How to pick a child-friendly place to live

All parents want their children to grow up in healthy, happy surrounds where they can safely visit friends and go to the park or the shops, but it has become increasingly difficult to find such an environment.

Indeed, says Martin Schultheiss, CEO of Harcourts Africa, many parents have been led to choose homes in security estates in the past few years in the belief that these are now the only places where their children can enjoy a "normal" childhood.

"However, homes in these enclaves are often beyond the financial reach of young families and in any case, recent reports of criminal activity within estates have emphasised the need to ensure that they are indeed child-safe in just the same way as one would evaluate ordinary suburbs."

And there are measures prospective homebuyers can take to ensure that any area they are interested in is really family-friendly, he says.

"Of course you should look out for well-kept parks, streets and school yards, as well as youngsters walking or biking to and from school and mothers pushing prams to the shops, since these are good indicators that the residents feel safe.

"But you should also be sure to visit the neighbourhood at night and over weekends when any negative aspects are likely to be more visible. What if the main road becomes a hotrod track on Friday nights, or the local pizzeria morphs into an unruly action bar on Saturday afternoons? And you surely don't want to live where groups of youths seem to have nothing better to do on a Sunday than spray graffiti on all the garden walls."

It is also a good idea, says Schultheiss, to establish whether there are useful family amenities in the area, such as sports fields, a tennis club or a public pool, a library, a community centre and school after-care centres for smaller children.

"You should consult a good local estate agent to get these details, as well as information about all the local schools, the area's crime rate and the activities of the local community policing forum. In addition, it's bound to give you confidence if you find that the agent lives happily in the area with his or her own family."


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