New buyers and tenants rate safety and security close to, or equal to location.
This is not surprising, when looking at the Ministry of Police’s report which last September showed robberies at residential properties to have increased by 69.8% over the past nine years. Private security profiteers, not all who are accredited or skilled operators, are seen to benefit from the country’s high crime statistics. The Security Association of South Africa (Sasa), having expressed concerns over too many local operators being of foreign extraction, has also cautioned residents to only employ the services of compliant, and reputable security companies.
The property industry’s knowledge of best geographical locations and crime patterns in a specific area, as well as assisting with basic security features of a home, can be invaluable to prospective buyers or tenants. Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International Property Group says: “Improved home security and personal safety is one of the main motivations for a home purchase, and sellers can definitely expect resistance, especially among repeat buyers, to a home that doesn't seem secure."
Since affordability is the main driver behind residential security, a sense of neighbourhood safety in lesser privileged communities, hard hit by drug and violent crime, is often achieved through less conventional methods. While trends show that middle and upper class property owners are increasingly benefiting from technological advances of top-end security equipment and top-end armed protection services.
However, statistics show that poor notification and control measures override the best technological interventions. The results of a (radio 702/567 Cape Talk) survey conducted in December last year, which measured armed response times of five houses in various Gauteng suburbs during the peak holiday period, indicated response times varying from one up to 44 minutes, with only one of the five home occupants asking for a pass code.
Dean Joffe of Simpletech – a security and automation technology firm - says high crime levels in affluent suburbs, is leading the need for more advanced security systems, instant push notification of events and digital access control (keyless entry and exit) at freestanding properties and security estates. User-friendly operating methods, which allow all family members and domestic staff across different age groups to act swiftly, are essential.
The expansion of broadband facilities in upmarket neighbourhoods facilitates improved monitoring of quality technological solutions, to allow remote access control through wireless technology on mobile smart devices. Advanced sensor technology for motion detection, in conjunction with the camera surveillance, allows for comprehensive monitoring of large areas
Joffe says improved technology also facilitates the digital processing of high-definition (HD) network camera images (CCTV), while intelligent video analytics differentiate between animals and humans, to trigger alarm systems accordingly. Biometric keypads make for user-friendly systems by communicating with, now interlinked, intruder detection, surveillance and alarm systems, allowing quick and seamless control and secure access to your home, he says.
Multiple access control readers can release doors without the need for tags or codes, by simply placing one finger on the reader. Remote access (via your mobile device) is a fast-growing trend for monitoring your cameras, checking the status of your alarm, locking and releasing doors, turning on and off lights and energy management.
Trends on the other end of the scale however, show communities in lower income areas managing neighbourhood security themselves. Trusted domestic workers, accustomed to high tech security by day, say participating in street patrols after dark is part of township life. Foreign gardeners and handymen, who attend to employers’ animals and homes during holidays, say they are comforted by remote control access from their employers’ cell phones, to safely enter deserted properties.
Agents say the safety of sectional title developments and security estates is driving property sales nationally. Everitt says, in a property market where suburban homes must increasingly compete with properties in secure complexes and gated residential estates, good - and visible - home security measures are a key part of attracting prospective buyers, and keeping them interested.
Ownership of large freestanding properties is being overtaken by secure living in sectional title units and lifestyle estate houses, says Samuel Seeff of Seeff Properties. He says violent crime and high utility costs is driving wealthy property owners away from luxury homes in leafy suburbs, to exclusive lifestyle estates in good locations.
Different measures taken against growing crime rates, are seeing farmers of valuable land and agricultural operations, increasingly removing and re-settling farm labourers in nearby towns, closer to their families. Some wine estates in the Boland, which are famous for attracting both viticulture and outdoor visitors - such as at Oak Valley near Elgin, say the conversion of labourers’ cottages into guest accommodation, will add profit while reducing crime.
Young families in coastal areas, where working spouses commute to large cities, show a preference for secure living within close proximity to good quality schools, despite hefty school fees at prestigious institutions, says Re/Max CEO Adrian Goslett.
Property professionals urge against complacency which may contribute to a false sense of security in estates. However, although perceived as a costly option, a carefree lifestyle within the security of a special rates area, a gated suburb or a private estate, can be an achievable long-term goal for many prospective homeowners and tenants.
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