PROPERTY NEWS - All parents want their children to grow up in healthy, happy surrounds where they can safely visit friends, go to the park and walk to school or the shops, but it has become increasingly difficult to find such an environment in an age of rapid urbanisation and mixed-used developments that can very quickly change the character of a whole neighbourhood.
This is one of the main reasons why so many parents are choosing to live in gated estates and secure complexes these days.
But what about those who can't afford to live in an estate, or those who want their children to have garden space and pets, which are often not allowed in Sectional Title complexes?
Fortunately, says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, there are still many other options, especially for parents who are prepared to do some homework and seek the advice of a qualified and experienced estate agent before deciding where to settle their family for what could well be the next 10 or 20 years.
Night-time on the street
"For example, once you've identified some areas that you think might be suitable, you should make a point of also visiting them at night and over weekends before you even look at any homes there.
"What if the main road becomes a hot-rod track on Friday nights, or the local pizzeria morphs into an unruly action bar on Saturday afternoons? And you certainly wouldn't want to live in an area where the local teenagers have nothing better to do than spray graffiti on all the garden walls."
Next, he says, you need to think about whether the area itself is generally clean and well-maintained.
Cracked pavements, litter and overgrown parks are usually signs of a neighbourhood in decline and probably not that great for children to live in.
"However, numerous piles of bricks and building sand could signal that you have found a suburb that is being rejuvenated by new families who are moving in and renovating, and where your young family would feel right at home."
Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, Everitt says that when visiting during the day, you should also look out for any signs that there are other children living there, like swings and climbing frames, tricycles and bikes - and for children themselves, perhaps walking to or from school, playing in the park, or learning to skateboard.
"Try to gauge their ages too, to see if your children would be likely to find friends of their own age. It's also a good idea to ask a knowledgeable local agent about schools in the area and other amenities like sports fields, a tennis club or a public pool, a library, a community centre and school after-care centres for smaller children, as well as shops and public transport, and check out a few yourself to see if they are family-friendly and would enhance your quality of life in the suburb."
He says it should give you confidence if you find that the agent lives happily in the area with his or her own family.
Also, further research will reveal if the area has any active youth groups, service clubs and neighbourhood watch groups, all of which are indicators of a caring community and a child-friendly area.
"And finally, if you do start viewing local properties, you must find out if the immediate neighbours are friendly and dependable - and be absolutely prepared to look elsewhere if this is not the case."
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