By Allison Mifsud
Need To Downsize
There are many benefits to downsizing your home, but the decision about what to downsize to can be challenging. Buying a smaller house does not guarantee you’ll do less maintenance and moving away from your beloved neighbours and community may not be as liberating as you thought it would be. So maybe housing estate living is a good compromise? Many find downsizing into a housing estate meets their personal and social needs as much as their investment needs. However such estates aren’t for everyone.
Benefits of living in a housing estate
Housing estates tend to be idyllic slices of a seemingly perfect life. Well maintained gardens and nature strips, orderly organisation of waste removal and road and grounds maintenance, residents representing all the age brackets form babies to grandparents, ensuring everyone has someone to talk to and reach out to for help when needed. It’s true that many secure housing estates do offer all of this and more. It’s important though, to think over whether the pros are actually relevant to you and how many of the cons will drive you crazy. So here’s a little food for thought to help you decide if living in a housing estate is for you.
One of the biggest drawcards for many housing estate residents is the security. Gated estates allow access only to residents and their approved guests, while non-gated communities tend to have an unspoken agreement around keeping an eye out for the neighbours to be sure everyone stays safe. This is ideal if security is of concern to you, but it can also somewhat dilute your exposure to the richness of your broader community, especially in a smaller estate. Having caring, concerned neighbours is also a blessing and many people form lifelong friendships with people they lived close to as children. There’s always one bad apple in the batch though and a crotchety neighbour, a nosey neighbour or an overly vigilant neighbour can really make life hell.
Owners Corporation and Community Titles
Generally housing estates have specific criteria residents need to follow regarding care and maintenance of individual properties as a contribution to the whole estate. In some cases, such as Strata or Community Title based estates, this is specified whereas in others it’s just understood. Estate management will take care of the nature strips, walls, street lights and public garden spaces which means you will live in a well-manicured street. It’s then up to the individual residents to do their bit and keep their own patch tidy. If everyone else’s lawns, gardens and properties are immaculately maintained then why would you be the one to let the grass grow knee high and not fix broken roof tiles? This can either be a great motivation to you or just add extra pressure, especially if you were trying to reduce the amount of work you had to do around the house and enjoy your lifestyle more.
Housing estates today tend to be filled with larger homes on smaller blocks, so less garden space is available. This by design puts you much closer to your neighbours than you may have previously been. It’s common to have just a metre or two between your kitchen window and your neighbour’s, which quickly sorts out how social you’ll want to be. Keeping the kitchen blinds closed could set the ball rolling on a long and stressful feud that started from nothing and is fed by every little thing. Conversely, a smile, an open window and a cheerful wave can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasts for decades.
Living in a housing estate tends to encourage neighbourly engagement and many estates are designed with this in mind. Public spaces in central areas for kids to play, dogs to run and the elderly to take some fresh air and sunshine, become the heart and soul of a housing estate, more so than a public square in an open neighbourhood.
There’s a different sense of ownership in estate living and the sense of community tends to be stronger because many have bought there for that specific reason. So, with that in mind, you don’t have to love, but would certainly need a tolerance for kids and dogs and old people! Housing estate life can get really busy! If there are lots of people at home through the day and you work from home for example, the constant interruptions may be too distracting. On the flip side, if you are retired and looking for jobs to do, there will always be a small project to help with or a tool or kitchen gadget that someone needs to be borrow.