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Thursday Nov 01, 2012

Do your research on gated properties before you buy

Do your homework thoroughly before you buy into secure gated estate living. If you don't, your lifestyle dream could turn out to be your worst nightmare.

That's the advice to first-time estate buyers from Jeff Gilmour, President of the Association of Residential Communities (ARC).

"Homes in lifestyle estates generally come with price premiums that average 30 per cent compared with like-on-like properties on the 'outside'.

"Therefore, mistakes can be that much more costly if you fail to carry out fundamental research on the estate itself before closing the deal on your home purchase," says Jeff.

His checklist for investing in a gated estate begins with the Home Owners' Association (HOA):

  • Run through the financials of the HOA. Ensure that it is financially sound, holds adequate reserves, and is compliant with its fiduciary responsibility and articles of association
  • Establish what levy increases there have been over the past three years, and what the policy is going forward
  • Be aware of the estate's rules, regulations and architectural guidelines (to avoid unpleasant surprises after taking occupation)
  • Verify that the HOA is well run and applying best practice in the management of the estate. (Membership of ARC will automatically tick this box)
  • Confirm that the HOA is constantly updating and enhancing implementation models in line with the estate's strategic plan
  • Make sure that the all-important social aspects of living on the estate form part of the HOA agenda. These include the clubhouse, walking trails, play parks and sporting facilities.

    Furthermore, Jeff recommends a walk or drive around the entire estate to ensure that it is in good shape:

  • Start with the main gate, which should be well organised and manned by helpful uniformed guards
  • Examine the green areas and parks. Is there a feeling of consistency? Are they proportionally developed across the entire estate? This will indicate either a well-implemented master plan or a haphazard approach
  • Clean and well maintained roads, walkways and pavements will confirm that an efficient maintenance plan is in place
  • There should be consistency of architecture and design across the entire estate. Homes that are half built, or inconsistent with the overall guidelines, should be seen as a warning flag.

    "Above all," says Jeff, "look closely at the security system - including the electric fence, surveillance cameras, presence of security vehicles, roving patrols and proactive policing."

    "A recent countrywide ARC survey showed that security is the biggest single factor that motivates investment in gated residential estates," he adds.

    The survey also established the sheer size of this aspect of residential living. For instance, gated estates have assets of R800-billion under their management, and pay annual rates of R4,7-billion. Their collective annual levies total R8-billion!

    ARC is focused on assisting HOAs to manage residential estates more efficiently. In the process, the primary aim is to protect and grow the value of residents' homes.

    Association of Residential Communities Press Release

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