Making a shared property work

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

The FNB Agent Survey for the first quarter of 2019 reveals a rising trend of communal living property purchases, as more people are buying property jointly with friends or other extended family members with a view to living together to share expenses and bond repayments.

The survey shows that 15.9% of respondent agents report this trend increasing in their markets - up from 12.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018. This consumer behaviour is not surprising when viewed in the context of housing expenses outpacing wage growth, and is consistent with other manifestations of consumer pressures in adjacent markets. For example, in the passenger car market total sales volumes are declining but the proportion of SUVs and other family-oriented cars sold is growing.

There are benefits and disadvantages to sharing a home with your parents, other family members or friends.


  • Financial benefits – You should be able to save a bit of money when you’re living with parents or friends.
    • Closer family relationships – Your children will forge bonds with their grandparents or other family members because they will see them daily.
  • Help – Having another set of adults in the household can take a burden off your shoulders. Disadvantages:
  • Lack of privacy – If you aren’t accustomed to having other people constantly around it could take some time to come to terms with this.
  • Interference - Emotions can get out of hand if family or friends feel entitled to meddle in your affairs when you are all living under the same roof.
  • Stressed relationships – In some instances, relationships can become strained, and may even break down when living in the same property.

How to make it work:

Set boundaries

Before you move in together it’s important to find out what everyone’s expectations are and to set boundaries that everyone agrees to. Have a meeting to iron out the details, such as where each person will sleep, and what the expectations are for cleaning, cooking and other chores, as well as financial contributions for the household. You should also state your expectations regarding your children and their care. For instance, grandparents may feel entitled to discipline your children, but if you don’t agree with this, you need to make your views known.

Set aside exclusive times for you and your partner

Keeping your relationship with your partner intact is important. To guarantee uninterrupted alone time, you could set aside date nights, or arrange that the others on the property not disturb you at specified times.

Stay out of family arguments

Stay out of any arguments between spouses and their parents - it can cause additional pain and hurt feelings if you try to get involved.

Have regular family meetings

To keep the lines of communication open, have monthly meetings to go over any concerns, and find a way to address them before they cause flare ups. If there are no concerns, have a get-together anyway and just enjoy each others’ company.

When Granny moves in

If the objective of sharing a home is to care for elderly parents, make sure everyone understands each other’s needs and wants.

For instance, if you build a granny flat in your garden for your mother, both she and your family need to have rules in place to ensure the privacy of each while still providing support when needed.

To accommodate possible future needs the granny flat should have slightly wider doors and passages in case a wheelchair is required at a later stage.

Other features that could be included are:

  • A flush floor shower with a fold-up seat and grab rails, instead of a bath.
  • A raised toilet with grab rails within easy reach.
  • Mixer taps with lever handles.
  • Bathroom mirrors at eye level for wheelchair users as well as others.
  • Instead of hinged doors, fit sliding doors on cupboards and have bedroom doors with overhead rails.
  • Fit plug sockets higher on the walls so they are easily accessible.
  • Non-slip tiles, laminated or vinyl flooring are easier to clean than carpets. Fitted carpets are also suitable for bedrooms and lounges, but avoid loose carpets and mats to prevent possible falls.
  • Avoid steps throughout the house, even at the entrances. Low steps are particularly dangerous as elderly people tend not to see them and could easily stumble and injure themselves.
  • Avoid furniture with sharp corners, or place those out of the way.
  • Glass sliding doors should have very visible signage, to prevent anyone walking into them.

These types of fittings are relatively inexpensive if you build them into the original design, but are expensive to add later. They also work for able-bodied people, so they aren’t wasted if granny doesn’t specifically need them.

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