Shifting the focus on singles

The popularisation of the solo life is a historic change in society, according to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of ‘Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone’.

In a recent essay for The Guardian, he noted that the percentage of solo households was growing in many industrialised countries, with Sweden having the highest rate of solo living at 47% of households, Norway 40%, the UK 34% and Japan 30%.

The trend is also growing in the US, where the latest census figures show that single adults now account for about 25% of households, and that two thirds of those householders are single women.


One reason for this, says Klinenberg, is that the generally greater personal wealth in developed countries enables singles to sustain relatively expensive one-person homes. In addition, people are marrying later, divorcing more frequently, and living longer.

But whatever their reason for living solo, the adults who do so have become an increasingly important demographic for estate agents, most of whom were used to dealing with couples and families when marketing properties.

Indeed, South African agents have already found solo buyers an increasingly important target market for properties such as inner-city flats, and sectional title townhouses in security complexes and on estates.

However, the pace of growth in new household establishment tends to slow down when economic growth and employment creation are sluggish, as they are currently in SA. In these circumstances young people tend to delay leaving their parents’ homes to establish their own households, and elderly singles are more likely to also live with family, often in the three- or four-generation households we now see coming to the fore.

Other singles, with or without dependents, often prefer to continue to rent until the employment market is less uncertain and they can be sure they will be able to afford the monthly bond repayments on a home of their own.

Consequently, agents may now need to refocus their marketing for smaller properties towards the many existing homebuyers who are looking to downscale. Increased property rates, the rising cost of utilities, the lack of time for maintenance and upkeep of a large property, and concerns over security are making this an increasingly popular move among couples and families of all ages.

In addition, many of the buyers that are coming into the market now are concerned about the environment, and want smaller, energy-efficient homes that will reduce their carbon footprint.


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