Durban's sales volumes unaffected by crime levels

Crime, while unquestionably top of most buyers minds, is not affecting the pace or volume of residential sales, but remains a key driver among people relocating into apartment living, secure estates and gated villages, according to a Sunday Tribune Property Guide survey among some of Durban’s leading estate agencies this week.

Market feedback this week among Acutts, Proprop, Seeff, Tyson Properties, and Wakefields Estate Agents also failed to establish any change in emigration patterns in the wake of the recent high profiling by the media of the murder of John Rattray. Those still emigrating were either work opportunity motivated or parents joining children that had already left the country. Agents were generally united in their view that the emigration exodus of the nineties had been all encompassing in terms of people leaving for reasons of crime.

Only two requests for valuations with the intention of emigration were received this week, both by Seeff Berea, and both involving black families, according to principal Kim Woods. An intended relocation from an apartment to a single dwelling home was also cancelled by a purchaser with the same agency because of crime.

However, the first question posed to estate agents by most buyers before even viewing homes is to ascertain the level of crime in the area and the state of the property’s preparedness to resist potential crime. Agents, in the interests of accuracy and often under strict instruction from management advise clients to check with local police.

But, with crime now becoming all pervasive, buyers have taken the general view that all suburbs are contaminated with few places to hide from lawbreakers, says Chris Tyson of Tyson Properties. His company in keeping with others follows the well-worn path of urging clients to be security conscious.

But while buyers may have loosened up on emphasis of crime in areas, homes that have been burgled do not sell easily says Charles Alterskye of Acutts Amanzimtoti Coastal and if burgled more than once usually sells only at discounted prices. Vacant stands and the more isolated freestanding homes have also dropped a notch in their appeal among buyers, as have older homes with little or no security. If there is little or no security Keith Wakefield, CEO of Wakefields Estate Agents, says the cost of installing it is often discounted by the buyer’s offered price.

Pat Acutt of Acutts says, the high running costs of crime prevention imposed on homeowners is deflecting money that homeowners could be either utilising on bond repayments or maintaining their desired lifestyle.

Alterskye says the cost of securitising properties and the high precedence given to physical security, which he equates to the importance of electricity and water needs, is suppressing selling prices in Amanzimtoti. “If South Africa could become a crime free miracle overnight then property owners would become immediately richer by at least a minimum of 20 percent.”

With high walls, often topped by electric fencing and barbed wire, Acutt says crime is detracting from the aesthetics of suburbs. Such defences he notes are also forcing people to live in isolation from their neighbour with definite negative social implications. “However, today’s gated communities go a long way to address both issues.”

Mike Bennett of Proprop says while crime levels are not affecting the market adversely it is having a negative effect on homeowner’s attitude toward government and to some remaining in South Africa. Woods say the recent wave of electrical blackouts is also contributing to uncertainty, among some homeowners, of the country’s future stability.

Bennett says the Indian population has taken a more security conscious approach to crime with physical precautions taken by some communities in Chatsworth and Phoenix giving greater protection to these areas. The erection of staffed wooden security huts in Kloof, Westville and Cowies Hill is also helping to prevent crime.

However, Bennett says, with the rising shortage of homes under R900 000 in the Pinetown area, concerns about crime are something of a luxury when measured against their accommodation needs and value for money.

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