This new Durban apartment block offers tenants an option to own – as cities return to life – Business Insider South Africa

27 Mar
Inner-city districts in South Africa’s major metros are returning to life after a pandemic-induced exodus to the suburbs. A new apartment block in Durban is capitalising on this downtown rejuvenation and offers a unique rent-to-own solution.
As South Africa’s lockdown restrictions ease and office spaces reopen to hybrid work models, city centres and commercial districts are returning to their pre-pandemic bustle.
Although office vacancy rates remain high, city apartments are back in favour, with homebuyers trading size for security amid growing demand for sectional title properties. Mixed-use developments – integrating work, play, and living spaces – have also sprung up.
In Cape Town, One Thibault in the CBD and Station House in Sea Point are examples of these new developments, where apartments, restaurants, fitness centres and workspaces exist side-by-side. In Johannesburg, HQ Sandton, with apartments starting at around R1 million, features a massive rooftop garden and work pods, all located in “Africa’s richest square mile.”

Durban’s inner city, with an office vacancy rate higher than Cape Town and Johannesburg, is struggling to shake off the coronavirus’ cobwebs. The violent bout of looting and destruction during the July unrest has done little to help the city’s recovery.
But green shoots are starting to show, with Durban’s urban rejuvenation programme looking to rid the city of dilapidated buildings and fast-track the R30 billion Point Waterfront Development.
A newly launched development on Field Street in the centre of Durban is the city’s answer to mixed-use counterparts in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The Watt Club, officially launched in December 2021, is the latest venture of Urban Lifestyle Investment through its Homii Brand, which already offers standalone co-working spaces and apartments in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“With urban densification taking a front seat in the eThekwini Municipality, these new, inner-city residences have led to a unique take on property ownership that solves a range of challenges faced by South Africans,” said the Watt Club’s Craig Turner.
“We have been fortunate enough to be spearheading the conversion of under-utilised, existing commercial buildings into residences that are driven by proximity, convenience, lifestyle and affordability – having recently completed a 247-unit office-to-residential conversion in the Durban inner-city.”
Channelling a New York-style industrial design, the 17-storey building features a gym, rooftop social area, games lounge, co-working spaces, and laundry service alongside one and two-bedroom apartments. Of the 96 units released so far, 23 have been reserved.

Apartments at the Watt Club can be purchased outright, starting at R559,900. A “Rent-2-Own” programme allows property investors or tenants an opportunity to one day own a property at the Watt Club, from R6,500 per month.
“With our new Rent-2-Own product, we are proud to present a solution that gives individuals the ability to increase a property portfolio without upfront capital, and without extending debt exposure with banks,” said Turner.
“By creating solutions for property ownership and wealth creation, rather than driving the long-standing rental market demand, we will create a greater sense of ownership and pride by city dwellers, which will translate to better run and maintained city buildings.”

Residents, paying their monthly rent, have a contractual option to buy the property at any stage during a 15-year period. The purchase price reduces the longer the person rents.
There are no upfront costs, such as deposit, bond, or transfer costs. Additionally, municipal rates and body corporate levies are included, and there’s no waiting period usually associated with the transfer process.

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