Pros and cons of ur­ban vs sub­ur­ban liv­ing; how to make best pos­si­ble choice

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY - SAT­UR­DAY

MOST peo­ple be­lieve it is cheaper to live in the sub­urbs than in the city, but this is not al­ways true, says David Ja­cobs, north­ern re­gion and KZN man­ager for the Raw­son Prop­erty Group.

“It very much de­pends on which sub­urb you choose, what type of home you buy and what sort of life­style you are look­ing for. Buy an apart­ment within walk­ing dis­tance of the Sand­ton com­mer­cial cen­tre in Sandown, for ex­am­ple, and you can ex­pect to pay an av­er­age of R2.2 mil­lion, with a monthly bond re­pay­ment of around R17 600 after you’ve paid a 20 per­cent de­posit.

“Your transport costs will be neg­li­gi­ble if you can walk to work and just about ev­ery­where else you want to go. How­ever, prop­erty rates, util­i­ties and your sec­tional ti­tle levy will add another R2 500 to R3 000 to your monthly ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­penses, bring­ing the to­tal to at least R20 100.”

In com­par­i­son, he says, the prices of apartments fur­ther from the com­mer­cial cen­tre, but still within a 10km ra­dius and accessible by pub­lic transport, range from an av­er­age of R1m in Wood­mead all the way up to an av­er­age of R2.8m in Hyde Park, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty data com­pany Light­stone.

“How­ever, the av­er­age price in the most favoured areas of Illovo, Morn­ing­side and Park­more is about the R1.6m, with a monthly bond re­pay­ment of R12 800 after pay­ing a 20 per­cent de­posit. Then the ad­di­tional to­tal of mu­nic­i­pal rates, util­i­ties and sec­tional ti­tle levy will prob­a­bly be around R2 500, while transport will add at least another R500 a month, tak­ing the com­par­a­tive to­tal for the same type of ac­com­mo­da­tion to R15 300.”

On the other hand, if your plan is to move from a city apart­ment to a free­hold home in a sub­urb not more than 10km from the cen­tre of Sand­ton, the av­er­age price you can ex­pect to pay will range from around R2.75m in Wood­mead and R2.8m in Park­more, to R3.7m in Morn­ing­side, R4.2m in Bryanston, R7m in Inanda and R8m in Hyde Park.

And in that case, says Ja­cobs, you can ex­pect a monthly bond re­pay­ment of at least R22 000 after pay­ment of a 20 per­cent de­posit, at least R3 500 a month for prop­erty rates, util­i­ties and home­own­ers’ in­sur­ance, plus your transport costs, bring­ing the to­tal to at least R26 000 a month.

“Clearly then, liv­ing in the nearby sub­urbs will be cheaper – al­though less con­ve­nient – if you stick to apart­ment liv­ing, but sub­stan­tially more ex­pen­sive if you switch to a house, al­though you will of course gain more liv­ing space and a gar­den in re­turn. And while liv­ing fur­ther away may re­duce the home loan com­po­nent of your monthly costs, this sav­ing is very likely to be off­set by a much longer and costlier com­mute to work, un­less you have a home-based busi­ness.”

What is more, he says, the pat­tern is pretty much the same for home­buy­ers in all in­come groups. “Our cal­cu­la­tions show that if you were to buy a flat in the Jo­han­nes­burg city cen­tre or Braam­fontein, for ex­am­ple, your monthly ac­com­mo­da­tion and transport costs would av­er­age a to­tal of around R9 000.

“The com­par­a­tive monthly to­tal for a flat in an af­ford­able sub­urb within a 10km ra­dius and accessible by pub­lic transport – such as Melville, Rich­mond, West­dene or Kens­ing­ton – would be around R7 000, and the to­tal for those who choose a free­hold home in these areas would be around R14 000.”

How­ever, says Ja­cobs, cost should not be the only fac­tor when it comes to mak­ing a choice be­tween the city and sub­urbs. Oth­ers in­clude:

● A pref­er­ence for the va­ri­ety of so­cial and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties that are gen­er­ally only to be found in an ur­ban cen­tre. If you like trendy restau­rants and clubs, the lat­est movies, con- certs, gal­leries and the theatre, the city cen­tre is prob­a­bly the place for you.

● A strong aver­sion to com­mut­ing and the time it takes, es­pe­cially if you have to use your own ve­hi­cle, sit in traf­fic ev­ery day and pay for park­ing while you work as well as petrol, main­te­nance and toll fees.

● The op­por­tu­nity to live close to one or more good gov­ern­ment schools that your chil­dren can at­tend, so that you don’t need to pay for pri­vate school­ing. This is a ma­jor plus for the sub­urbs, es­pe­cially if you can live in an area that is also close to a univer­sity or other ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions.

● The op­por­tu­nity to get much more house for your money and plenty of space for chil­dren and pets to play as well as the peace and pri­vacy of hav­ing your own gar­den.

● Your per­sonal pref­er­ence for an older and pos­si­bly more spa­cious apart­ment or house in an area of older homes that are in the process of be­ing ren­o­vated and mod­ernised, or for a newly-built home in­cor­po­rat­ing all the lat­est de­sign ideas and smart tech­nol­ogy.

“Home­buy­ers need to care­fully eval­u­ate the areas they are con­sid­er­ing in terms of fi­nances and life­style pref­er­ences, and make the choice that is best for them,” says Ja­cobs.

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