Choosing affordable homes

WHEN one hears the word "affordable", the '$'symbol ($) automatically comes to mind. Without having to think much, money registers and one considers saving costs, budget lifestyles, modest living areas and being thrifty. But affordable living does not necessarily have to always correspond with money predominantly. There are in fact, many other ways one can indirectly "save", hence, we look at affordable living from a larger perspective and scour some property developments, plus ways and means to help one grow the "reserve or resources kitty".

We begin by exploring the ecosystem of affordable living and consider some points in an article written by Jason Lim for iProperty.com, along with views and comments of others.

Matured residential townships

Lim's idea on affordable living focuses on a couple of aspects, apart from the obvious price tag. He asks one to consider living spaces that can bring positive benefits and advantages to the inhabitants and ultimately save costs.

His first point to consider is living in a mature residential township appended with good public infrastructure and convenient amenities that make every day living more manageable.

There are many "matured" housing areas where one can find some of the "oldest" public spaces and convenience stores. Sometimes these areas that have stood the test of time become "tourist attractions", attracting people and increasing the economy and amount of activity in the area eg. Klang, Kajang, Ampang, Cheras, Rawang, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Subang and other areas.

This writer recalls a friend who said she never left her "taman" for more than a year as she found everything she needed within easy reach, in the township she lived in. From her place of work to her children's schools, plus all the companies, brands and organisations she needed to engage and connect with for all her business, social and daily needs. Good or bad, it really depends on one's perspective. But she saw this in a positive light, claiming to have saved a lot of time, money and stress having to commute farther, daily.

Good connectivity

Living in a housing area that is easily accessible via highways and byways will reduce commuting time, hence, saves one a lot in many ways.

Reducing time commuting to and from work plus cutting down on travel time with the availability of many entry and exit points to one's place of residence makes sense.

For instance, there have been many people complaining about the traffic congestion that sees them spend a lot of unnecessary time in their vehicles and on the roads.

A daily occurrence which sometimes takes the toll out of one's sanity. While some housing developments only come with one entry/exit point, there are others with direct access to highways and byways, some that are also linked to public transportation facilities that connect easily to other townships and cities.

Living in an area with good connectivity does save a lot of time, money and stress indeed especially with the heavy traffic and increasing amount of vehicles, not to mention the rising population.

Availability of public transport

While having easy access in and out of one's residential location with good connectivity to places one often visits eg. family, relatives and friends' homes, activity pursuit locations, major towns, etc. – would be ideal, the availability and easy accessibility of public transport would help tremendously.

Especially in cases of vehicle breakdown, sudden requirement of two people having to use the family vehicle, or even in terms of tightening one's belt and resorting to cheaper means of daily commuting alternatives (if it works out cheaper than using one's car). Having an option or plan B in terms of your daily commuting arrangement is always good.

Depending on which mode of transport one uses, time and money can be conserved and spent in better ways. Moreover, using public transport usually requires one to move or take a few steps more compared to moving from one's main door to the car door and into the office building. This will surely help one increase "activity", hence, improve one's well being or even health.

Close proximity

These days most residential townships come complete with all the necessary facilities and amenities to make one's life a lot easier. While living close-by to daily conveniences with ample availability of services makes sense, there are the odd housing projects that are situated in rural and remote areas, probably attracting buyers looking for "cheaper" homes. It is true that some consumers may opt for cheaper housing for a lower mortgage rate, but their expenses will peak in other areas.

Today, most housing projects come facilitated with at least a row or two of shops – some with malls and office blocks, high rise towers even. From neighbourhood supermarkets and grocery stores to banks, telecommunication company outlets, eateries to appease all sorts of appetites, plus specialty stores, launderettes, wet markets, fitness and grooming centres, hawker stalls and more – these help make life a lot easier while saving costs, as residents need not travel far to make use of these services, which are so necessary in today's lifestyle.

Having saved time, petrol and money – all these "savings" can be put to better and more impactful/meaningful use as in spending quality time and money on one's family, loved ones and helping the community and such.

Nearby work opportunities

Imagine walking to work every day or simply having to take a five-minute drive up the main road to arrive at one's workplace.

While for many, this would sound like a dream come true, this writer actually knows a couple of people who have made this their priority when taking up employment. Cutting time commuting and saving travel expenses are sure things but life is not all about money, and in this case, those who regularly trudge through the horrendous traffic might want to re-think and work closer to home.

Lim on the other hand brings to light the low-cost labour force who will be able to save a lot of the little they earn.

He highlights the fact that living within close proximity to public transport and one's place of work makes it easy for the "industry" to provide competitive salaries without putting their staff under wage pressure.

He also brings attention to the employers who subsidise or provide living quarters for their staff, which help hugely in many ways and means.

Affordable price and good size

Ultimately, when one talks about affordable living, the price of one's property is questioned. While Lim states that buying a "cheaper" property will help consumers reduce their mortgage arrears and debts, they might have to forgo benefits and conveniences in other areas as mentioned above and increase their consumption in those avenues.

Looking at the choice of "affordable homes" that were first introduced, many were situated in the "backwoods" or rural outskirts, or as some call it in "No Man's Land". Some developers also trimmed their costs by cutting down on using more expensive building materials, to provide the people with more affordable homes. Another way was to offer smaller living spaces, some quipped, almost the size of a "doll's house".

No doubt, scaling down on the size of one's home, the quality of the building, and living in the middle of no where with hardly or no conveniences (where land prices are cheaper) would certainly, and in most cases, come with a lower price tag.

However, it might not be the wiser choice especially in this time and age, when more developers are offering affordable homes that come with all the perks, benefits and conveniences, and some situated in the best locations too.Follow our article next week to learn of some of the areas and housing developments that tick all the right boxes for a convenient and "affordable" lifestyle.