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-   -   What are the Not-so-Obvious Things to Research Before Buying a Home? (https://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f29/what-are-the-not-so-obvious-things-to-research-before-buying-a-home-108157.html)

Ramen 02-28-2021 02:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NateW (Post 2569308)
Thank you Ramen. You raise some good points I have not considered. This makes me feel better knowing now it's a gamble no matter what I do (I am beginning to think I've been attempting to eliminate all risk. You are right, I can't.) Renting would the pressure off finding the perfect house in the perfect location.

P.s. I have since discovered the smoking house 400 feet away has a neighbor across the street who heats solely with wood too, doubling our misery.

Once you acknowledge and accept that you cannot eliminate all risk, you can take another approach: accepting and embracing the risk.

The first home I ever bought was the only one I looked at and involved less research and deliberation than I would have done before buying a toaster. It simply felt right in my gut, so I bought it. A few years later, some neighbors decided to go off the grid and I had to listen to their generator nearly 24/7. So in the gamble of homebuying, even the best jackpots can turn sour.

My next house, the one with the smoke problem like yours, also involved a lot of intuition but also more research and due diligence. Like the first house, it was great for a while -- until the wood smoke and other issues developed.

Life is a fluid experience, subject to change at any moment, for better or worse. I just moved out of a rental that was never perfect, even from the start, but that had been getting progressively less comfortable over the past couple of years. I finally made the leap to another rental, which seems much nicer so far.

But since I know nothing is perfect and never will be perfect, I try to embrace, or at least accept, whatever might happen in the new place. The big difference now is that I'm renting, which makes it much easier to shift with the winds if necessary.

I recently considered buying again and changed my mind after doing some research. So it's not futile to do research. Just know its limits and know that ultimately whatever you learn along the way might not apply after you have bought the place and moved in. If you can accept this, you won't set yourself up for quite as much disappointment when inevitably you end up buying a less than perfect home.

If you do opt to rent for a while, I'd suggest at least a year so you can see and experience the new area in all four seasons. Maybe even live in a few Airbnb locations in the same neighborhood, switching every few months, so you can assess the place from different angles. Leave your large items in storage and be serial visitors during the trail period. Just an idea, if you're inclined to take it slowly.

FreeBear 02-28-2021 02:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Surewhitey (Post 2569216)
Some of ours are:
Don't live downhill from a non-guttered home (lots of water in the crawl space even if you have a French drain.)
Check out the noise map
Check crime map
Sex offender map
Knowing how many rentals are in the area
Maybe walking the neighborhood in the evenings?
Asking people who you see on the walk?


Great list!


Regarding water, we always pull the flood maps online. Keep in mind that these are occasionally updated, typically to ENLARGE the flood problem areas. I'd stay as far away as possible to reduce risk of an unfavorable re-classification (and potentially the need for flood insurance) or, even worse, a actual flooding in the real world.

Trulia has crime map well-integrated into their platform. Use with care. Some cities don't report data and this appears as a white blog that covers the exact city outline. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!

We always pull demographic data on the neighborhood level via City-Data and, better yet, statisticalatlas.com as in below example.

https://statisticalatlas.com/place/S...nburg/Overview

You can "profile" based on stuff that you care about. We prefer socio-economic status comparable or better than ours in terms of income. I've lived in enough neighborhoods running downhill to want to continue living that way in retirement.

We also look at school rankings, although we don't have kids, because abysmal schools often correlate with crime, at least in city and suburban neighborhoods we frequent.

We stalk the city-data forum for the area, just to get a feel for local issues. Take with lots of grains of salt, just more data. We did nix a beautiful area in CA due to city-data reports of escalating crime, backed by the crime maps. Beautiful houses were cheap for a reason!! :facepalm:

Ramen 02-28-2021 02:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by FreeBear (Post 2569451)
We stalk the city-data forum for the area, just to get a feel for local issues.

I meant to suggest this too. The "data" from forum posts can be quite subjective, of course, but if you get enough replies to a query about an area, you can put them together for a pretty good composite of pros and cons. I would do my own assessment on the ground as well, but the City Data forums are a great place to start.

Palmtree 02-28-2021 03:20 PM

This may or may not have mentioned but if you are buying in a rural area you need to find the distance to the nearist firehouse. If you are far away, your homeowners insurance can be very high.

Also, check who provides the utilities? What internet options are available?

We were shocked to find that we had NO internet options for the first couple of years.

