PROPERTY NEWS - The "golden years" of retirement look entirely different now from what they did at the start of the century, with many over-60s continuing to work out of choice or necessity, and radical corporate changes forcing many in the 45 to 60 age group to find new employment or, in many cases, start their own businesses.
"With life expectancy continuing to rise, many over-60s these days find that they don't have enough saved up for a traditional retirement," says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, "and at the same time, many people who were counting on staying in a corporate job to build up their retirement funds are being retrenched in their 40s or 50s and forced to make another plan."
The result, he says, is that an increasing number of people over 50 are not "winding down" at all, but are instead seeking to beef up their educational qualifications, or reskill entirely so that they can forge a second career or start a business that will take them through to 70 or even 80, depending on their health.
"And such decisions are more often than not accompanied by a desire for a change of lifestyle and a new home. With their children grown and a new career or business on the horizon, we see an increasing number of middle-aged people selling their family houses and moving to more secure and easily managed properties. Indeed, this is a major factor in the rising popularity of upmarket apartment and townhouse developments in older suburbs - and even more so in those located close to a university or other tertiary education institution that caters for adult learners."
Kotzé says the main attraction of such homes for second-career buyers is the promise of lower and more controllable maintenance costs and more sophisticated physical security measures which would be costly to install at a stand-alone home.
"In addition, many of these buyers are actually upgrading, in the sense that their new home will have the modern features and some of the 'luxuries' they always promised themselves but could not afford while raising a family."
Second-career buyers should preferably choose homes that will allow them to "age in place", if they wish, without making too many changes.
Useful design features to look out for in this regard are flat, open layouts without too many stairs, non-slip bathroom and kitchen flooring, easy-to-open doors and windows, accessible kitchen cabinets, lower light switches and plug points and at least one shower with sturdy handrails.
"Given the increasing importance of green building, not only to save on costs but to protect the planet, buyers should also be on the lookout for homes and developments that feature solar geysers and power supplies and excellent water storage and recycling facilities."
However, he notes, if they are buying a new home off-plan they must ensure that they only deal with reputable and financially sound developers.
"In fact, since many second-career buyers have actually had no experience of buying off-plan, their best bet is to work through an established estate agency that they already know and can trust to recommend developers and guide them through the choices they will have to make. For example, an experienced agent will help them to avoid the 'levy trap' in which sectional title and estate developers entice buyers with low initial levies and the implication that they will remain at this level - while being well aware that this is very unlikely once the complex or estate is being run by a body corporate or homeowners' association. In addition, a professional agent will be happy to advise them on their choice of housing, taking into account their personal circumstances and preferences."
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