The “great migration” from big cities to smaller country and coastal towns has been driving a significant increase in the number of people who are buying stands and building their own homes.
Many small towns simply don’t have enough homes, or the right kind of homes, to meet the requirements of many city buyers coming in, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group. “As a result, we’re seeing a huge increase in 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 many remote workers are leaving the cities for areas where land is generally cheaper.
But there are also several other factors that prospective stand buyers need to take into account before buying a stand and planning their dream home, he advises.
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 view could be lost – and the value of your property diminished – as the trees on 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.”
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.”
The stand buyer 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 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.”
Get expert help
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,” he says.
And even if you have a clear idea of the 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’s 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.”