PROPERTY NEWS - For some years now, SA statistics have shown that single women are buying houses at a much higher rate than single men, and in some regions at an even higher rate than couples as they seek financial independence and security.
However, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, women also have much more particular requirements when it comes to their personal safety and physical security when choosing a home, and this is something that property developers and home sellers need to note.
"We see many young career women buying now as they discover that it can often be more affordable than renting, and older women generally buying to provide a home for themselves and children or grandchildren, sometimes after a divorce or the death of a spouse," he says.
"And although the statistics also show that single women are generally also buying cheaper homes than either couples or single men, in most cases that does not mean that they are settling for run-down homes or high-crime areas.
"What it does mean is that they are often prepared to sacrifice some home size to ensure their safety, and we find that they generally favour apartments and townhouses in secure complexes over freehold homes."
For single women he has the following advice:
• Check out the area. "If you find an area you think would suit you, be sure to visit it at different times of the day and week. Things can look very different after dark or at the weekends when everyone is home from work. You should also try to get feedback from current residents about how they feel about living there. Facebook and other social media can be a great way to ask for these opinions."
• Get the local crime stats from the local community policing forum (CPF), an active local security company or a reputable local estate agent. "There are no completely crime-free areas, but you need to look at what type of criminal activity is occurring. And don't try to judge the area from the regional crime stats online. These are often out of date and in any case cover a very broad area," advises Kotzé.
• While modern "live-play-work" precincts are attractive, says Kotzé, you should probably avoid suburbs that have become 'mixed-use' over time, unless they have a coordinated community security system. "Studies show that crime tends to be higher in areas where many homes have been converted to business use or demolished to make way for shops and offices, because it is hard to determine which non-residents are just hanging around and which are actually there on business."
• If you do want a freehold home with a garden, choose one in a street with good lighting. "We all know about the current problems with intermittent streetlights, but if your street is generally well-lit, it will obviously make it harder for criminals to hang around your gate or gain entrance to your yard without being seen. And the same applies to homes that are themselves well-lit at night and not hidden away behind lots of trees or shrubbery."
• He says you should also examine the safety features of any home you are viewing, including apartments and townhouses. "Things like more sturdy doors, burglar proofing, additional security lights, security gates, alarm systems and secure perimeter fencing can of course be installed after purchase, but the costs can quickly mount up and you will need to take this into consideration when making an offer to purchase - and make sure everything is installed before you take occupation.
"Alternatively, let your estate agent know that you only want to view very secure properties."
• Many single women prefer homes above the second floor, but if the home you like is at ground level, look out for an attached garage with a door leading directly into the interior. "This limits your potential exposure at a vulnerable point like a front door, while remote-controlled gates and garage doors also obviate the need to get out of your car to gain entry to your property," says Kotzé.
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