PROPERTY NEWS - Much publicity has been given in the South African property media recently to the boom experienced in the last decade or more in rentals of apartments sited close enough to the major universities to make a daily or in some cases a twice daily commute to these places easy and inexpensive.
Many such apartments, for example, can today be found in Cape Town's Rondebosch, Rosebank, Observatory, Newlands, Claremont, Wynberg and other suburbs. Typically they are on the University of Cape Town's 'Jammie' shuttle bus route, while others are within walking or easy cycling distance of the campus or the medical school. In Johannesburg, Braamfontein flats have proved similarly ideal for students.
Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, has pointed out, however, that it is not only apartments that can now command high student rentals in the so-called academic belts - houses, too, can often be converted and become ideal for student accommodation and this is now increasingly happening not only in South Africa but throughout Europe and the UK.
"Typically," said Rawson, "what we are now seeing is anything from three to a dozen students renting a home for their use while they study at university. In some cases an entrepreneurial student with access to cash (very often provided by his parents) or buy-to-let investors with an eye for a good deal will purchase and sub-divide these older homes, which they then rent out - and at R3, 000 per bed this can be a highly profitable arrangement."
Among those making the best use of this type of big house muli-tenant rental opportunity, said Rawson, are post-graduate students who have 'learned the hard way what property is all about'. Often, he said, they will jointly sign a lease or if this is not permitted, one of their members will act as the official tenant, with guarantees provided by the other members.
Rawson Properties and Rawson Finance, said Rawson, have helped several such groups of students to upgrade from being simply tenants (paying out monthly rentals which they never see again) to becoming shareholders and investors in the property by buying it in a syndicate.
"Such arrangements might be dangerous with undergraduates who may well fail a year and have their bursaries cancelled," said Rawson, "but it seems to work very well with postgraduates because they are more stable and settled, they are usually determined to stick it out and obtain the necessary extra qualifications and are often on quite generous grants."
In a small minority of cases, he added, even married students find it possible to live comfortably and harmoniously in communal arrangements of this kind.
Rawson commented that it is obviously essential that those sharing a home are compatible and like each other. Although they may cook for themselves, they will often find it necessary to share the dining space - and dining times. If the students are studying in similar fields, he said, this can be highly beneficial as it gives them an opportunity to bounce ideas off their colleagues and to get a rest from arduous studies.
In a small number of cases, added Rawson, graduate students actually employ a cook-cum-house servant and, again, this can be a great arrangement if they are all compatible.
Asked what sort of home is ideal for multiple occupancies of this type, Rawson said that these have mainly been spacious old Edwardian or mid-20th Century homes, large enough to be able to take an additional bathroom if this is necessary and extra kitchen or scullery space. Such homes, he said, will often have four to six bedrooms and separate living and dining areas which can, therefore, be ideal for multiple occupancy.