One of the most requested features among those searching for new home communities in Florida is that they be gated.
There are various types of gated communities, some more secure than others.
In this article, we'll look at the different types of gated communities you may come across in your search, as well as information about each type that will help you pick the one that's right for you.
Due to their cost-effectiveness, automatic gates are probably the most common form of gated community you will come across in your search.
How they work is, there will either be a gate arm that raises and lowers or a bigger metal or aluminum gate that swings open.
You'll typically have a button on your garage door remote programmed to open the gate.
Gates like this will also have a call box so that visitors, mail carriers, and service people can get into the community when needed.
Each resident will have their name programmed into the call box.
When a visitor gets to the gate, they'll find your name in the list and it will ring to your house.
You'll press a designated combination of keys on your phone to grant them access, and the gate will open for them.
You'll also be given your own passcode, usually a four digit number, so that you can get in the gate if you find yourself without your opener, and nobody home to buzz you in.
A major security drawback with this kind of gated community is that, quite often, residents will give out their four digit security code to their visitors and service people.
As soon as these codes pass from residents to non-residents, security is compromised.
Some communities with automatic gates also have video cameras installed at the entry and exit points, which can be helpful for solving crimes after the fact, but not so good when it comes to prevention.
Guard Gated Communities
The next step up is a guard gated community.
These communities typically have a guard shack where the gate attendant will be located.
Some communities hire professionals for this role, while other communities depend on residents taking turns staffing the gate.
So that residents are not delayed entering their own community, there will usually be two lanes, one for residents and one for non-residents.
Residents will typically have a sticker in the corner of their windshield so the gate attendant knows to let them pass.
The guards definitely act as a deterrent and keep the looky-loos out of the community.
These communities are probably more secure than those with automatic gates, but still not as secure as the kind we'll discuss next.
It's also important to note that some guard gated communities only staff the gates during the day, and revert to the automatic gate system at night.
If 24-hour security is important to you, make sure you ask before you buy into a community like this what the gate staffing situation is.
Guard Gated with Roving Patrols
The final kind of gated community we'll talk about is guard-gated communities with roving patrols.
As far as gated communities go, this is about as secure as they get.
Now, in addition to the guarded entry gate we already discussed, communities like these add roving patrols to the mix.
The roving patrols perform several valuable functions.
The most obvious one is that they drive around the community looking for anything suspicious or out of place.
In many communities with roving patrols, residents can alert the security staff if they'll be leaving for long stretches at a time, and the security staff will perform periodic house checks; making sure all the doors are locked, windows are closed, and so on.
Last but not least, the roving patrols can assist residents with things like flat tires or help visitors find where they're going in the community.
With all that said, why don't all communities go with guards and roving patrols?
The main reason most communities forgo guards and roving patrols is cost.
It's very expensive to hire companies with trained professionals to staff the gates.
When you add roving patrols to the mix, you have not only the additional manpower, but the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance to contend with.
In the early days of a community when very few residents have moved in, developers will be the ones footing the bill for all this, and many simply just don't want to do that.
In some of the communities you'll look at, the developer will build a guard shack and tell prospective buyers that once there are enough residents, they, the residents can decide if they want to foot the bill to have it staffed.
This always sounds like a reasonable explanation, but I can tell you that the amount of communities I've seen decide to add guards after the fact is pretty small.
Residents get used to paying whatever it is they're paying, and when they see how much it's going to cost for guards, they balk and they don't do it.
If this level of security with a guarded gate and roving patrols is important to you, there's a lot of benefit in choosing a well established community where this type of security is already in place, and funded by thousands of residents, rather than a few hundred.
Essentially, the more households the costs are spread across, the less each individual has to pay.
My Cautionary Tale
Now, there is no perfect solution here.
From personal experience, I can tell you that no matter which kind of gated community you choose, there's still a chance crime will occur.
For many years, I lived in a gated community with roving patrols, and one time my car was stolen right out of my garage.
With a quick call to the front gate, the entry and exit gates were immediately shut down, and the thief was not able to leave the community.
They had to ditch my car and take off on foot. They got away, but on the bright side, at least I got my car back.
Now, had I lived in a community that wasn't gated or just had an automatic gate, I may never have seen that car again.
As you search for the perfect community, you'll have to decide for yourself which kind of gated community is best for you.