10 Things Homebuyers Often Overlook
Homebuyers fall in love with a home, and often itís a
month after they move in that their surroundings start to even be
noticed. Before you sign that offer, STOP, and see if youíve checked out
the following ten items:
Where are you exactly:
Is the house within the city or town you think it is? Don't be so sure.
You may think you know, but if you're one street outside the boundary,
you could be in for a shock. Different municipalities mean different
laws, zoning, police and fire protection, water supply, trash and sewer
services -- or none of the above.
You may be in a residential zone, BUT:
A big-box mega-store or shopping center may be penciled in for that nice
vacant corner lot down the block where kids are now playing ball. Buyers
in both new and established subdivisions have been stunned to discover
that a long-fallow commercially zoned lot will soon give way to a
high-traffic, 24-hour-a-day retail site, with frequent truck visits and
too-bright lights. Use a buyer's real estate agent and ask for details
about nearby non-residential zoning and what could be built on it. Check
with the city planning department or zoning board to determine what uses
are allowable on the land.
Is there a neighborhood association? If so, is that desirable for you?
There may be dues to pay and required memberships in social or athletic
clubs. Also, the powers of these associations vary greatly. Make sure
you get a full written set of the documents, rules and regulations.
Again, talk with other residents to find out how strictly or laxly the
rules are enforced and whether that fits your personal philosophy. The
positive trade-offs are more consistent code compliance and a more
cooperative atmosphere. But there may be restrictions you don't agree
Neighbors and Neighborhood:
Are your prospective neighbors in your age range and demographic? Is
there diversity with respect to income, education and religion? Will you
fit in? Are there a lot of rental homes around? Remember that poorly
maintained homes can drag down neighborhood values. Visit at different
hours of the day to get a sense of the community. Spend some time just
hanging out. If the house is vacant, ask if you can sleep over one night
to find out how quiet or noisy the neighborhood is in the evening. Talk
to your would-be neighbors. They can tell you whether the area's on the
local airport's most direct flight path or if the city plans to widen
Sometimes, sellers are escaping from escalating crime or the presence of
a sex offender or other unsavory elements in the neighborhood. In most
states, an agent has no legal obligation to disclose to a potential
buyer that a sex offender or other convicted criminal lives nearby. Your
law-enforcement agency can also provide you with crime statistics in
your targeted neighborhood. Most have some kind of crime-analysis or
crime-prevention unit. Ask how frequent break-ins and car thefts are in
your area or ZIP code and where the trouble spots are.
Make several visits to your prospective neighborhood at different times
of day and especially night. Sometimes the bad seeds only bloom in the
evening. Does the neighborhood band strike up at midnight on Friday? Are
there frequent parties or houses that attract a few too many nightly
visitors? Are there loud barking dogs left out all night? Strike up a
friendly chat with a neighbor or two down the block and get the real
story. Can you hear the amplified voice of an order-taker at a fast food
restaurant's drive-through lane?
In terms of resale potential, it's better to buy the smallest home in a
block of bigger homes than it is to buy the biggest home in a block of
smaller ones. The big-home neighborhood is likely to bolster its
smallest home's resale value. But the small-home neighborhood may drag
down its largest home's value.
Is the subdivision used as a major cut-through for motorists or is the
nearby street used as a teen drag-strip on weekend nights? Can you hear
the whining of 18-wheelers on the nearby interstate highway at all
hours? Visit the neighborhood early in the morning and drive to your job
and to the school your children will attend.
Which way is the wind blowing:
The smells from nearby manufacturing plants or waste-processing
facilities may not be apparent when the wind is not blowing in a certain
direction. Visit the neighborhood on several different days to get a
Light up your life:
Do the lights of an adjacent street, business or church illuminate your
yard like a spotlight? On the flip side, are the street lights on your
block ample enough to make you feel secure at night?