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The trend is to tiny, but buildings stay big

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Smaller homes are becoming popular worldwide, but approved plans are showing the opposite

The tendency towards smaller – and even micro – homes is a growing trend in South Africa, but new figures from Stats SA disclose the private sector is planning to build more bigger homes than small in the coming months.

According to the preliminary report, large South African municipalities passed R19.7 billion worth of private residential building plans in the first three months of this year, including the building of dwelling houses – classified as “free-standing, complete structures on separate stands or self-contained dwelling units on the same premises as existing residences”, townhouses, flats, and additions and alterations. 

Of these approved plans, 8 795 are for dwelling houses amounting to R7.78bn, and 6 548 for flats and/or townhouses to the value of R4.37bn.

Read: Millennial trends clear as micro units are snapped up

           Potential of micro units not yet fully realised

When breaking them up by property size, it is interesting to note although the trend towards smaller properties is gaining momentum – both here and globally – larger municipalities in the Western Cape have approved plans for 1 314 dwelling houses bigger than 80m² – an average of 229m². This translates to an 11.7% increase compared to the first three months of last year.

On the other hand, the number of approved plans for houses smaller than 80m² (an average of 45.7m²) has decreased, although only by 0.4%. 
According to the report, the Western Cape figures differ from the overall national picture, which saw a 33% increase in the number of plans passed for houses smaller than 80m², and only a 2.4% increase in houses bigger than that.

Even though these figures show that more current building plans are for bigger rather than smaller sized homes, in August last year FNB property analyst John Loos said the average size of full title stands in South Africa measured 552², or almost half the average stand size built in the early 1970s.

At the time he said: “We have long said the major region with the most acute land scarcity has been the City of Cape Town, with its sea on a few sides and a large mountainous nature reserve in the middle. Not surprisingly, therefore, we see the Western Cape province having the lowest average full title stand size of 487m².”

The average size in Gauteng was 552m² and in KwaZulu-Natal it was 802m².

However, although the Stats SA figures show the plans for new dwelling houses to have a smaller average size, these plans refer to dwelling houses which also include self-standing homes such as granny flats and converted outbuildings and garages.

Approved plans for the building of flats and/or townhouses, at an average size of 93.89m², saw a 12.1% increase in the Western Cape while the square metre size and value of additions and alterations to houses are also up, by 4% and 6.8% respectively.

Overall, the total value of all residential building in the Western Cape – including dwelling houses, townhouses, flats, boarding houses, retirement homes, hostels and guest houses– is R4.49bn. Nationally, this figure is R12.4bn.

Plans for residential and non-residential additions and alterations in the Western Cape and nationally total R1.9bn and R7.2bn respectively. 
FNB figures, based on estate agent surveys, show there was a “slight improvement” in levels of home maintenance and upgrades early 2018, but this was more for maintenance than upgrades.

Although agents surveyed perceived average home maintenance and upgrade levels to be stronger early in 2018, Loos said the perception was one of slight weakening in value adding upgrades to homes. Most homeowners, or 61.4%, make improvements for their own use, while 12.9% do so because they cannot afford to buy elsewhere.

“The FNB survey points to a household sector that remains solid financially, with a high level of full home maintenance, but nevertheless relatively cautious and not splashing out on value adding upgrades.

“The home maintenance situation remains far stronger than it was during the 2008/9 recession levels.”

Stats SA figures show large municipalities in Gauteng approved plans for 3 079 houses and 1 356 flats and/or townhouses while KwaZulu-Natal, which has seen a drastic decline in all these categories, saw the approval of plans for only 284 houses and 419 flats and/or townhouses in the first three months of this year.

More apartments than houses built in W Cape

The building of 1 591 dwellings houses was completed in the Western Cape from January to March, according to Stats SA.

Of these, 889 are smaller than 80m² – a 50.7% drop from the same period last year – and 702 are larger. 

However, 1 697 flats and/or townhouses were built – 82.7% more than in January to March last year.

This correlates with the trend of more people looking for secure lock-up-and-go lifestyles offered by apartment blocks or other sectional title properties. Nationally though, plans passed for all these categories this year declined, with only 4 343 dwelling houses built (down from 5 642 last year) and 3 309 flats and/or townhouses.

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