Johannesburg - Research should be the first step when investing in the gated estate lifestyle, says Association of Residential Communities (ARC) president Jeff Gilmour.

“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,” he warns.

“Homes in lifestyle estates generally come with price premiums that average 30 percent more 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,” says Gilmour.

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 the 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 the important social aspects of living on the estate form part of the HOA agenda. These include the clubhouse, walking trails, play parks and sports facilities.

Gilmour recommends a walk or drive around the entire estate to ensure it is in good shape:

* Start with the main gate, which should be well organised and run 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.

* 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 guidelines, should be seen as a warning.

“Above all,” says Gilmour, “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 security is the biggest single factor that motivates investment in gated residential estates,” he adds.

The ARC helps HOAs to manage residential estates more efficiently to protect and grow the value of residents’ homes.

– Saturday Star