How to buy a home in an estate

The popularity of estates and other gated developments has grown enormously in the past 20 years, and it is estimated that there are now about 6 500 closed golf, wildlife, wine, equestrian and lifestyle communities in South Africa, containing about 350 000 homes.

“And the average price of those homes is about three times the national average home price, so it is clear that buyers in these developments are happy to pay a premium for the additional security and lifestyle amenities they offer,” says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group, which sells homes in many of SA’s top golf and lifestyle estates.

“What is more, with the introduction of sectional title units in many of the newer estates, the demand for estate homes is definitely not limited any more to repeat buyers in the higher income brackets. In fact, buyers these days include many working singles, young marrieds with small children and active retired people – and an estimated 25% of them are first-time buyers.”

However, he says, buying in an estate is definitely not the same as buying a home in the suburbs, and the following advice should prove useful if you are about to start looking for one of these premium-priced properties:

  • Be sure to choose an estate that matches your lifestyle – or one to which you aspire – and provides the school, sports facilities and security provisions that are important to you. If you want to watch wildlife from your veranda, for example, your first choice will probably not be a golf estate. On the other hand, don’t discount a clubhouse, restaurant or wellness spa that might add to your enjoyment of whichever estate you choose.
  • If you can, pick an established, organised and operational estate. Most very new estates have teething problems and it is good if you can avoid these. If you can’t, try to get involved in a positive way and help to ensure that the estate will be well-managed in future.
  • Even if you are buying into a well-established estate, check to see that it has a strong home owners’ association (HOA), a track record of good management and good financials. The absence of these can make a seemingly good investment lose value in a very short time.
  • Check the rules of the estate carefully to make sure you will be able to live by them, even if you don’t love all of them. Estates can only run well if everyone buys into the rules.
  • Find out what the monthly levy is and what it covers. Remember that you will have to pay your own municipal rates, homeowner’s insurance and maintenance costs as well as the levy.
  • Commit to a purchase as soon as possible. Estate property sells at a premium but its value generally also increases faster, so even if you have to settle for a smaller property initially, you will be in the right market sector and able to buy up within this sector in due course. If you leave it too late you may cut yourself out of the estate market for good.