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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)

NateW 02-28-2021 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by Accidental Retiree (Post 2569151)
....Also, when we were looking to move into a new neighborhood, I went into the Costco, the mall(s), and the nearby grocery stores to see whether Iíd want to shop there. If I didnít like the local stores Iíd be using, that had a bearing on whether Iíd want to buy in that neighborhood.

Good idea, I'll add this to my list, thanks.

NateW 02-28-2021 08:45 PM


Originally Posted by USGrant1962 (Post 2569166)
While looking at maps for airports - also consider active railroads.....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.

Good point about railroads. When I was a kid I'd visit my grandfather and he lived half a block from the RF&P mainline. That was enough to convince me that 2 miles would be about right for the minimum distance to a railroad.

I never thought about the orientation of the house as being something to consider, but you are correct, it is. DW can't stand how the morning sun blinds her when sitting on the sofa and likewise in the afternoon in the office. Ours faces east, but that's about to change.

NateW 02-28-2021 09:00 PM


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?

Thanks Surewhitey, I'm adding these to my list.

NateW 02-28-2021 09:21 PM


Originally Posted by SnowballCamper (Post 2569303)
Good Luck. We've got a neighbor that burns wet wood, not yet annoying enough to make us move though. If we ever do move it will be either to a place in the country where we can't see or smell our neighbors, or maybe a retirement community.

The valley we live in makes our issue worse than it normally would be (about half of the winter days have inversion layers where the air is dead still, especially at night).

We thought about retirement communities, and probably should visit one to satisfy our curiosity, but I think I would go nuts in one because I do all our home maintenance and yardwork (the ones we saw online included exterior maintenance and yard work for a monthly fee). The small lots that many have don't appeal to me. In about 10 years I may have a change of mind, though.

NateW 02-28-2021 09:40 PM


Originally Posted by Ramen (Post 2569424)
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.

Thanks again Ramen; very sound advice. Up until this point following my ER, I've been trying to find the "perfect" home and location for retirement. I also was thinking along the lines that this time I need to try harder. I'm coming to realize this is futile and your sound advice puts my mind at ease. I also need to keep in mind that being ER'ed puts me and DW in a much better position to locate a good home and to enjoy life. I should also keep in mind how fortunate we truly are not having to wo*k to pay the bills. I forget these things sometimes.

NateW 02-28-2021 09:54 PM


Originally Posted by savory (Post 2569318)
Lots of good stuff here. A couple of ours, I did not see mentioned. We once has a cookie cutter house built in a new subdivision and missed the electric lines in the backyard. They can get loud and we were concerned if there was a health issue.

The other is the ability to walk and bike vs using our car all the time. Not having sidewalks is a deal breaker. We like the concept of the 15 minute city. Can you get to the things you need most within 15 minutes. We measure this by biking and walking.

Now that you mention it, a large percentage of the houses we have looked at online are in neighborhoods without sidewalks. And these are 2005 and newer $400k to $500k houses. Sidewalks are important to me too, but I never really gave it much thought.

I agree with you on the need to not live near to high voltage power/transmission lines. I didn't know they could be noisy, though.

NateW 02-28-2021 10:06 PM


Originally Posted by FreeBear (Post 2569451)
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.


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:

Thank you FreeBear; I really appreciate the Statistical Atlas link. That'll be useful. I do download the FEMA flood maps. I'll look at the Trulia crime maps; I was not aware of those.

NateW 02-28-2021 10:09 PM


Originally Posted by Palmtree (Post 2569464)
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.

Thank you Palmtree; excellent pointers. I've added them to my list.

NateW 02-28-2021 10:17 PM


Originally Posted by Dash man (Post 2569469)
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. 🤨

Thank you Dash man, I have added these to my list.

NateW 02-28-2021 10:22 PM


Originally Posted by Walt34 (Post 2569470)
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.

Thank you Walt34. I've added "contact local police department regarding crime in the potential new neighborhood.

NateW 02-28-2021 10:27 PM


Originally Posted by Sunset (Post 2569471)
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.

Thanks Sunset, good point. Ours faces east, but that's about to change.

