Avoiding New Home Surprises
By Steve Gillman - 2008
How would you like to buy a new home only to discover that
snakes are regular visitors in the kitchen? Or move into a house
with a leaky roof that probably leaked long before you got there?
Or hire long distance movers and discover that you picked the
worst neighborhood in town - after you bought your home?
Unpleasant surprises may be a normal part of buying a new
home, but they don't have to be. Here are some ways to learn
about the house, the neighborhood and the town you are moving
to - before you sign that contract.
Learning About the Town
A quick Google search will usually lead you to a chamber of
commerce site or official city site. Just search by city and
state (Tucson Arizona). Of course these are sites that are "selling"
the town. To get a better feel for the good and the bad, find
a local newspaper online. While you're there you can check the
classified advertising section to get an idea about home prices.
For detailed statistics on a town, try www.city-data.com.
This site covers almost every city in the U.S. Simply click on
a state on their map, then find the city you want on the list.
There are more statistics than you can possibly use: Population,
average income, crime statistics, maps, photos and links to more
For climate information on almost every city in the U.S.,
visit www.weatherbase.com and click on a state, then find the
city you want. You can see how many inches of rain or snow they
get each year, how hot or cold it gets, etc. There is also a
link to a current weather forecast.
Call a real estate agent or somebody from the Chamber of Commerce.
Phone numbers can be found on realtor.com and Chamber of Commerce
sites. Before you call, make a list of questions, so you don't
forget anything. Ask about stores, libraries, jobs, crime and
anything else. Asking, "Do you own a snow shovel?"
helped narrow our search before we moved to Tucson, Arizona.
Your New Neighborhood
While you have a local realtor or city official on the phone,
ask about neighborhoods. They may not want to label areas as
"good" or "bad." In that case, ask more specific
questions, like where older parts of town are, and where rental
units are found. Listen, and read between the lines to learn
where you might want to live.
If you visit the town before buying a house there, visit a
good local bar to do research. People there will tell you which
big employers are about to move in or out of the town, how fast
homes are selling, whether there are criminal gangs, and more.
Verify what you hear, since people will sometimes exaggerate.
Choose a bar that has customers who are most like you (income
level, interests, etc.), to get the most relevant information.
Driving around town will help you get a good feel for where
you might want to live. Take notes, and stop to ask questions
when you see people out in their yards.
Your New Home
Sites like www.Realtor.com have a lot of information on the
homes listed there. The thing they won't mention, like whether
the house is in an area that has scorpions or street flooding,
can also be found online. Do a Google search for the name of
the town and "forum." If there is one, sign up (they
are almost always free), read the posts there, and ask about
the specific area you are thinking of. Somebody will usually
respond. (It was in a community forum where we discovered that
a good cat will take care of scorpions.)
Once you have an idea of the problems which may be associated
with a given neighborhood, you know what to ask when you are
looking at houses there. When you are being shown a house, it
is a good idea to carry a home inspection checklist with you,
and work your way through it as you look over your new home.
Take notes and pass them on to the professional inspector once
you make an offer.
Once you are pretty sure you like a house, walk around the
block. Try to find a person or two out in their yards, and talk
to them. They can tell you about any noisy neighbors, recent
crime and other interesting news and information.
Take the precautions above and you shouldn't have too many
unpleasant surprises after moving into your new home.