Apartments in Cape Town are shrinking

In times of lower average prices in the sectional title residential property market, sales volumes traditionally soared upwards. Conversely, when average prices rose, sales volumes almost always declined, says Rowan Alexander, director of estate agency Alexander Swart Properties.

In recent times, this pattern was apparent year after year. In 2016, for example, in Cape Town 4,620 sectional title (ST) sales were signed at an average price of R1,572,000 and, in 2018, 3,573 sales were put through at an average price of R1,795,000.

However, in 2020 this correlation between lower prices and higher sales suddenly no longer seemed valid: despite the average price then being only R1,420,000, only 3,008 ST sales were made.

Analysing these and other trends in the Cape Town ST market, Alexander said that he is confident that in 2021 and 2022 sectional title sales volumes will increase dramatically, and average prices will be kept at record low levels.

This, he said, will come about because developers have assimilated and understood the current market position and have adapted to it. The lower prices, he said, will be the result of making the apartments still smaller – the only way to keep prices low.

Many property trend watchers had, he said, begun to assume that apartment sizes could not be smaller—but the products now being offered clearly show that this is not the case: average two and one bedroom apartments have dropped in size from 67 square metres to 55, 49, and even 39 or 35 square metres, and today it is possible to find bachelor apartments as small as 27, 24 or even 22 square metres.

“Developers have pulled out all the tops to satisfy the call for truly affordable apartments—and some have been amazingly inventive in doing so; many of these smaller apartments are really attractive. It seems, too, that this trend will continue well into the next two or more years,” said Alexander.

The call for smaller units, he added, had been further pushed  by the increasing densification and rise in land prices in  the satellite towns and suburbs of Cape Town, such as Brackenfell and Durbanville.

These, he said, are ideal for this type of low cost apartment because they usually provide near at hand a wide variety of amenities, public transport, schools, retail centres, bistros, libraries, recreational and sports opportunities, making it possible for the tenants to manage without a car or only one car.

“As a corollary to this, it should be said that these low-cost apartments close to or part of thriving decentralised satellite towns are very good buy-to-let opportunities—but beware of similar projects developed in more outlying areas where they are not so close to amenities. Tenants in these will struggle to achieve a satisfactory lifestyle.”

Alexander said that although his comments relate primarily to Cape Town, the same trends are observable in all the major centres of South Africa.

Read: A look at the luxury properties up for auction in South Africa – including a private island

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Apartments in Cape Town are shrinking