How safe and secure is the home you want to buy?

While we can usually be guided by professional agents about the property itself what about the actual security of the home in respect of the neighbourhood? What are the security expectations you have for yourself, your loved ones and your possessions in the home that you are planning to buy? 

Security it seems is an increasingly important consideration in buying a property and one of the main reasons why many people are inclined to invest a premium on one property in an area over another or for that matter to buy a home in a gated estate. This can however be little more than an illusion of safety and security if you have neglected to do a little detective work of your own.

Over many years in real estate I have learned that real security depends far more on the collective attitude of the neighbourhood to security as well as the individual investment in the security of the house itself rather than just the location of the property. Security tips for your home aside, there is a lot you should try uncover for yourself about the area. 

Regretfully with very high percentage of unreported crime in South Africa, official statistics from police in most areas are not a reliable source of information. There has much in the press of late about statistics being manipulated if not fabricated for political purposes and the degree to which the figures are reported may depend on the relationship between local communities and the police more than the actual criminal activity in the area.

Before making an offer you must do your homework and do not be satisfied with comments from those with a vested reason to give you a subjective response. It is best to get independent opinions.

What can you do when you are buying a property to get useful information information to assist you in making a determination of safety factors in an area;

1) I recommend that you go talk to the neighbours personally. At least three houses on each side of the house you want to buy and those in front and behind the property you are thinking of buying.

2) When doing this pay attention to the consistency of their comments

3) Observe the security in those homes and ask if any incident resulted in extra measures they have taken

4) Ask if there are well attended neighbourhood or street meetings on security or an active neighbourhood watch etc

5) Find out which security company they use or any security service in the area they subscribe to and note the names of such services and level of satisfaction for these services.

6) Take a good drive around the property and look for any obvious concerns. Is the street a popular route for pedestrians or taxis at certain times of the day? Are there a lot of vagrants in the area or is there a commercial area close to you that may be positive or negative. Remember at night commercial areas are usually quiet and deserted.

Where you see that there is a monopoly of support for a security service in an area then talking to a responsible person in management at that security service would be a good idea. Remember they are trying to sell security services so they have little reason to play down the incidents and while they could ‘play it up’, most reputable security services keep statistics that are probably far more reliable than those kept by the South African Police Services. Ask them how figures compare with other neighbourhoods and where possible break it down to neighbourhoods not just a suburb. Ask what ‘pockets’ in the area are a problem.

In conclusion remember to be realistic – there are no crime free areas. Once you have bought a home you should in any event call a couple of security companies to come and give you a free security evaluation. They are probably going to try sell you expensive solutions but they will also give you a better insight to what you can do to make your home more secure and less inviting for thieves.

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