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Waterside estates

Is waterfront living a cash cow for developers?

Sorting the fact from fiction over lucrative lagoons

By Zeenat Moosa Hassan

, |

Is waterfront living a cash cow for developers?

Sorting the fact from fiction over lucrative lagoons

By Zeenat Moosa Hassan

, |

3 min read

You’d be forgiven for thinking that water features are a financial boon given that properties on waterside estates like Thesen Island in Knysna tend to fetch higher asking prices and rental income than ones that don’t.

However, this is usually due to location followed by the size of the homes and amenities and facilities offered by the estate, as opposed to the actual water.

But while a water feature, like a dam, river, or lagoon, might not necessarily be a deal breaker for a potential buyer, they can offer two key benefits.

1. They help a sale

Stephan Thomas from Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty points out that the only time property is positively affected by water, is when they are located on coastline as these are deemed real estate hot spots.

He claims to have never been asked specifically about a water feature but adds: ‘Although a dam or water feature probably won’t add value in terms of Rands, they are an appealing nice-to-have which helps enhance kerb appeal, making the property, and the estate more inviting to buyers’ he says.

But while homes on the coast have long commanded a premium because of their sea views this is slowly changing due to climate change. Coastal properties also require higher levels of maintenance, so an inland residential space with a water feature may be a happy compromise for those who are keen on water properties.

2. They can offer stress relief

Sarah Byrne from Adroit Architects explains that water features and especially the sounds of running water have been demonstrated to reduce stress levels and act as a buffer to noise pollution by adding what is referred to as white noise.

‘A water feature cannot be seen in terms of a prerequisite on an estate, but a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing one that has the added benefit of either acting as a water management element or a passive cooling device can be very beneficial to an estate,’ she says.

She goes onto explain that well-designed, well-planned, and well positioned and attractive water features can entice the public into spaces and thereby increase foot traffic in communal spaces of an estate, helping to create a sense of community, shared identity, and quality of living.

Water-wise not water-foolish

When planning to add a water feature to any estate, the key issue will always be sustainability.

‘Nearly all buyers are more aware and concerned about factors like sustainability, especially in the estate sector, and the majority would certainly want to know that an installation like a water feature is sustainable rather than wasteful,’ says Thomas.

As a country, we have already demonstrated strain of local critical services with parts of Johannesburg experiencing large water disruptions and Cape Town narrowly escaping the taps running dry in 2018.

‘There is no doubt that Southern African countries are going to experience many more drought in years to come because of climate change so it would be very short sighted of developers not to care about elements like water sustainability,’ says Byrne.

She suggests that the starting point for any property developer is to understand the potential benefits of sustainable design solutions, especially with regards to the purchasing power of tomorrows generation.

‘We are certainly seeing shifts in younger generations towards sustainability an ethical practice, and to capture this market segment, property developers need to appeal to these sensibilities and understand the potential downside of not utilising them,’ she says.

Water isn’t for everyone

Not everyone is keen on a water feature. Safety is a major worry for families with young children, while others may have concerns about the impact on wildlife, especially if an estate allows fishing. For many though, the cost of maintaining the water feature is likely to be a big turn off.

‘Most foreign buyers, especially if they are swallows, could see a water feature on their property as additional maintenance and something that could require attention when they are not at the property,’ says Lisa Connellan from Knight Frank.

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