Cape Town - From an investment point of view, the introduction of e-tolls has already substantially boosted the demand for certain properties, according to Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Africa.
The increased demand is for rental homes close to workplaces, good schools and public transport hubs, and for student flats and rooms that make it possible for students to get to classes without a car.
E-tolls in Gauteng, the possibility of toll roads outside Cape Town and existing toll roads in other parts of the country are impacting people's choice of a home, according to Gray.
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"Consumers are increasingly aware of the costs of commuting in both time and money terms, and this is already having a significant effect on home buying patterns in most major centres, which we expect to see intensify in the year ahead," he said on Friday.
"With all the attention that e-tolls get, it is easy to overlook the fact that the ordinary tolls on main routes such as the N1, N3 and N4 are even more onerous for many local road users and businesses – and go up every year."
He said in Gauteng there is likely to be even higher demand among young buyers for flats and townhouses in inner city areas close to their workplaces, in suburbs close to Gautrain and MetroRail stations and on convenient bus routes.
"We think that access to good public transport could become a factor almost as important as price for such buyers. Being able to go without a car and all the related expenses may well make all the difference for them between being able to buy a home and having to carry on renting," said Gray.
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As for older, more established buyers with families, he foresees there likely to be a sharply increased demand in 2016 in the more central, “heritage” suburbs for homes with space for home offices.
"This includes even a garage or an outbuilding that can be converted so that owners can cut down on office commutes while also gaining easy access to good schools and convenient shopping," said Gray.
In his view such buyers may even be prepared to trade off a somewhat higher home price against lower transport costs, especially if they have been living further out of town and can now save a lot of the time they used to spend in traffic.
On the other hand there is also likely to be increased demand for homes in self-contained estates that have their own schools, shops and are close to decentralised office nodes, he said.
"When making these purchases, however, most buyers will be looking to limit home costs as they will probably still have to bear some commuting expenses. Consequently, the highest demand is likely to be for the more compact, more affordable houses and townhouses which are now becoming available on many more lifestyle estates, and for homes in the newer, estate-like sectional title complexes," said Gray.
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The growth of house prices continues to beat inflation and the demand for homes still exceeds the supply in South Africa’s major metropolitan areas, according to Niël Cronje, CEO of Keller Williams SA.
Cronje paints a more hopeful picture of the property market. Property prices of secured lifestyle estates have increased with 11.1% in 2015, taking properties with values of below R1.5m into account. The average selling price in South Africa was just under R1m and the number of units sold in 2015 increased by 9.6% from the previous year.
Close to 200 000 homes were sold over the past 12 months with 51% of buyers being first time home owners.
Buyers continue to lean towards smaller, less maintenance security estates which explains why this type of housing still outperform any other type of property, according to Cronje.
"International trends of living have changed over the past decade and people continue to shift towards lifestyle estates with community living within the estate.
“The demand for properties closer to public transport in the greater metropolitan areas has also increased dramatically and I believe this trend will continue in 2016,” he said.