The accelerated switch to remote working over the past two years and the resulting “great migration” from big cities to smaller country and coastal towns is also driving a significant increase in the number of people who are buying stands and building their own homes.
So says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes: “Many small towns simply don’t have enough homes, or the right kind of homes, to meet the requirements of a large number of city buyers coming in. As a result, we are seeing a huge increase now in the demand for building stands, especially in popular coastal areas, and quite a number of new estate developments close to smaller, more rural towns.
“However, finding the right stand is probably more complicated than most people think. Affordability is of course important – and one of the biggest reasons a lot of remote workers are leaving the cities for areas where land is generally cheaper. But there are also several other factors that prospective stand buyers really need to take into account before they start planning their dream home.”
He says some of the most important considerations include:
- The slope. A steeply-sloping stand on a mountainside or shoreline may provide a dream view, but you need to be prepared for the fact that there are significant extra costs involved in excavating, piling and building on such a site, and in the measures necessary to ensure the safe drainage of storm water.
“There may also be a risk that your beautiful outlook could also be lost – and the value of your property diminished - as the trees in the grounds of the house in front grow taller, or if the owner of that property gets council permission to add more storeys or even to build a high-rise block of apartments.”
- The drainage. When you view an existing house, says Kotzé, it isn’t difficult to spot the signs of damp that indicate poor soil drainage. But there are few easy clues to future problems when you are buying an empty stand.
“In general, however, we would recommend that buyers avoid low-lying land where water will gather – no matter what assurances a developer or builder might give them about modern construction techniques and materials obviating the risk of rising damp. Once again, any need for special materials will make building even more expensive than it already is.”
- Future development. The stand buyer also needs to consider the possible effects of future development in the surrounding area, and what type of properties their neighbours will be allowed to build, he says. A multi-storey home next door, for example, might block a view, cut out the sun for much of the day or result in your property always being uncomfortably “overlooked” by your neighbour.
“You should also take care to find out about plans for any new shopping centres, schools, medical facilities or offices close by that could mean a lot more traffic in the area, as well as any new road development or expansion. All of this activity is to be expected as a small town grows to accommodate more residents, but you probably don’t want to live close to it if you moved specifically to get away from congestion and noise.”
If you are planning on buying a stand and building a home in a town or area you don’t know well, says Kotzé, your first step should be to consult a reputable and experienced local estate agent. “They will be an invaluable source of information not only about what properties are available and might suit your needs, but also about local development plans, building regulations and the availability and reliability of water, sanitation, electricity and internet connections for new homes.
"And even if you have a clear idea of what type and size of home you want, you should never hesitate to seek the expert advice of an architect, development consultant or knowledgeable local builder. There is no substitute for experienced help, particularly for a first-time owner-builder, and it could save you a great deal of time and money in the long-run."