Renting for life

Renting for life

Private Property South Africa
Kerry Dimmer

Depending on the source, among the most stressful episodes in a person’s life, are selling a home, personal financial pressure, relocation, and retirement. If you were to tick all those boxes at the same time, you might feel rather anxious. Yet in the case of two close friends, despite not being closely acquainted with one another, these factors were among those that influenced their decision to sell every asset they own, other than their vehicles, and move into furnished apartments … for as long as they are able.

And now there’s yet another friend, who’s about to do the same. The three have little in common, and yes they have interacted at social events in the past, but long before any of them independently reached the same decision. What all three do share however, is that they are all over 50-years old, and therefore approaching or have passed retirement age.

Collectively the three cite the following reasons for selling their homes, and furniture, and literally packing their car’s with clothes and a handful of small sentimental items:

  • Weary of increasing home maintenance costs
  • Not enough savings to sustain future retirement needs
  • Having a need for travel but not able to save given the burden of a home
  • Children have left the nest and there are no needs or pressure to have a stable base
  • Feel burdened and trapped by the same environment, and familiar territory.

Whether they knew it or not, at the time these individuals made the decision to find furnished accommodation, market factors were, and are, an underlying influence. Magnus Heystek, founder and chairman of boutique wealth management company, explains that most people do not have enough retirement capital to give them a high enough, and growing, income for their retirement. “This is due to the poor performance of the JSE and the limitations of offshore funds in their retirement funds.

“Property also ties up a large part of retirement capital which is illiquid and has cost people money in terms of maintenance, rates and taxes etc, and further, the costs of buying a private property is very high and does not generate an income.”

Heystek says that that he has been advising the retirement demographic to sell their properties and rent for several years. “By selling your property and getting rid of all your “stuff”, keeping just the sentimental ones, you (a) free up capital which (b) allows you to travel and stay in short-term lets all around the country and indeed the world. This suits many previous home owners who bought second properties during the boom times and who are now desperate to generate some kind of income.”

So what are the advantages? “People who have taken this step have, over the past 10 years and who invested their money offshore, realised a return of 25% per annum while having access to their capital whenever they needed to fund their lifestyle. The outcome, in rands and sense (sic) has been far better than people who purchased a property for retirement and therefore could not travel as much as they wanted.”

What statistics indicate however, is that property owners selling to rent is unusual for those older than 60. Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN, a registered credit bureau and partner of Absa, was somewhat surprised when I approached her with the idea that this may be a growing trend.

“We recently surveyed tenants and property owners to identify home ownership aspirations, asking them four important questions: whether they want to keep the property they own as a primary residence; keep it and buy another property; sell it and buy another property; and/or sell to rent.”

Overall, says Dickens, the majority of home owners indicated they are staying put in their current home (50.7%), and interestingly it is the older generation driving this trend.

Nearly 70% of home owners older than 60-years indicated their desire to stay put, versus 35% of those aged between 18 – 29 years.

“And the mature generation is driving the sell-to-buy market, although both the age categories 18-29 and 30-39 are aspiring to either buy or build a property portfolio.”

Where Dickens does see some movement in the sell-to-rent demographic is in the 50-59 year range but it’s not significant enough to suggest there is an emerging trend developing … yet.

I say ‘yet’ because in the wake of COVID-19 there have been some interesting thoughts expressed across online platforms. Individuals who have been financially impacted by economic lockdown are feeling the weight of home ownership, be that as Heystek says, bond repayments, security services, householder’s insurance, maintenance, cleaning materials and so on.

A glance at Airbnb’s show dramatic fee reductions, and long-term rentals are also much lower that before COVID-19. Many fully furnished rentals fees are also inclusive of power and water, DSTV, wifi, and some are even serviced. With such comprehensive packages, savings can be dramatic, enough to indulge in a number of travel experiences as you make your way across the country, and indeed even across the globe when travel restrictions are lifted.

For my two friends who have been doing this over the past two and five years, the change in lifestyle has rewarded them with some remarkable and enjoyable experiences. Not only have both been able to save, they also have no financial stress factors in being able to up- or down-scale their choice of accommodation depending on their specific circumstances at any one time. With other friend’s/family constant requests for them to visit for a week or two, also means there are a number of weeks per year that there are no accommodation costs whatsoever other than perhaps a thank you gift.

Food for thought or an emerging trend?

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