Dash man 02-28-2021 03:31 PM

Check with the zoning office to make sure there arenít any major changes going on in the area.
When you scope out the neighborhood, be sure to check it on Friday and Saturday nights to see if there are any wild parties in the neighborhood causing noise problems. An early morning check wouldnít hurt either.
Look for potential water hazards, especially drainage. Ours was a very high water table flooding our basement twice. A second sump pump resolved the issue, but it was an expensive lesson.
Check to see if the area is prone to sinkholes. We had a rental townhouse that had the parking area sink right in front of the townhouse. The tenant didnít renew the lease. 🤨

Walt34 02-28-2021 03:33 PM

I will wholeheartedly second the advice to talk to the potential new neighbors, that has bailed me out twice. One was in a brand-new development and we were almost ready to sign a contract. On impulse, I said "Let's take a walk around and talk to some of the new owners and see what they think". Boy, did we get an earful! It turned out that the builder had apparently never seen a carpenter's square or had the foggiest what caulking was for, and was very reluctant to fix anything. We just about ran from that place. On another we found out about a "problem neighbor". At the moment I forget exactly what the issue was (long time ago) but I knew we didn't want to live near it.

On the crime level issue, in addition to the online resources I'd suggest going by the local police station and see if you can talk to a few of the officers or desk clerks. They will know the gritty details about any neighborhood. There is a lot of stuff going on in most neighborhoods that don't make the statistics that a new home buyer will want to know about. In my case, before I bought a house and did that, I had to tell the officer where it was (buried in suburban sprawl). I knew that was a good sign, because it told me they never had to go there. I was not disappointed.

Sunset 02-28-2021 03:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by USGrant1962 (Post 2569166)
..

More preferences than potential problems:

Consider what direction you want the house to face. We've come to prefer west-facing. You get the sun in the morning in the back (kitchen/family room in most houses) and the patio/deck is shaded by the house in the afternoon.

.....

West facing also means the driveway melts clear of snow faster and more often than East or North facing houses, really nice in a cold climate.

Gumby 02-28-2021 03:40 PM

Look at the zoning maps for the area, with all the overlays, in conjunction with a review of the zoning laws. In addition to knowing what you can and can't do with your property, it will also inform you what the neighbors can and can't do with theirs. Like sell to a developer who will put in apartment buildings next door to you if it is not single family only, or start up a dog breeding kennel if home businesses are permitted.

My neighborhood in the center of town was fully developed and filled in by the end of the 19th Century, and it is a designated historic district, so we can be confident that it won't change for the worse. If I were choosing again, I'd live in a place with the same restrictions.

While many people might like a little open space, there are downsides in that adverse development is possible. Who wants to buy or build a house out in the country only to see a new, cheap subdivision spring up right behind your house? So if I wanted more room, I'd look for a place that borders a state or national park, or a cemetery, or private land with a conservation easement. Basically, anything that precludes more development.

Drake3287 02-28-2021 03:42 PM

Two things and one you might laugh at but it's sincere.

1. Decide which direction you want you backyard to face, sun wise. My first house had a west facing backyard and with it came the perfect afternoon/evening weather and temperatures for entertaining and eating outdoors. My current house is in this same subdivision but unfortunately it's faces in the exact opposite so in the afternoon/early evenings it's in the shade. Maybe nice for Palm Springs but generally not everywhere else.

2. Stop at a local store and buy a half gallon of ice cream or cookies and go to the nearest Fire Station in the area your looking at. Ask the Firefighters for their honest opinion of the area your looking at while at the same time asking questions about this and that. You'll totally break the ice with the goodies and these guys will give you the straight scoop. Sounds ridiculous but as a Firefighter it's the real deal and these guys will be more honest than a realtor. You'd be surprised how often this type of thing happens.

Sunset 02-28-2021 03:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Surewhitey (Post 2569216)
Some of ours are:
Don't live downhill from a non-guttered home (lots of water in the crawl space even if you have a French drain.)
Check out the noise map
Check crime map
Sex offender map
Knowing how many rentals are in the area
Maybe walking the neighborhood in the evenings?
Asking people who you see on the walk?

Good list, we could have possibly benefited from seeing when we bought.

Turns out our next door neighbor is a sex offender, so we DON'T socialize.

I'd add to look on maps for Super Sites.
We nearly bought a house near a Super Site, and a few years later there was news items of gas entering the peoples houses, and disease clusters. :o

Walt34 02-28-2021 03:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gumby (Post 2569474)
While many people might like a little open space, there are downsides in that adverse development is possible. Who wants to buy or build a house out in the country only to see a new, cheap subdivision spring up right behind your house? So if I wanted more room, I'd look for a place that borders a state or national park, or a cemetery, or private land with a conservation easement. Basically, anything that precludes more development.

