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Downtown living also appealing to seniors

21 May 2018

The decision whether to rent or buy is more commonly thought of as a dilemma for young professionals establishing their households, not those approaching retirement.

But whether it's a financially savvy decision or simply the only solution when they can't find a suitable place to buy, some baby boomers are choosing to rent an apartment closer to the city when they downsize.

In South Africa in the 1980s, downtown living for seniors was all the rage - think downtown Joburg and Hillbrow.

As those neighbourhoods and other downtowns across the country changed, seniors started moving out of the bustling centres, but lately there has been another upsurge in those older than 55 looking to live closer to the CBD. And many are opting to rent first to try the city vibe.

Carola Koblitz, manager of communications of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District, says that in their latest online residential survey they asked respondents what age bracket they fell into. Of the 157 respondents prepared to answer this question, 20.38% said they were over 55.

Senior Exposure, an internet company with sites for seniors, including www. seniorservice. co.za, says for a downtown area to be attractive to seniors it must have security, convenient access to transport, and proximity to gardens, amenities and medical facilities - all of which Cape Town has in abundance, says Koblitz.

Many baby boomers who think they want to downsize to a city apartment are surprised it will cost them as much to buy an apartment as they would pay for a house further out.

Some boomers, say agents, "test" city life by renting a small place in the city while they keep their large suburban house for weekends for a few years.

Data from TenantCloud, a US property management software service, shows that nearly one-third of all urban applications are for renters over 60.

If they do buy, some are even looking to micro units, 1 on Albert in Woodstock being the most prominent so far.

Some over-55s use the micro units as "crash pads", keeping their bigger homes in the suburbs or coastal areas and using the micro unit for a night in the city or for work or as a space where a family member might stay.

Agents believe for someone new to city living, it's better to rent temporarily until they decide if they do want to live there full-time.

An important element of the decision is how much flexibility they want.

If there's short-term uncertainty about the choice, or if they want long-term flexibility so they can easily move around to be near grandchildren, renting can be smarter.

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