“If property owners do not take collective action as a neighbourhood community, the affect on everyone’s property values in that neighbourhood could be very negative”, says Cape Town real estate broker, Andre de Villiers from Cape Town.
De Villiers was previously a Neighbourhood Watch Chairperson for a popular Cape Town coastal suburb. “My experience is that there are far too few residents prepared to get involved in neighbourhood security unless there is a dramatic spike in crime or a violent attack. The majority of residents it seems are only too happy to leave the collective security concerns to someone else”.
“As the owner of four real estate offices in Cape Town, I can confirm that buyers are increasingly asking agents for more details about security issues in the neighbourhood of the house they are interested in. The focus on the individual house’s security is correctly seen as something that can be resolved by the buyer, but the area’s reputation and crime statistics are a greater concern, as a buyer knows this will probably be an issue that falls outside their immediate control.”
There is certainly a demand for reliable data but this is not as easy to obtain as some may think. Many smaller incidents are not reported to the police and many private security services treat their information as confidential and many neighbourhood watch groups are understandably concerned that their neighbourhood could suffer if their efficiency in keeping records resulted in a negative message!
“I think any professional estate agent should have some reasonable methodology to answer security questions from buyers objectively about the neighbourhood. We can’t put our head in the sand over this issue and a lack of access to reliable data is certainly a challenge,” said de Villiers.
The message to property owners is to ‘buy in’ to the responsibility of keeping their neighbourhood safe and crime free through collective action, and thereby collecting a ‘collective security dividend’. “Imagine if you will, a pocket of houses that is able to claim and where the seller or agent can statistically show, that the subject area is the safest area in this suburb! If that’s not a great selling feature then, as a real estate professional with over thirty years experience, I am not sure what is!” said de Villiers.