“If property owners do not take collective action as a neighbourhood community, the affect on everyone’s property values in that neighbourhood could be very negative”, says Cape Town real estate broker, Andre de Villiers from Cape Town.
De Villiers was previously a Neighbourhood Watch Chairperson for a popular Cape Town coastal suburb. “My experience is that there are far too few residents prepared to get involved in neighbourhood security unless there is a dramatic spike in crime or a violent attack. The majority of residents it seems are only too happy to leave the collective security concerns to someone else”.
“As the owner of four real estate offices in Cape Town, I can confirm that buyers are increasingly asking agents for more details about security issues in the neighbourhood of the house they are interested in. The focus on the individual house’s security is correctly seen as something that can be resolved by the buyer, but the area’s reputation and crime statistics are a greater concern, as a buyer knows this will probably be an issue that falls outside their immediate control.”
There is certainly a demand for reliable data but this is not as easy to obtain as some may think. Many smaller incidents are not reported to the police and many private security services treat their information as confidential and many neighbourhood watch groups are understandably concerned that their neighbourhood could suffer if their efficiency in keeping records resulted in a negative message!
“I think any professional estate agent should have some reasonable methodology to answer security questions from buyers objectively about the neighbourhood. We can’t put our head in the sand over this issue and a lack of access to reliable data is certainly a challenge,” said de Villiers.
The message to property owners is to ‘buy in’ to the responsibility of keeping their neighbourhood safe and crime free through collective action, and thereby collecting a ‘collective security dividend’. “Imagine if you will, a pocket of houses that is able to claim and where the seller or agent can statistically show, that the subject area is the safest area in this suburb! If that’s not a great selling feature then, as a real estate professional with over thirty years experience, I am not sure what is!” said de Villiers.
Every day we make mistakes that leave our homes vulnerable to a break-in. A burglar will always choose the easiest target and that’s good news for you – it means you have a lot of influence on whether you become a victim or not.
Hiding keys by doorways – leaving keys near door ways is very risky as you risk someone duplicating your key and breaking in whenever they want.
Leaving out mail – an overflowing mailbox is a good sign that no one is home as well as it allows criminals to steal your mail and gain personal information.
Open windows – windows are often the easiest entry point for burglars to access your home as doors can be sturdy and deadlocked.
Leaving valuables in sight – valuables should be left out sight so that burglars and stored away as expensive items signal that you have money and is a clear indicator to a burglar that your home is worth targeting.
No visible security – securing your home with burglar bars and visible security measures is a huge deterrent to burglars.
Not maintaining your yard – a messy yard is a signal to a burglar that you are an easy target as untrimmed trees and hedges make for potential hiding places.
Updating social media – avoid using social media to let strangers know your whereabouts as you never know who is following you online.
A lifeless home – leaving lights and the TV / Radio on a timer can signal to a burglar that someone is home.
The public is urged to be aware of a bogus rental scheme that is taking place around the country.
This seems to work so well it has been gaining popularity! Individuals pretend to be estate agents and target unsuspecting potential renters. They post details of rental properties online and then ask interested parties to secure the flat by paying a deposit, either in cash or via electronic funds transfer.
A Sea Point man was arrested in August on fraud charges after allegedly conning nine people after an advert on Gumtree.
The suspect reportedly advertised a flat for rent and then asked interested parties to secure the flat by paying a deposit and the first months rent, which in itself is normal terms and conditions. However, when it came time to move in, victims find the flat is occupied and the suspect has made off with the deposit.
These bogus agents inform potential renters that a number of people are interested in the property and are urged to view and pay the deposit and / or first months rent and they would get the property. With a tremendous scarcity it seems there are plenty of desperate tenants who fall for this.
Should tenants have an interest in a property it is recommend that you phone the local office of the estate agency to establish that the agent is a registered agent with that company. But of course it is easy to use the name of a real agent so do not just use the number you are given but look it up yourself.
Never transfer money without seeing a contract first or without verifying that you are dealing with the owner or the owner’s representative. Do not pay a deposit without solid confirmation that the organisation is following legal procedures. Easier said than done if you are desperate to secure the apartment.
South Africa’s trusted tip-off service since 1992.
In two decades the anonymity of not even one informer has been compromised. We all have a responsibility to make South Africa safer for our children and every law-abiding citizen.
If you have information that can assist in exposing people involved in illegal activities, please contact us anonymously when you know:
WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW?
Remember, the detectives are keen to follow up your information. Please give as many details as possible.