Emerging Trends In Home Ownership

“A man’s home is his castle”. This is a popular phrase that captures how most of us feel about our homes however humble or great it may be. As you traverse Trinidad and Tobago, you will see a variety of structures from the very humble hut to palatial mansions. Despite the diversity in size, shape, colour and grandeur, what is clear is that we have a penchant for the single family, detached house.

Trinidad has an area of just under 2,000 square miles which is fairly large as Caribbean islands go. An aerial view however, shows that development is concentrated along the transportation arteries as people need access to transport to conduct their business and lives in general. Hence you find the densest communities developing along the major roadways such as the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Audrey Jeffers Highway, Solomon Hochoy Highway and other major roadways petering out as you move further away to minor road networks. A similar situation exists in Tobago and actually that is the norm globally.

Given the concentration of government and commercial services in the capital city of Port of Spain and other large cities and towns, demand for housing in the urban and suburban areas around these commercial centres is outstripping supply with the resulting increase in property prices. This is exacerbated by competition from businesses moving into what was previously residential neighborhoods exclusively.

How then do we satisfy the need for housing in these areas? Whether we recognize it or not, we have slowly been adopting the conservationists’ “3R” philosophy of “reduce, reuse and recycle” as it pertains to land usage. In earlier times, multi-family dwellings would be found mainly in public housing areas or in very high-end neighborhoods. With rising housing costs, attached homes have now become more mainstream and is an increasingly popular choice for first time homeowners, professionals and empty nesters of all social strata.

According to businessdictionary.com:

  • Attached home is a term used in real estate transactions to indicate multi-family or multi-unit dwellings. An attached home is a structure which shares a common wall or walls with another unit. Some examples are: townhomes, condominiums, row houses, apartment buildings and high-rise residential towers. Many of this style of dwelling features common grounds, either shared or jointly owned.
  • A condominium is a single, individually-owned housing unit in a multi-unit building. The condominium owner holds sole title to the unit, but owns land and common property (elevators, halls, roof, stairs, etc.) jointly with other unit owners, and shares the upkeep expenses on the common-property with them. Unit owner pays property taxes only on his or her unit, and may mortgage, rent, or sell it just like any other personal property.
  • A townhome (townhouse) is a two or three storied single-family housing unit, often connected to other such units via common walls.

Some popular local manifestations of the 3R strategy are:

  • Repurposing and conversion of large older homes into self-contained apartments.
  • Single detached homes on large plots being demolished to make way for small housing complexes comprising: duplexes or townhouses or even apartment buildings.
  • Large residential developments with a mix of detached and attached homes some of which are gated and include recreational facilities.
  • High rise apartment complexes.

Prospective homeowners are making the decision to purchase attached homes for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Security
  • Maintenance

Owning an attached home can be an ideal solution particularly in today’s environment where personal security is an issue and where limited time or mobility creates challenges in maintaining a property.

Many of us would have grown up in detached homes and become accustomed to a certain level of privacy and independence. Attached homes on the other hand require homeowners to be respectful of each other’s spaces and privacy and when we fail in this responsibility, it requires a strong Management Committee that will enforce the terms of the lease to ensure that everyone’s rights and property values are preserved.

Title to land can be “freehold” or “leasehold”. Freehold title gives the holder full ownership rights in perpetuity while leasehold title gives the holder ownership rights for a fixed period, e.g., 199 years. The lease may also contain restrictive covenants limiting the activities of the lessee, e.g., the playing of loud music or hanging laundry in visible areas.

Title to attached properties is always “leasehold”. Additionally, developers usually create a Management Company to manage the property (common areas and general maintenance) and the homeowner is entitled to a share in the management company upon purchase of a unit. This gives the homeowner a say in how the property is managed and requires that they pay fees to enable the Management Company to perform its obligations.

It is always interesting to note how the cycle of life turns and how necessity drives innovation. In the space of two to three generations, we have moved from village life to housing developments where neighbours barely know each other to now, attached housing complexes which closely resembles the “village” from the perspective of the inter dependence of and on homeowners to create harmonious living spaces.

 

Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA)

www.areatt.com





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