Moving house is an inevitable part of life.  Very few people remain in the same home for their whole lives from birth to death, especially in urban areas.   Research in the UK and USA indicate that people move on average 11 times during their lifetime.  I have not been able to find figures for South Africa, but it is likely to be similar.

A typical ‘moving house lifecycle’ may involve several key stages.

Typical stages of ‘moving house’ lifecycle
Childhood An average of three moves with our parents
Student years Leaving home to study after finishing school, staying in shared rental accommodation or a student residence
Rental in our twenties A more fluid period while we are ‘footloose and fancy free’ and generally in rental accommodation, probably firstly shared and then on one’s own
First home Purchasing our first home (an apartment or small house/townhouse) from late twenties into thirties, either alone or as a couple
Upscaling Moving to a larger home to accommodate the growth of the family. This tends to be the longest and most stable period of home life.
Empty nesters Once the children have left home, a move to a smaller home that is easier to maintain becomes attractive. This may coincide with retirement.
Senior living A move to a retirement development or facility, with options for support and care as one gets older.

Of course, this cycle will vary for different individuals and families. A single person, for example, may move less often because they do not need to adjust to the needs of a spouse and/or children. Many older people choose to stay in the family home and adjust it to suit their needs as they age. Some families combine households with older parents to share costs.

There will come a time when the home you are in no longer meshes with your current stage of life as an individual and/or family.  Here are some of the factors that will influence the season you’re in and whether it’s time to move on.  They are interrelated. For example, the area you choose will be determined by relational and financial factors, among others.

Fit/family dynamics

In general, different types of homes fit with our relational status, family dynamics and family size at different stages in our life, as these change over time:
Flats – students, young professionals, young families, retirees/empty nesters
Townhouses – young families, empty nesters/retirees
Suburban house – family with children
Suburban house with granny flat/second unit – extended family or income stream

The amount of space that a home provides is the key element of fit.  This includes the number of bedrooms, living and working space (especially if you are working from home), potential to expand, and second units/wings for extended family.

Changes in family dynamics often signal the need for a new home.  For example, divorce will result in changes to how a family lives together, with children often needing a bedroom in each parent’s home.   The loss of a spouse may result into a shift to a smaller and/or safer home environment.

Area – A range of area types offer different lifestyles:
  • Higher density living in a mixed use area (i.e. a mix of apartments, restaurants and shops), e.g. Durban CBD, Umhlanga Ridge.
  • Mixed densities – a mix of flats, townhouses and houses, e.g. Musgrave, Berea, Glenwood.
  • Low density, suburban living e.g. Westville, Kloof.
  • Gated estates – usually within suburban areas or country towns, e.g. Ballito, Nottingham Road.
  • Country living – smallholdings or small country/coastal towns e.g. parts of Assagay, Mtunzini, Underberg.

The type of area we want to live often changes over time. An urban, vibey, more central area is good when you are young, while suburban living will support a family lifestyle.  Retirement often triggers a shift to a different type of area, e.g. to a small town that is more peaceful and away from the rat race.

The socio-economic and development trends in areas also change over time.  You may feel the need to move if your largely residential neighbourhood is becoming more mixed use (more businesses, restaurants etc.) or if higher density development (complexes and flats) is being permitted. For some, this extends beyond moving areas, to emigrating to another country, to escape the security risks and other challenges of living in South Africa.

Financial – Our financial commitments change over time and play a key role in area and residential type.

An increase in family income will allow for a move to a more upmarket area and/or a larger home. Financial pressures often require extended family to live together which will require a bigger home or making extensions to an existing home.

As we get older, the financial demands of maintaining a large property need to be weighed up against the benefits of the extra space and privacy. Retirement may require some of the equity in the property to be released to provide for monthly expenses.  Health expenses increase with age and therefore the share of income on housing versus healthcare often needs to shift to keep up with medical costs.

Health considerations and accessibility – This may not be a major factor when we are young, but becomes more important as we age.

A shift to a low maintenance option like a townhouse or flat, where the Body Corporate manages all external maintenance and gardening, becomes more attractive later in life.  It is also wise to factor in improved accessibility by moving to single level property, or a flat with a lift/ramps.  A physical disability or limiting health condition at a younger age will also be a key factor in determining the type of property that you choose.

Is your current home’s season coming to an end?

With all of life’s busyness and responsibilities, usually we do not take time to step back and reflect on whether our current home is serving us well.  I am not one to promote moving unnecessarily, especially if it involves selling and then buying your next home. It is a costly process.  And it is also one of the more stressful and unsettling of life’s experiences.

However, every now and then, it is a good practice to step back and consider your home.

Is it still a good fit with your current stage of life and family dynamic?  Does the area still meet your needs? Does it support wise financial planning for the future? Is it still a joy living there, or is it becoming difficult and costly to maintain?

I suggest that you take a bit of time to ponder on the factors that I have discussed in this post as you answer these questions.   Maybe your home’s season is coming to an end.  And then the excitement of planning for the new season begins!

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