There is no getting away from the issue that as the country with the greatest income disparity in the world we are also facing a crime wave that seemingly has no end. Many will point to demographics and stats and argue convincingly that to even begin to expect a drop in crime is an unrealistic expectation.
It is not easy to source reliable data on crime in South Africa. Police statistics are treated with great suspicion as politicians place pressure on improved statistics for their own ends. In the end local security services together with the neighbourhood watch, may be your best bet to gauge security issues in the area you wish to buy in. No matter what the statistics are we know they are very troubling and vary from bad to worse from one area to another.
We cannot all live in security estates and neither do we all want to, but we can buy with security in mind so here are a few ideas to consider;
• A double storey property with bedrooms upstairs can be is a fantastic advantage. Security experts agree that a physical barrier is critical to put off an intruder or buy you time if you have a robbery or home invasion. A security gate that cuts off the downstairs living area from the upstairs bedrooms allows you to get a good night’s sleep and not having to respond to every creek and rustle. (Make sure your cellphone and car keys etc are all with you upstairs at night and not hanging on the key rack at the front door!)
• Obvious escape routes for thieves play a major role in choosing properties to rob. Does the location of the property allow an intruder to melt away quickly and easily into a surrounding area? Thieves do not want to worry with a high risk ‘problematic’ property and will basically choose an easier victim down the road!
• Following on from this, take a critical look at the home from the outside. Does it look easy to get into the property? We don’t want razor wire all over our homes and there are nicer ways to make sure it looks like a hassle to get into the property and even more importantly a hassle to get out of the property!
• Is there a prominent security company sign displayed for a security company that has visible area patrols in the area, and is the sign new? Old faded signs can convey a message that the security is old and unreliable and if it is a sign of a company that is not active in the area the sign could actually be communicating “choose me” as that company may not have the ability to react as quickly as one with patrol vans and a significant presence in the area.
• Is there an active neighbourhood watch in the area? I would recommend that you talk to a few neighbours to find this out. This will also enable you to get some idea about recent criminal activity and incidents in the area. The seller and the agent are likely to play such incidents down. You must do your own homework here!
• Look at the entrance to the property and see if it is easy or difficult for someone to hide and surprise you when you enter or leave. While you can always add lighting to improve a given situation there may be physical features of the property that are not easy to do anything about.
• A good alarm system will always be important but it is simply not enough to protect your home’s value in the eyes of buyers that are increasingly aware of home security.
With 30 years experience in Cape Town real estate I certainly do not claim to be a security expert but I have participated in so many discussions on this topic as well as having been a chairperson of an active area Neighbourhood watch. Most importantly I do know from our substantial team of agents that more and more buyers are paying a premium for properties that look and seem secure. When planning renovations it would thus be sound advice to allow a portion of the budget to enhance physical and visible security measures.
Article By:Andre de Villiers
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