The times they have a’changed

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

People's needs change over time and what was deemed to be a perfect life in the '50s and '60s may not be so appealing to those living in today's modern world.

In the good (or bad, depending on your own personal opinion) old days, people generally left home to get married. They may have rented a flat in an inner city for a couple of years, but the ultimate goal was to buy a home in the suburbs (complete with white picket fence) raise their 2.4 children and own a dog.

Couples generally tied the knot at a much younger age than they do today and it wasn't that unusual to find people investing in a home while they were still in their early 20s. Things have however changed dramatically over the past few decades. Women, for example, are far more focused on their careers and are generally only settling down and having children once they are well and truly ensconced on the corporate ladder. While they may indeed buy an apartment that suits their “single needs” during this time, the furthest thing from their minds is settling down and investing in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in suburbia – and by the sounds of things, many are opting to stay in town for good.


Richard Grey, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate, says that the “Millennials” – those born between 1982 and 2000 –- have very different real estate preferences. “Most Millennials are going in the opposite direction to their parents and grandparents by leaving the suburbs and moving to inner city and other heavily urbanised areas as they get older.

“They have a great preference for diverse and lively communities and above all want to live in a ‘walkable’ area, where everything they need, from toothpaste and milk to public transport and the gym, and preferably their office and their children’s schools, are no more than a couple of minutes’ safe walk from home.”

Secondly, he says, this generation is not really impressed by luxury but loves “smart home” technologies and the efficient use of space. “Millennial homeowners are much more likely to brag about a home automation system than a newly-renovated kitchen for example, and many of them work from home and so would rather have a home office than a separate dining room.

“Thirdly, it is becoming clear that they favour much smaller and more individual homes than did their parents’ generation, although they do like ample storage and outdoor space that extends their living areas. And although it may seem counter-intuitive, Millennials are very keen on DIY and fixing things, so they like renovating – or recycling - older homes and altering them to suit their specific needs.”

Past tense?

So does this mean that suburban life as we know it is going to become a thing of the past? Not at all, it just means that sellers in these areas need to understand the mindset of this category of buyers and ensure that their homes have the right appeal.

“In fact, there is great scope for attracting Millennials to those suburbs where there are lots of older, individual homes ripe for recycling – provided those suburbs themselves start developing some of the best urban characteristics, such as diversity of both population and building design, a mix of housing types, good public transport, environmental consciousness and safe public spaces," says Grey.

He adds that this positive Millennial influence is in fact already evident in many of South Africa’s central suburbs, where droves of young buyers are now “moving in and cleaning up”. It is also a major reason for the success of those estates that have integrated schools, shops, offices and a variety of housing types into their development plans, as well as major new urban projects such as Melrose Arch, Century City and Umhlanga New Town.

“In short, although Millenials have generally been slower to enter the property market than previous generations, thanks to higher education costs, the global financial crisis and higher unemployment worldwide, they are set to have an increasingly beneficial effect, not only on property sales, but on the built environment.”

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Area Info Harcourts


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