Crime forces Durban estate agents to drop show houses

Crime in Durban's Upper Highway area has led to some estate agencies dropping the long-established practice of holding show houses.

This was one of the resolutions reached at a meeting of the principals, managers and owners of local estate agencies yesterday.

Patrick Davison, a partner at Century 21 Properties, had called the meeting of about 25 agencies, although only about half of them attended.

"The protection of staff is their responsibility," he said.

Century 21 principal, Tracey Johnson, said crime had a major effect on residential property and needed to be addressed immediately.

"We have resolved not to do show houses any more," she said, explaining that agents were targets for hijacking while driving clients around or putting up roadside show house signs.

"We are directing the criminals right to us. Our agents are sitting ducks," Johnson said.

She said the show houses were also vulnerable to ransacking and put the sellers' safety at risk.

"Criminals may be casing homes pretending to be potential buyers."

Century 21 now asks potential buyers for copies of their IDs, sends its agents out in teams, and does "virtual tours" of properties via its website.

"The industry has to change. We don't want blood on our hands," Johnson said.

It's not all bad news, though. Johnson said the demand for property in gated estates had rocketed.

"My phone hasn't stopped ringing. People are frightened, they want to protect their families and move them into residences with 24-hour security guards," she said.

Lynette Dorkin, principal at Tyson Properties, said buyers were also looking for properties in areas like uMhlanga and Durban North, which they perceived to be safer.

She described buyers as being "very nervous".

"They didn't ask about crime before, now they specifically ask. It was definitely much easier to sell before the spike in crime."

However, the lifestyle in the Upper Highway area is what the chief executive of Dormehl Property Group, Owen Dormehl, believes will keep residents in the area.

"People are not rushing to sell," he said. "They are close to amenities, it's the country life with scenery and nature and yet close to the city."

Dormehl said his agency would not stop doing show homes because it was convenient for the seller and client.

(Daily News)

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