Although the government will argue that crime statistics are down, it has been proven that the most important aspect that property buyers consider is security. Everyone has become far more aware of the dangers out there and enormous sums of money are spent on keeping loved ones and possessions safe.
For most, the days of relying on burglar bars alone are over and an increasingly large number of homes now feature alarm systems with an armed response. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of security guards employed to protect South Africans, however the PSIRA (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) estimate that although 1.9-million people are registered with the body, only about 421 534 are currently serving in the industry.
The fact that security plays a major role in a buying decision has shifted the goal posts in the South African residential market somewhat. In most countries, buyers are drawn to an area because of the amenities and schools on offer. While this still plays a role here, it is not necessarily the buyer’s primary focus. As humans we adapt and this is particularly evident in the way many South Africans have chosen to live. Security estates with high-end security aimed at housing our wealthier citizens are on the increase.
However, it is not only the wealthy who are concerned about crime levels and this is evident from the large numbers of complexes catering for all price ranges that are dotted around this country. The adage that there’s safety in numbers rings true and although the traditional free-standing home will always have a place (and indeed remains popular) with some sectors of society, there are many who would never dream of investing outside of an environment that is perceived as secure.
Of course, security systems are costly and buyers who chose to invest in a sectional title lifestyle should ensure that they are getting appropriate value for money. Assuming that high walls and an electric fence are guaranteed to keep you safe is not the way to go and interested parties should always double-check to see how effective they have proven to be based on past incidents in the complex.
Take a close look at the security systems and check that all is in working order. Having an electronic gate great and will keep potential criminals out – if it is closed. An electric fence can also prove to be a great deterrent, if it maintained and switched on. Check to see how well lit the complex is at night, and that all the lights working, without any dark areas. Ensure that the burglar bars in the home have been well maintained. Rusty/broken bars are an easy target for those on the prowl as are badly fitted burglar bars.
Discuss crime in the area with the seller and agent and if possible, pop in to the local police station to see if they have crime statistics for that particular area available. Chat to a couple of locals to get the low-down on what is happening in the suburb.
Perhaps the most important aspect of all: once buyers move in they shouldn’t assume that just because they live in a complex they are safe by virtue of being surrounded by people - it may act as a slight deterrent, but it certainly isn’t a guarantee of safety. Keep security doors locked and keep an eye on the goings-on around you. Report suspicious characters to the security company if you have one. If you don’t, report these individuals to members of the body corporate.