Renting in the city

The ongoing revitalisation of CBDs in South Africa’s big cities is being hastened by the increasing number of people seeking to live in these areas, rather than the suburbs or former townships.

The big attraction is being within walking distance of their jobs or places of study, as well as a variety of food and clothing shops, restaurants and coffee bars, galleries, nightspots, gyms, and service businesses such as laundries, copy shops, and locksmiths.

Proximity to public transport hubs like the Gautrain stations and Bus Rapid Transport stations is also important to an increasing number of young home buyers and tenants, and in this they are following the lead of their US counterparts, according to the latest national housing survey by the Urban Land Institute.

Renting in the city

The survey also showed that 62% of Generation-Y respondents prefer to live in mixed-use developments – buildings that may house shops, restaurants, and offices, as well as their apartments. This is a common occurrence in old city centres around the world, and now also appears to be a growing trend in CBDs of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, and Pretoria.

However, while living above your local supermarket or fast-food outlet can be wonderfully convenient, mixing businesses with residential units can also present conflicts. An ideal situation would probably be to live above offices, banks, or retail businesses that have regular operating hours, security, and minimal noise. However, that’s not always possible, so here are some tips from Zillow.com about what to look out for before you sign a lease:

  • Double-check on the opening and closing times of any businesses below the apartment to prevent any clashes with your sleeping schedule. It’s no fun to be stuck in an apartment above a restaurant or bar with loud music, or a bakery that starts business at 04:00. Additionally, pay attention to businesses in the area that might create lots of parking or foot traffic, which will add to the street noise.
  • Find out about waste disposal. Does the restaurant or supermarket downstairs dispose of waste in an alley at the back of the building? This can present health and sanitation issues, increasing the risk that the building could have vermin. Ideally, mixed-use buildings should have separate trash rooms for residents, accompanied by frequent trash pickup.
  • Take notice of any smells that vent through the building or come through the windows. Not all restaurants have sophisticated ventilation or odour control systems, and while the smell of coffee or baking bread or stir fry is pleasant at first, imagine living with it for a year.
  • Ask about how the maintenance and utilities payments for the building are allocated. Residential tenants should not be subsidising the commercial tenants in any way, and individual water and prepaid electricity meters for each flat are best.
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