Out of Steam 02-28-2021 11:03 PM


Originally Posted by NateW (Post 2569607)
Good point about railroads. When I was a kid I'd visit my grandfather and he lived half a block from the RF&P mainline. That was enough to convince me that 2 miles would be about right for the minimum distance to a railroad.

Depends on how much train traffic. We're just less than that away from a track that has four short freight trains a day. We can hear them, but they have no real impact on our lives.

That is a very realistic minimum for a set of mainline tracks, though.

rk911 03-01-2021 12:30 AM


Originally Posted by braumeister (Post 2569536)
...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.

i believe it. the UPRR tracks are 125í +/- from our rear deck. we love the house. the view from the deck is a federally protected wetland. the house is on a U-shaped 3-street neighborhood so the only traffic are residents, people coming to see them or people who made a wrong turn. our house is on a corner and is set back much, much farther from the street than our neighbors. oak trees galore on our lot and the adjoining lots. the only downside are the RR tracks. but after 33-years we hardly notice them but it can be amusing to see the reaction to folks who arenít used to trains.

Blue531 03-01-2021 04:22 AM

What I am about to say isn't something to research but it's something that I didn't give much thought to when I purchased a home but wish I had in retrospect. We get so excited when we are buying but we often don't realize that we have more leverage that we think. The reason being is that most of the time when we are buying, we don't have to buy but the seller is usually under pressure to sell. Not always, I know but think about it, the seller is selling for a reason. It's a big decision to sell so by the time they do, they're ready to go. Maybe to a new job in another state. Maybe to a bigger house because they need more room. Or maybe someone died and the heirs need to sell. The buyer has the advantage most of the time to get a better price. Try not to overlook that due to excitement over the new purchase.

Music Lover 03-01-2021 09:07 AM


Originally Posted by Sunset (Post 2569471)
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.

I have a SE facing house in a very cold climate. It's nice to have the sun shining into the living room on a cold day....and in summer the hot sun later in the day has moved past the window so it doesn't heat the house up as much. However, many people in hot climates may prefer a north facing living room.

Orientation is also a factor when designing outdoor spaces. If the only place you can build a deck or patio is on the south it can be unusable in the summer without built in shade.

NateW 03-01-2021 09:36 AM


Originally Posted by Gumby (Post 2569474)
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...

Thank you Gumby; I've added this to my list.

Along these lines, a couple days ago DW Googled the name of a neighborhood of a house we were interested in seeing. The search returned an article that said the home builder in this neighborhood had received approval to add 200 more homes (there are about 75 now) and work will begin in the fall. That cooled our interest!

NateW 03-01-2021 09:54 AM


Originally Posted by Drake3287 (Post 2569475)
...?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.

I never would have thought of this, very clever. Added to my list, thanks!

NateW 03-01-2021 10:05 AM


Originally Posted by Sunset (Post 2569477)
.....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

Very good advice. I actually did this when over the summer I accidentally discovered (I was looking on the County real estate assessments site to see if our increase was inline with houses around us) several houses in a row on our street (ours was in the middle) changed ownership within the last 2 years.

In the town where I grew up there was a 30 plus storage tank petroleum products distribution terminal. It was several miles from our house. Residents living next to the tank farm (happened to be a very upscale neighborhood) began smelling gasoline and diesel fumes in their basements and then upper levels. The storage tanks were leaking their contents. That was one big superfund site and just about bankrupted the terminal operator!

NateW 03-01-2021 10:16 AM


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).

Here is a link to the (unofficial) pilots' map (aeronautical charts) of the United States that identifies all known airports and other hazardous areas. I still am learning how to read it.

VFRMAP - Digital Aeronautical Charts

NateW 03-01-2021 10:29 AM


Originally Posted by Walt34 (Post 2569534)
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.

I can identify. When I wo*led, we lived in Northern Virginia, 16+ miles south of Reagan National Airport. Not as bad as you describe, but bad enough on certain days. Then at some point several years ago, the FAA allowed National Airport air traffic to approach more directly over the local neighborhoods and ours was one of them. It got more annoying after that!

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