Durban’s property sale volumes unaffected by crime

Crime, while of top priority in purchasers’ minds in their selection of type and location of property, is having little or no affect on the volume of sales in Durban’s residential property market.

However, prices in well-known crime areas, particularly hi-jacking hot spots, can be affected. But, even these price-discounted properties given the shortage of affordable homes find buyers, according to a Property Guide survey among real estate principals this week.

Their input also indicated that while some homes were being sold to escape high crime areas sometimes, as a result of a bad experience, very few of these sales were emigration driven. With few exceptions most homes listed for sale for the purpose of leaving the country were employment motivated and mainly by their owners inability to find suitable work in the “new” South Africa.

In spite of the recent heightened amount of publicity given the increase in Durban’s crime, agents canvassed placed little future significance on its impact on sales pointing out that, while still a cause of huge anxiety, it had reached a level of undesirable acclimatisation.

Public enemy number one to estate agents remains overpricing exacerbated by purchasing resistance to over-the-top prices followed by uncertainty over future interest rate patterns and growing market affordability, but this was being muted by people lowering their purchasing aspirations.

The two recent interest rate increases apparently has had little effect on estate agency turnover with sales in the lower and middle markets compensating for a slackening in the upper end. Maxprop reported record trading in August, Seeff Berea an excellent four-month run and RE/MAX Address high turnover by its Highway presence.

Agents shared a collective view that with further sellers’ rationalisation of asking prices Durban’s sales momentum would surge. No scarcity of buyers was reported. All were able to give recent examples of purpose driven sellers within days of listing, attracting multiple offers on homes in the market’s lower end.

The trend is not just the domain of sellers or inexperienced agents. Both Sipke Beynl of Habitat Franchising and Kim Hardy, Seeff’s KZN spokesperson say even experienced agents are fuelling the process with the purpose of being awarded sole mandate.

Shane Pearson, operations director of ERA KZN, says there is little doubt that one of the major drivers in demand for walled estates and gated communities and their rise to popularity is the higher physical security offered.

This is substantiated according to Chris Tyson of Tyson Properties by one of the first questions being posed to agents by purchasers looking at free-standing homes is the level of local crime often followed by intense evaluation of a prospective home’s security. He notes that those in high crime areas do take longer to sell. Those with good anti-crime prevention and particularly boundary walls and burglars guards enhance selling opportunity. Kim Hardy, Seeff’s regional spokesperson says good access to property is also highly rated. Uncertainty of future interest rate patterns is also creating some hesitation causing two of Hardy’ recent clients to cancel their sales.

Pat Acutts of Acutts Franchising says more buyers are now including estimates of the monthly levies and security costs when purchasing their property.

In keeping with other agencies Tyson encourages potential buyers to investigate local crime levels with local senior police personnel. Gordon Battersby, managing director of Maxprop Franchising also directs inquiries to the local SAPS and advises owners of stock in high crime areas to lower their asking prices, which Battersby says does work.

Mike Bennett of Proprop and a major player in the Pinetown/New Germany area says crime levels are definitely affecting buyers philosophy and stoking demand for walled estates and gated communities. He quotes a recent case of a Padfield Park owner after returning home to find his home being burgled, then selling and purchasing in a sectional title complex in Hillcrest within a week.

There has also been a high number of family relocations from freehold homes to sectional title properties within New Germany, by people living close to an area with a high number of vehicle hi-jackings.

Bennett says while estate agents are not duty bound to report to prospective buyers on local crime levels, although most do, they are compelled to make known any violent crime that has taken place in a property being shown.
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