Historically, the South African estate living has been a relatively small and exclusive component of the residential property sector. However property data shows that this is changing—approximately R15 billion in estate properties are now sold each quarter. However, as in the case of other properties, prospective buyers should do their own thorough research, on aspects such as security, lifestyle amenities, and the surrounding areas before committing themselves to any purchase. Prospective buyers must know what to look out for when they purchase an estate property.

The recent surge in activity in the estate market—especially in the Western Cape—has highlighted the need for more knowledge and awareness among prospective buyers. It is important to compare apples with apples and so, Somerset Lakes has set out four tips for you which are essential to consider:

Is the estate situated in a desirable area?

Although location remains a crucial consideration when buying a property, what is important in terms of location may vary from buyer to buyer and for those at different stages of their lives. Parents and couples planning to start a family in the near future will, of necessity, want to be in close proximity to a good school. Properties near the top schools can command premium prices or they may be located in very congested areas. Nature-lovers or those close to retirement may seek less congested areas or find a commute less of a problem. There are estate developments aiming to incorporate as many of these preferences as possible.

Security—how important is it?

Buyers should know what level of security they are looking for when choosing between estate developments. Safety has become a major factor when considering the different South African cities. While the neighbourhood and its surrounding areas remain important, the tight security features offered by a well-run lifestyle estate may swing a decision in favour of a particular estate. Many estates offer 24-hour security, security patrols, high definition surveillance cameras and electrified perimeter fencing with anti-dig foundations. The most technically advanced offer biometric fingerprint access control so there is a whole range of factors to consider.

Does the estate have good recreational facilities?

Ultimately, the estate has to be right for the buyer’s expectations and lifestyle. Buyers are often attracted by the many recreational facilities offered by residential estates: exercise facilities, communal pools and club houses. Increasingly, top developers are incorporating lifestyle elements such as private lakes and beaches within the perimeters, allowing for water sports and community activities. There is a great variety of possibilities so prospective buyers should make sure the facilities match their current lifestyle and expectations.

Will the property prove to be a smart investment?

Prospective buyers should not forget to investigate the credentials and track record of the developers—ensuring the estate is financially secure and backed by reliable investors will ensure the future of the estate is in good hands. This is particularly important when buying off-plan. The investment companies backing the development are also important because they make up the financial muscle of the whole development.

Understanding these tips will help buyers to decide exactly what they are looking for in an estate and determine the extent of the property development company’s industry knowledge and experience.

Regardless of the economic climate, estate properties in general display a stable performance. In essence, this means that in an economic downturn, an investment into an estate development is safer—the risk of your property dropping sharply in value is considerably lower.