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Friday Jun 29, 2012

What property style do buyers look for ?

South Africans have a wide variety of tastes in residential architectural styles, but it does pay to be aware of current trends and those factors which make homes particularly acceptable to buyers.

These preferences tend to change from one decade to another, says Sean McCauley of the Rawson Property Group :

  • Although white or neutral tone plastered walls are still the number one choice for most South African home buyers, in certain areas face brick is coming back into fashion, not only because today's face bricks can be so attractive but also because there is an increasing emphasis in these tough economic times on maintenance-free buildings. Face-brick, he says, is especially favoured by elderly people who are scaling down and have to limit their spending.

  • Ceilings should preferably be skimmed plaster and if possible have attractive cornices. The traditional South African hardboard ceilings with taped joints are acceptable today only in affordable housing, says McCauley. Wood strip ceilings, so popular 20 years ago, are now, he says, seen as suitable only for workshops and family rooms.

  • Lighting these days should be sophisticated and subtle. Big hanging lights tend nowadays to be installed only in double volume spaces. Recessed down lighting, preferably with strength level adjustments, is seen by most buyers as superior to any other and LED lights are increasingly in demand as they are so cost effective. All cheaper power equipment today is welcome on account of the ongoing Eskom price hikes.

  • Natural materials such as wood and stone are now highly sought after and increasingly featured. Wooden floors are very much back in fashion and, although denigrated by some as a kitsch product, laminated flooring with its ability to resist scratching and staining is much in demand these days. It, too, is cost effective as it is usually the same price as tiles.

  • Floor tilings, once almost de rigeur in middle class living areas, are now for some reason, despite the attractiveness of their colours and tones, slightly less popular than they used to be. They are, says McCauley, perceived as being cold. Surprisingly, however, smooth concrete screeds, now available in a huge variety of tones and hues, are increasing in popularity and are even replacing floor tiles in bathrooms. They are particularly popular, he says, in modern restaurants and bistros.

  • Surprisingly, too, wallpapers, which have the potential to transform a tatty, tired looking wall into a chic feature, are now coming back into fashion. However, to most buyers they are still only acceptable if they are not garish and overpowering - quiet, soothing colours are today's choice. This is still risky as wallpaper is a very personal choice. Decorating with wallpapers, says McCauley, can still be "risky" as a wallpaper which delights one person may appall another.

  • Aluminium frames on doors and windows are now preferred by a high proportion of buyers, says McCauley, for the simple reason that they are maintenance-free and are not subject to jamming and warping experienced with certain other fittings such as wood (especially after rain).

  • Home buyers in upper middle and upper bracket homes today expect to have many extra fittings - not just hobs, ovens and extractors in the kitchen, but, quite possibly, heated towel rails, air conditioning, under floor heating, perimeter security beams and electric fencing, as well as burglar alarms and automatic irrigation in the garden. At the upper end of the market generators are also more often provided.

  • Wall cracks, says McCauley, can be a real turn-off for buyers and a big worry for sellers, but it has to be pointed out that they come in three categories: (1) Hairline cracks which often relate only to the surface treatment. (2) Settlement cracks which are more or less to be expected in new homes as they adjust to their sites. (These are not in themselves usually serious although they may be unsightly). (3) Structural cracks which could be serious and which may necessitate the total demolition of the wall and even the whole house in extreme circumstances.

  • Similarly, visible damp problems, says McCauley, can be a big turn-off to buyers - but he adds, damp has a tendency to spread and look far worse than it really is. Damp curing, he says, can require the advice of an expert to help identify its real cause, but home sellers and potential home buyers should inspect roofs and flashings carefully.

  • Open plan designs, once seen as the poor man's way to increase space, are now very popular at all income levels, says McCauley. Many of today's best homes have only minimal barriers such as counters between living, dining and kitchen areas - and they often flow out naturally onto open or covered patios.

  • As a corollary to this, adds McCauley, floor to ceiling glazing, in some cases almost creating a glass box or goldfish bowl ambience, is increasingly popular, provided it is partially or wholly protected from the sun by pergolas or louvres.

    Finally, says McCauley, it is has to be recognized that lifestyle security villages, where units are today usually priced 25% to 30% above similar homes standing alone and where hefty levies can be charged monthly, are nevertheless increasingly in demand. This demand, he says, is based not just on the protection that such villages offer (which is especially welcome to businessmen and others who have to travel regularly) but also to the friendliness and the ability to socially interact with one's neighbours that such villages tend to promote. This, he says, is especially true if the village has communal facilities such as swimming pools, bowling greens, tennis courts, a golf course, a hobby room, a club house and a restaurant.

    "It is gratifying to those of us involved in the real estate industry," says McCauley, "to find that people in security villages tend to make the most of communal facilities and thereby greatly improve their lifestyles. It can be predicted that, despite the premiums charged by security villages, they are here to stay and homes in such villages will appreciate more rapidly in value that those 'out there.'"

    Rawson Properties Press Release

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