As security issues loom large in our cities, single women make up more than one-third of the growth in real estate ownership since 1994. More single women buy homes than ever before.
Some builders and city planners are increasing security measures as they begin to recognize that many homes, condominiums, parking lots, streets and sidewalks are not designed with women in mind. A few cities even offer classes to help prepare women who are afraid to take public transportation.
Women Home Buyers Fear Violence
My mother taught me to walk at a brisk pace in public places if I felt uneasy. She said women with a confident walk are less likely to be prone to violence because attackers look for easy prey. It's advice I heed.
Violence is a concern because many lower-priced homes that an average single woman can easily afford to buy are located in or near crime-ridden neighborhoods. The evening news and daily newspapers report on a multitude of crimes every day and dwell on the sensational ones. For good reasons, this may fuel womens' fear of :
12 Home Buying Safety Tips for Single Women
None of this is meant to be frighten women away from buying a home, but to help prepare women for home ownership safety and to offer tips on finding the right home by shopping with security at the forefront.
Here are home shopping tips for safety-conscious home buying:
- Buy Homes With Attached Garages.
When winter arrives, the days get shorter, which means by the time day-shift workers arrive home, it's already dark. Consider how you might feel walking in the dark toward the house if your garage were detached. Insist on an electronic garage door opener.
- Consider Gated Communities
Ask how often the gate code is changed. Most homeowner associations routinely change the codes to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. Check to make sure the gate is timed to close before a second car can enter.
- Pay Attention to Lighting
No woman wants to feel like a prisoner in her own home. Most of us enjoy living in a neighborhood where we can feel free to take a stroll after dinner or walk to the grocery store. Abundant street lighting and motion-sensor lights offer more security than dimly lit areas.
- Buy Homes With Security Systems
Find out if the security system is leased or owned and how much it costs per month. Ask for an explanation about how the home is wired, and whether all the doors and windows are monitored on the system. Determine who answers breaches -- whether it's the police or the security alarm staff.
- Inspect Door Locks and Door Jambs
Look at the door jamb to determine if it's been cracked or repaired. Notice if the lock is new. If you notice a damaged door jamb or a new lock, ask why. A screen door that acts as a security door with its own locking system provides more protection. Also, make sure all exterior doors have strong deadbolts, which unlock from the inside -- for fire safety reasons -- without a key.
- Check Location of Bedrooms
Second-floor bedrooms might appear safer, but the likelihood is the distance from the first floor could make them effectively soundproof, so sounds of a break-in may not travel to the second floor. It's also more difficult to escape from a second-floor bedroom if the threat is a fire rather than a burglar. Burglars tend to prefer quiet locations where they can go about the business of breaking in without being seen from the street.
- Consider Condos Above the Main Floor
Criminals don't want to bother with climbing stairs, taking an elevator or being noticed in a building, which is why first-floor condos tend to attract more crime. Condos that face the street are often considered more secure than those toward the back.
- Inspect the Windows
Single-pane windows are easier to break than dual pane. If any of the exterior doors have large windows of glass, make sure the door knob is located far enough away from the window to discourage break-ins. It's easy to break into a home by smashing a window, reaching inside and turning the door knob.
- Beware of Homes on an Alley
Alleys are quiet, generally dark at night, and provide ways for criminals to approach your home -- unnoticed by the neighbors. Alleys provide easy escape routes as well. Some neighborhoods are installing gates on alleys to discourage public access to private homes.
- Pull Neighborhood Crime Reports
Most city police departments report crime statistics online. Search for your city name and police to find a local web site. You can also look at the FBI's national registry of sex offenders to determine how many sexual predators live in your area. You'll be amazed.
- Check Out the Neighboring Structures
Some studies show that crime is higher in mixed-use neighborhoods than in subdivisions or communities of single family homes. They say that mixed-use, such as apartment buildings or commercial properties located among residential, increases crime because residents lose control over who can loiter.
- Buy Homes With a Fenced Back Yard
A fenced yard discourages crime because it makes it harder for unauthorized persons to gain access. In addition, you might want to consider adopting a dog, since fenced yards provide a play area for dogs. Dogs make great companions and offer a sense of security for some women. It's not necessary to get a big dog, either, as little dogs can often yap louder and more incessantly than big dogs. Your neighbors will love that!
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.