One only needs to flip through the property section, towards the back of your favourite Saturday newspaper, to see how many developers abuse the term ‘lifestyle estate’. David Findley, a realtor based in America defines it as: “a property that has one or more unique features that help improve daily quality of life”. Whilst we do not disagree with Mr Finley’s statement, we feel that it leaves the term open for exploitation by unscrupulous property marketers. In an attempt to curb the liberal use of this term, we have compiled a list of facilities that we believe should be standard in any development, in order for it to be classified as an authentic ‘lifestyle estate’.

Perhaps the answer to this debate lies in the very first word of the term; “lifestyle”. This refers to the manner in which one lives within the property and the overall quality of day-to-day life. To some people, having a wide range of facilities, within the perimeter of the development, is an indication of an unmatched lifestyle. To others, it is the proximity of the overall development to amenities like shops, schools and work. That would be our starting point; deciding whether or not an estate suits our desired lifestyle.

The term ‘lifestyle estate’ also raises stereotypical, and often idyllic, scenarios in one’s head – such as living in peace and tranquillity whilst roaming freely. Whilst these notions aren’t necessarily unobtainable, they are often dreamlike and somewhat unrealistic… unless you are truly safe and secure.  It does raise a crucial point; the need to have a reliable security infrastructure at any given point in time. The peace of mind with knowing that one’s family and belongings are also safe and secure. When investigating a development as a potential investment, we would urge any prospect to take the time to understand the security processes of the said estate. Assess if the Homeowner’s Association, or landlord, maintains such an infrastructure, and question the logistics – like the number of trained guards on the staff compliment. Gauge the emergency response time. Inspect the development’s perimeter to see how accessible it might be for an intruder. Consider the number of perimeter cameras, and assess the technology that is currently being used. Investigate if the Homeowner’s Association plans to upgrade the security system, seeing as this technology is improved annually, and a true ‘lifestyle estate’ should really be up-to-date.

One should also take this opportunity to consider your current lifestyle, as well as the lifestyle that your family is currently exposed to. See where it is lacking and how the proposed property could enhance it. For example, if exercise is an important factor, one should find an estate that offers walking trails, trim tracks, running trails, rowing dams or perhaps even a gym within the estate’s clubhouse. In our experience, a healthy, active lifestyle will contribute to the overall wellbeing of any individual. If it is social interactions that would enhance one’s lifestyle, then weigh up those facilities in a clubhouse – like restaurants, yoga classes and movie nights. On this note, remember that if you fit the profile of a certain development the likelihood is that you will match the other residents, your neighbours, which could also aid in expanding your social circles.

Century Property Developments is one of South Africa’s largest developers of award-winning lifestyle estates.  Waterfall Estates is currently “the World’s Best Mixed-use Development” according to the International Property Awards. Century has formulated a recipe for their ‘lifestyle estates’ – being the ability to eat, work, sleep and entertain within a five kilometre radius. If your current residential estate has a clubhouse with a restaurant, carefully evaluate its offerings, from the pricing to the quality of their food. Other facilities should be scrutinised in the same manner, such as dry cleaners, car washes, wellness spa’s, beauty salons and children’s entertainment areas.

Is it important to have a private school within the estate’s perimeters? Imagine the ability for your child to ride a bike to school, just like you used to. Think of the time it currently takes to get your child to school in the mornings – and imagine if the school was inside your estate. That would give you more time together in the mornings, without having to be stuck in traffic to get to school. What price could one possibly put on having the luxury of having an extra thirty minutes prior to them going to school? Take the time to carefully investigate the school’s policies, their international accreditation and their ability to accommodate your specific child. As for the rest of the ‘lifestyle estate’, determine how the current infrastructure is tailored to your child’s needs. Does the gym offer tailored classes that is age appropriate for your child? Look at seasonal events within the ‘lifestyle estate’, like chocolate egg hunting during Easter, or trick-or-treating during Halloween. Be careful to neglect the needs of older children, like teenagers that might not be entertained by playparks and jungle gyms. Research has shown that it is easy to cater to young children and mature adults, but one should still consider the teenage community within an estate. BMX tracks, skate parks, games rooms or even a dedicated teenage hang-out zone is crucial to the perfect balance of any ‘lifestyle estate’.

From the criteria outlined above, it becomes clear that an authentic ‘lifestyle estate’ needs to offer convenience. It needs to accommodate one’s dream-lifestyle requirements and it should allow you to spend more time doing the things that one truly enjoys – whatever that may be. It is clear from the property sections in our newspapers, and online property portals, that residential ‘lifestyle estates’ have become extremely sought-after in Johannesburg. This trend provides the property market with more variety and allows consumers to be more fastidious during their selection process. Contrary to popular beliefs, one doesn’t necessarily have to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy these offerings, as renting within such a development has become both affordable and accessible. The term ‘lifestyle estate’ is not something that we would award a residential development at a whim.