+1

I learned this too, but got the lesson relatively easily. My first wife and I almost bought a new house that we abandoned because of other issues (see above post). Three years later, the nice cornfield a block away was filled with new Section Eight housing. My experience at work was that if anything of any value was left outside, like bicycles, gas grills, and the like in such an area you could pretty much count on it being gone by morning.

Our current house has a nice open area behind us, on the other side of a creek, normally used by grazing cows. They're pretty quiet. About two times a year that nice open area becomes a flood plain so we are confident that it won't be built on, at least not in our lifetimes. The salesman had told us about the flood plain but I went up to the County Planning Office anyway and verified before accepting it.

qwerty3656 02-28-2021 04:18 PM

We lived in a beautiful home that we loved, it just happened to be in line with approach for the airport. We weren't anywhere near the airport, but every 5-7 minutes an airplane would be flying overhead (and they started their decent much further away from the airport than you would think).

USGrant1962 02-28-2021 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by qwerty3656 (Post 2569499)
We lived in a beautiful home that we loved, it just happened to be in line with approach for the airport. We weren't anywhere near the airport, but every 5-7 minutes an airplane would be flying overhead (and they started their decent much further away from the airport than you would think).

When I was a kid our house was on the approach to an Army base with Chinook helicopters. They would rattle the dishes when they went over.

FreeBear 02-28-2021 04:53 PM

Loving this thread! Never thought about looking up the zoning map, but I guess I do this indirectly. We tend to buy "inner" units in subdivisions so that are neighbors are somewhat of a "known evil", hopefully better. On the other hand, friends down the street bought an "edge" home a decade ago. So far, no adjacent subdivision has popped up and no gas station or minimart. They have enjoyed a beautiful mountain view over the empty space for a decade and counting. It helps to be lucky!


Just looked at the sex offender map, something I did do before moving in. Dodged the bullet, no trouble near us! Looks like the sex offender map is roughly correlated to the overall crime map, which, in turn, seems loosely related to median income and other socioeconomic markers.

Walt34 02-28-2021 05:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by qwerty3656 (Post 2569499)
We lived in a beautiful home that we loved, it just happened to be in line with approach for the airport.

One of DW's cousins owns a house very close to the Potomac River in MD just a few miles northwest of D.C.'s airport. The airliners all follow the Potomac River into and out of D.C. During a couple of family gatherings there I noticed that it was virtually impossible to hold a normal conversation in the back yard. You have to pause every few minutes for an airliner to go by before resuming. I couldn't stand living there.

braumeister 02-28-2021 05:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by USGrant1962 (Post 2569519)
When I was a kid our house was on the approach to an Army base with Chinook helicopters. They would rattle the dishes when they went over.

Most Air Force bases get noise complaints all the time from new residents about jets flying over their neighborhood. The standard response is "That's the sound of freedom, sir!" :laugh:

braumeister 02-28-2021 05:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Walt34 (Post 2569534)
it was virtually impossible to hold a normal conversation in the back yard. You have to pause every few minutes for an airliner to go by before resuming. I couldn't stand living there.

The house I grew up in was right under the primary approach to JFK airport in NYC (it was called Idlewild at the time). A plane typically went over about every 15 seconds in the evening, and the TV screen went to snow with garbled sound for 5-6 seconds every time. Believe it or not, we got so used to it we didn't even notice. But any visitors would go nuts and ask how we could possibly stand it.

Out of Steam 02-28-2021 06:23 PM

There will always be surprises in buying a house. We moved in 2019, and I think we did our homework, but have had several surprises. None are particularly serious as of now.

1. In house types and sizes, as well as lot size, our new neighborhood looks quite similar to our old one. I think we assumed that the residents would be more similar than they have turned out to be. This may limit our opportunities to make friends among immediate neighbors.

2. The lot has a small slope, with the back downhill of the front and sloping steadily to a small creek. I assumed it would be enough to leave it well drained. After a rainy stretch, the back half of the backyard is almost unwalkable.

3. I have a long-term concern about the county and state's commitment to preserving older neighborhoods such as ours, as opposed to favoring new suburbs. This seems to show up in local infrastructure. On the other hand, we do have a new elementary school.

Out of Steam 02-28-2021 06:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Drake3287 (Post 2569475)
Two things and one you might laugh at but it's sincere.

1. Decide which direction you want you backyard to face, sun wise. My first house had a west facing backyard and with it came the perfect afternoon/evening weather and temperatures for entertaining and eating outdoors.

We've moved from a ranch house with the front door facing north to one facing east. Definitely prefer the east-west orientation. We have a long season where we can use our covered, west-facing patio.

rk911 02-28-2021 06:39 PM

buy acreage...my buddy had 40-acres.

two of the things we checked when we were looking to move were restrictive ordinances ( we would never consider an HOA) for radio towers and RV parking.


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