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When shopping for a new place to set up house, it’s easy to tell if it has the facilities you want: access to public transport, educational, medical and leisure services and great shops. But it can be harder to spot the features you want to avoid in an unfamiliar area.

You need to know if there’s anything going on locally that could make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and with crime figures on the rise, security and privacy are increasingly important for renters and buyers.

Long-term buyers’ advocate Ian McKinnon, of E-view Estate Agents, Mount Eliza, says, “I steer my clients to safety. I’ve never had them buy into an area where I wouldn’t place my own family.”

“Whether you’re buying or renting, it’s about safety. You need to be able to walk the streets 24 hours a day,” he says.

For peace of mind, consider these factors in your property search:

1. Evidence of vandalism

Look out for broken bottles, smashed windows, signs that hoons have been doing burn-outs, and excessive graffiti that you suspect isn’t by Banksy. You don’t want to wake up one morning with your fence tagged or your car broken into. You can track the crime rate in your target area at Crime Statistics.

2. Empty homes

Drive around the streets and note how many houses look neglected, dilapidated or even empty. Living next door to an empty house means you won’t have to deal with the neighbour’s noisy dubstep parties, but vacant houses can also attract vandals and squatters to an area.

3. Local shops and bars

Aside from sampling a couple of vanilla slices from the local bakery (you know, for research), check out the shops, cafes and bars in the area. A vibrant community takes pride in its built environment, and the main streets, shops and cafes will be an inviting hub of activity. A decent bar or pub offering good food and entertainment is a real asset to any neighbourhood.

4. Parking issues

If there are major shopping centres, train stations or schools nearby, be prepared for congestion and parking dramas. You could come home to find lines of vehicles clogging your street. Your driveway may even be annexed, leaving no room for your car. It might be a permit-zone, but the threat of a hefty fine won’t dissuade a shopper on a mission.

5. Nightlife

Book into a local Airbnb or motel to experience how busy, noisy, even raucous the area becomes. If it’s hiving with rowdy street mobs, or if you hear bloodcurdling screams and police sirens, maybe don’t put in an offer on that house you fancied.

Written by Asleen Mauthoor. First appeared on