Many people are moving house these days for economic reasons, but before you rent or buy a property anywhere new and unfamiliar you need to be sure that the area is safe for you and your family.
"When choosing a new home," says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, "it’s worth remembering that you won’t just live in that house or flat, but also in the neighborhood, so it must be a place that you would feel comfortable at all times of day.
"Obviously, no-one is willingly going to choose an area where abandoned buildings, broken windows and gang graffiti are the most prominent architectural features. But crime can and does happen anywhere, not just in bad-looking neighbourhoods, so you need to take a careful look around before deciding to live in any area."
Unfortunately, he says, SA’s official crime statistics are neither very detailed nor up to date, but you may be able to get information from the local community policing forum or ratepayers’ association about whether crime is on the increase or decrease in a certain area and whether there are security patrols or a neighbourhood watch group. Crime does not thrive in areas where residents are prepared to work on prevention together.
"Next, you should make a point of talking to some local residents — your prospective neighbours — and shopkeepers to gauge the tone of the neighbourhood, and visit at different times of the day and week to check what activity there is on the street. Children walking to school or playing in the park are good indicators of a safe area, but ideally you also want to see residents out jogging, waiting for a bus or strolling to the shops later in the day and even at night.
"And on that score," Everitt says, "you need to bear in mind that there is more to safety than the absence of crime. There could, for example, be just as much danger for your family and pets in a busy road full of speeding vehicles that runs through the middle of the area.
"In addition, you really should do a thorough noise check. You don’t want to be stuck with neighbours who run a noisy business from home or throw wild parties every second night. And most people don’t want to live close to restaurants, clubs or other sources of loud music, as not being able to sleep is generally very bad for one’s health."
He also suggests that you ask your estate agent whether the area is predominantly tenanted or owner-occupied.
"It’s a sad fact that many people have less respect for a property they are renting than a property they own and would have even less respect for you as a neighbour.
"On the other hand, though, even an area with really modest homes can be a great place to live if the residents have pride of ownership and a strong sense of community."