Your question is one about privacy and security, as well as the 'price' of those benefits.
Lake Mary is in general a very safe area, and security here is more about privacy and peace of mind, rather then due to any special need. That said, most all homes in the area do have individual electronic security systems, however this is entirely a function of the price-point and finish level of homes (larger more expensive homes today are all built with security systems). This not only adds peace of mind, value, and benefits like home automation, but it can also reduce your home owners insurance costs.
As for your question about â€˜effectivenessâ€™ and the need for additional security. The effectiveness of any gate, guards, and overall security is obviously dependant on a number of factors: the type, manned vs. unmanned; the quality of the employees; the security services which they perform, and how they are managed.
First, gated communities have privately owned roads and so offer significantly more privacy than homes on public roads, primarily by excluding all those who are not invited guests. So, you should never see a door to door salesman in a gated community, your personal property is kept private and more secure from prying eyes, and you can rest assured knowing your children are safe from â€˜stranger dangerâ€™ when getting off the school bus, etc.... The right to exclude (exclusivity) is a very valuable benefit, and it is one more reason why real estate values have faired far better in Lake Mary area than in all other areas of Orlando, especially in our many private gated communities.
Second, if the gate is staffed rather then having keypad access, you also have a real human being providing a first layer of pro-active security by questioning every guest who comes into the community. Itâ€™s not intrusive interrogation, but it insures they are actually invited guests and that they are who they say. Guests must present ID, and state with whom they are visiting, so in addition to being vetted by a human that information is often verified and recorded. Usually the make and model of the vehicle and the licenses plates of the vehicle are videotaped, and sometime the actual occupants of the vehicle are also recorded. Manned security provided an excellent pro-active security interlock that is a powerful deterrent to criminals and interlopers.
Third, the security services can extend beyond the gate as well. In some communities the security staff also actively patrols the community, every street, every corner, both day and night. They watch the public areas, the parks, the playgrounds, and the ball courts in addition to the streets and the exterior of all the homes. Having an experienced human being who knows the neighborhood and intuitively can notice something out of place is a tremendous safety and security benefit, especially in the case of fire or other accidents.
So, in addition to providing real tangible benefits and bolstering property values, over time these services also reduce many of the ongoing costs of home ownership, such as insurance. Indeed both your home, auto, and liability insurances should all be less costly if you live in a gated community that is professional guarded and patrolled. You are right to weigh the fees vs. the specific services provided vs. the realities of the community in which you choose to purchase.
A suggestion for you: In general, both privacy and security in a smaller community with 100% manned access will be more effective as a matter of fact (such as in Alaqua, Heathrow Woods, Alaqua Lakes, and Magnolia Plantation). In contrast, Heathrow itself is a rather large community with much higher density, so while it has partially manned security there are also far more invited â€˜guestsâ€™ and residents moving in and out on a daily basis which tends to compromise the effectiveness. I have heard comments about â€˜gate runnersâ€™ due to the management and operation of the equipment, as well as entrances which are un-manned with electronic access.
While some may feel the need to pay an extra $40 per month for electronic alarm monitoring in Heathrow due to itâ€™s higher population density and less privacy, in other communities those same folks may be factually more secure and have more peace of mind, without the additional monthly expense of alarm monitoring (and a lower HOA fee to boot). Heathrow is a very safe community, but less private than others in the area.
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