Years ago, I thought the same thing when I got my first apartment during my freshman year of college. My friends and I found a reasonably priced townhome in a seemingly nice neighborhood across from campus. It fit our needs perfectly both inside and out, so we signed the papers and moved in.
A year later, I couldn’t wait for my lease to expire. When the sun set, craziness ensued up and down the block at all hours of the night. I won’t go into detail about what happened, but our lovely townhome soon felt like a trap we could never leave.
Unlike a rental home or apartment, once you sign the mortgage papers, you’ll have a difficult time moving on to a new house if things don’t work out. So aside from how many bedrooms and bathrooms your new home has, also consider some of these things when narrowing down which home you might purchase.
Visit City Hall and Research Information
People want to sell their homes as quickly and for the best price they can get. While I generally think they have the best intentions, sometimes they may stretch the truth a bit. Maybe the sellers will forget to mention that your quaint little neighborhood is getting a little rezoning face-lift that will bring a new shopping supercenter – dramatically increasing traffic and noise on your street. A quick check with the city hall clerks can uncover that information.
You can also find out information about previous owners, how long the current owners have had the house and any major renovations they did on the home. That new kitchen they boasted in the sale might have been done without a proper building permit deeming it unsafe or not up to code – meaning you might have to shell out extra cash to get that work fixed.
A visit to city hall can give you some great insight when buying a home that you might not get elsewhere.
Talk to Neighbors
Every single place after my crappy townhouse, I made sure to walk around and talk to the neighbors in the area. You don’t have to go knocking on doors either. Let’s be honest, that’s a tad bit creepy. Instead, why not stop by a local store, religious establishment or park and ask a few people what they think.
I know, I know. It sounds really silly to do, but trust me no one knows a place better than someone who lives there, right? I’ve discovered valuable information about neighborhood just by chatting up the locals. You know what else; most people are more than happy to talk about where they live. People will generally share when things are really good and warn you if the area is really bad.
Visit at Various Hours
This probably hurt me the most. We visited the place we wanted to rent in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday – of course it’d be quiet then. Had we visited on a Friday or Saturday night in the summer, we would’ve got a much different impression of the area.
Before we moved into the home we live in now, my boyfriend and I stopped by several times at various times to check out the area prior to signing the papers. I will always do this from now on.
Explore the Surrounding Area
In our area, homes are clean, and it’s a nice, quiet family community. However, after you go under the freeway just a block or two away is a pretty rough neighborhood. Thankfully, the freeway separates us. Other people aren’t so lucky, and it’s right in their backyard. When you explore the neighborhood at various hours, make sure to drive around the surrounding area and check it out.
Ask Friends for Their Input
Chances are you’re in love with the last few homes on your list – meaning you don’t really have an objective view of the environment around it. Ask a friend of family member for their input. Have them drive around the area too and check the neighborhood out. If their feedback doesn’t match what you think, maybe you should re-evaluate your plans.
Buying a home is a huge commitment and you certainly don’t want to get one in an area that looks perfect on the outside but really isn’t. Dig a little bit deeper when house hunting this spring to make sure you new home fits your life holistically.
Do you have any other tips for anyone buying a home this year? Share your insight with other Zing readers!