures. ‘Ease of living’ is paving the way for ‘ease of ageing’, even when homeowners don’t especially want to think about needing grab bars, wheelchair ramps and shower benches.”

Everitt says there is growing awareness among home buyers in their 50s and 60s that the properties they choose now may be their “forever homes”, and it is definitely changing their priorities and the value they place on certain features and area amenities.

“For example, many think twice about buying a large home with an extensive garden because they worry about maintaining it as they age, or the cost of hiring people to do so. Those selling such properties would often do better to target family buyers in their late 30s and 40s.

“Accessibility is also increasingly important, driving a preference among older buyers for single-level homes with spacious, open layouts, walk-in showers, good lighting, long-lasting finishes and easy-to reach storage. This is already influencing home design in upmarket new estates aimed at this age group.” 

On the other hand, he says, many over-50s are now looking for apartments and smaller homes in urban live/work/play areas within walking distance of shops, restaurants, sports venue, medical facilities, offices and public transport in anticipation of when they no longer drive.

“This is opening a new market for sellers in areas which have traditionally been haunts of younger residents, and in suburbs with demonstrably strong communities and safe places to be social, such as parks, libraries, museums, coffee shops and places of worship, or community centres with classes, events and volunteer opportunities.

Owners in such areas who are preparing homes for sale should consider ease of living improvements that will appeal to all buyers, but especially to those in the over-50 age bracket, as these are likely to generate the best returns, Everitt says.

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