Don’t take security for granted when buying apartments

High-end buyers on the move are once again targeting high-rise apartment living due to convenience and security.

Luxury apartments and loft units are very popular now in areas such as Cape Town, Umhlanga, Durban and Sandton, says Braam de Jager, national operations manager of Aida, South Africa's best-known estate agency group.

"And while such apartments in coastal cities may offer sweeping views that add to their attraction, most buyers' first concern in choosing them is security while they are in residence and when they lock-up-and-leave to travel or attend to business elsewhere."

Apartments in closed precincts such as Melrose Arch in Johannesburg and Century City in the Cape are also selling well and De Jager reports that buyers here generally cite the same reasons for their choice of property.

At the lower end of the market, flats remain popular as student accommodation in suburbs surrounding local universities, such Rondebosch in the Cape, Hatfield in Pretoria, Berea in  Durban, and Braamfontein and Auckland park in Johannesburg.  In addition to security reasons, parents buying flats for their children enrolled at universities view these units as good investments that will yield satisfactory returns, and thus a much better prospect than spending large sums on accommodation in university residences for the three or four years of undergraduate study.

De Jager says first-time buyers are also finding value in smaller flats and apartments because prices are still much lower than entry-level units in townhouse complexes while security measures are often on par.

He cautions prospective buyers in this market segment, however, not to take it for granted that security measures at all complexes are equal.

"If your main reason for buying is security, you would do well to compare systems at different complexes before making a choice. Consumers should also keep in mind that the degree of sophistication - for instance electronically secured entrances and remote surveillance of entrances - will probably be reflected in the purchase price."

And then even with the most sophisticated systems in place, he says, security should never be taken for granted.

"Luckily, there are many common-sense measures residents in complexes can implement to remain safe, like taking care that strangers don't slip in behind you when you enter or leave the building through security doors, and always making sure of the identity of visitors buzzing your call button before allowing them access.”

Residents who often travel are also advised to arrange with the security staff to remove mail piling up in their absence. "Uncollected mail is a sure advertisement that the owner of the unit is not in residence, which may well catch the attention of opportunistic burglars."

De Jager adds that secure complexes with even the most stringent security measures are never islands unto themselves. "It is thus incumbent on prospective buyers to also survey the surrounding area and assess the existing security as well as deterrents such as proper lighting and pavements that are maintained to deny cover to any lurkers.

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