Garages are a waste

South Africans are seemingly fixated on lock-up garages, a tendency which boosts home purchase costs, absorbs land unnecessarily and in many cases actually diminishes lifestyle.

That's the somewhat controversial view of Gerhard Kotzé, CEO of the ERA property group.

"Traditionally, South African homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms also had a double garage. Lately, however, we have started seeing two-bedroom, two-bathroom homes and even two-bed, one bath homes with garages.

"But it's time buyers stopped to think that a double garage of say, 50m², costing around R3000/m² to build, will add R150 000 to the purchase price of their home — as opposed to a carport that does the same job of protecting their vehicles that will cost about 10 to 15 percent of that amount."

What is more, says Kotzé, in new homes marketed as having a total floor area of, say, 110m², it does not make sense in lifestyle terms that almost half should be devoted to garage space. "And recent designs I have come across add insult to injury by positioning the garage on the prime north-facing aspect of the property, with the actual living areas poorly positioned in terms of both aspect and natural available light — apparently in deference to the garages.

"Possibly at the heart of the problem is consumer belief that garaging reflects affluence, even at the cost of lifestyle. The other underlying problem of course is security, and with motor vehicles frequently costing almost as much as property itself these days, there is clearly an imperative to protect that asset — although modern alarm systems, carport designs and security complexes can easily address that."

He points out that the cost of servicing R150 000 worth of home loan at today's interest rates is some R1650 a month — "with after-tax money that could be far better utilised by the homeowner".

From a developers' standpoint also, says Kotzé, there has to be an advantage in marketing homes without garages, but more living space. "It's certainly food for thought as homes become increasingly less affordable to first-timers."

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