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What does crime do to the potential price of a house?
A few weeks ago I was mugged. Granted, we probably shouldn't have been walking to our car two blocks away, but at the same time, there were many people around us, and cars had ground to a standstill in bumper-to-bumper traffic. In hindsight, a cold barrel to the temple is enough to make you cooperate, and also enough to make you consider the spin-offs of crime to our economy. And it was on this note that I began considering the impact of crime on house prices.
We all know the price of a house is largely determined by the number of people that demand to purchase it. When making a choice, an individual is valuing not only the intrinsic particularities of a property (in other words, the type of construction, number of bedrooms, square metres, age of the building, etc.) but also location aspects such as, neighbours, crime statistics, access to shopping areas, schools, distance to work and the environment. Economic theory calls this hedonic pricing. Simple English calls this being smart.
Most property listings in South Africa make mention of the fact that a house has some form of security in order to address any concern about crime. Yes, other factors that affect the price of a house do exist, but with crime being notorious in South Africa, it may be useful taking this into consideration when formulating the price of a house.
Figure 1: Number of burglaries at residential premises
Source: Institute for Security Studies, Macquarie Research, August 2007
One of the most prominent reasons for someone to choose a complex over a free-standing house is that a complex gives the owner a greater sense of security; a guard monitors the traffic flowing in and out of the complex, the entire area is usually surrounded by electric fencing or an 8-foot wall, and the close proximity of neighbours allows peace-of-mind that should something occur, you won't be alone. Although the actual numbers are difficult to prove, most estate agents would be able to confirm that a clear reason for the high number of sectional title sales over the past few years has been a spin-off from the search for greater security (see graph below).
Figure 2: Full title versus sectional title growth
Source: Statistics SA, Macquarie Research, August 2007
As for full-title houses, sales of security mechanisms have soared over the past few years. From electric-fencing to alarm systems, from 24-hour patrol vehicles to burglar bars, this market has grown and grown. There is no doubt that a free-standing house with an 8-foot wall, two dogs, an electric fence and the presence of a patrol vehicle every fifteen minutes is more of a deterrent to a criminal than a house without these additional factors.
Okay, so let us do a quick comparison. After speaking with four estate agents I managed to get to grips with some actual numbers. Take two 3-bedroom houses in Bryanston; House A and House B. Both houses are roughly similar in size, location and amenities (such as bathrooms, swimming pools, etc.). The contrast is that House A has a 6-foot wall and no electric fencing; House B comes with a 10-foot wall and an additional 1-metre high electric fence. Add to this the menacing sound of three rather large canines behind the 10-foot wall of House B and there are no prizes for which house a criminal would choose!
The final price difference? Sizeable.
Although both houses were originally set at a similar price level
(approximately R1.6 million), the selling price of each differed quite
significantly. The estate agent informed me that House A has been on the
market for 2 months; and that many potential buyers would have easily been
swayed if the security levels had been higher. Furthermore, the buyer managed
to negotiate the price down considerably, basing his reason on having to spend
extra on increasing security. On the flip side, House B was sold in a short
two weeks and with no significant renegotiation on the price.
Unfortunately, crime levels differ hugely from one suburb to another and so, a national average of how crime affects house prices is not available. But without a doubt, the level of crime in your area will affect the price of your house. It is best to keep an eye on your neighbours as a benchmark of what standard of security is needed.
Caught on camera
Facial-recognition technology part of Pellissippi program to train security experts
By ANDREW EDER, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 10, 2006
A new camera technology that recognizes individuals by scanning faces and storing the unique profile is part of Pellissippi State Technical Community College's program to train the next generation of security experts.
The facial-recognition technology, from the San Francisco company 3VR Security, has the potential for use in controlling access to buildings and spaces as well as a valuable investigative tool. The system is part of the rapidly expanding biometrics industry where revenue is expected to double within five years.
Students at Pellissippi State can receive training on the camera and software as part of the school's Security Engineering and Administration Technology program.
"The whole profession of security is becoming higher-tech and more professional," said program coordinator John Sterling, who has worked with both Tennessee and North Carolina in the area of homeland security.
The two-year program helps students get a foothold in the burgeoning security industry by educating them in the legal, moral and ethical aspects of security as well as the nuts-and-bolts of asset control, threat planning and crime prevention.
This fall, the SEAT program will launch in full with 14 classes and there are 15 declared SEAT majors, Sterling said.
The program is launching at a time of growth and change for the security industry. Al Garcia, director of operations for Oak Ridge-based Security Consultants Group Inc., said there has been a dramatic increase in demand for security services since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
At the same time, security companies are seeking employees with higher levels of education and experience.
"These systems are becoming more complicated and technically challenging," Garcia said. "It's not just about finding someone who can install systems anymore."
The heavy demand and increased specialization of the security industry mean that students in the program should find a wealth of job opportunities.
"Certainly, we welcome this degree and this curriculum," said Garret Scott, a security engineer with Security Consultants Group. "A formal education is something we need."
Sterling said the SEAT program points students toward careers in areas such as emergency planning, government security, corporate management and human resources. He said the program's multidiscipline approach is influenced by a post-Sept. 11 mind-set.
"Historically in the security industry, the biggest focus was on asset control," Sterling said. "Terrorism was not routinely considered as part of threat planning.
"Since 9/11, we realized that a terrorist looks at our operation through different eyes."
The 3VR facial recognition technology has both preventative and investigative uses. The software measures 80 points on a person's face to create a profile, which is stored with an identification number.
When the camera spots the same individual, the program calls up the profile, creating a log of entry and activity in a building or area.
The technology also can bring up all instances of a profile in the system, cutting down on the time needed to comb through surveillance videos following an incident.
"It's a tremendous investigation tool," Sterling said. "It saves countless hours of an investigator's time."
The technology falls under the category of biometrics, which refers to a person's innate physical characteristics. Other examples of biometrics include fingerprint identification and retinal scanning.
The International Biometric Group, a consulting and integration firm, reported that global biometric revenues are projected to grow from $2.1 billion this year to $5.7 billion in 2010.
Scott, the security engineer, said the use of biometrics is expanding as the technology matures and production costs come down.
"We're right at the point where the transition is going to become exponential," he said.
The federal government is actively pursuing biometric technologies, and skills with facial recognition technology will be valuable as the government looks for ways to identify people without direct contact, Scott said.
Sterling, a former infantry captain and street cop, said the technology holds great promise. But he said the biometric solution must be supplemented with the types of skills the SEAT program provides.
"Technology should never be relied upon as the sole solution to our problems," Sterling said.
Business writer Andrew Eder may be reached at 865-342-6318.
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