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Buying A House - Things To Investigate/Ask

Updated on July 10, 2013
Lisa HW profile image

"Lisa" , a "social sciences enthusiast" and Mom of three grown kids, writes from personal experience/exposure and/or past research


The Home Inspection and Beyond


A home inspection should include looking for problems in the home's foundation, frame, and roof. The heat, air conditioning, and plumbing systems should also be inspected for any number of potential problems. An inspection of the home's interior, basement, and crawl spaces can reveal a number of problems. Inspecting the garage and its floor should be part of the process as well. The grounds around the home should also be inspected. Finally, the grounds around the home are inspected.

What the home inspector is looking for are signs of uneven settlling, cracks in the foundation, leaks, rot, termites or other infestations, unstable area, signs of damage, signs of conditions that will eventually result in damage, and conditions on the grounds that could lead to problems (such as improper drainage); and problems with any of many working parts of the heating, air conditioning, and plumbing systems.

Environmental testing for asbestos, lead, radon, mold, and mildew are something the potential home-buyer should ask about.

New homes, too, should be inspected for problems relating to inferior workmanship, design flaws, and other problems associated with recently build homes.

A home inspection must, of course, be performed by someone licensed to do this work.


While the home inspector is the person to scour the home for problems with areas noted above, there are questions to which the potential buyer should have the answers (or should at least consider) before moving forward. Those questions relate not just to home, but to the neighborhood and surrounding area.

1. Are there any bodies of water within walking distance (say, just through the woods)?

Bodies of water aren't just a risk for children. They have the potential of flooding. They are also breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Find out how often, if ever, they have flooded the area. Ask, too, if there are any creeks or drainage ponds that appear dry in Autumn but become full in Spring.

2. Are there railroad tracks anywhere near the neighborhood. Railroads nearby make for a noisy home life. As with bodies of water, they can attract the interest of children. Passing trains means the potential of dropping off questionable people who have hitched rides, so there can be at least some increased risk of transient criminals.

3. Railroads are often a sign that there is industry nearby. Industry that is just on the other side of the woods may not be far enough way, depending on the industry. Industry has been known to contaminate water and soil. Some industry poses risk of large explosion. Where there is industry there is also morning and evening traffic, as well people who don't live in the community.

4. Are there power lines anywhere nearby? In addition to potential hazards that could be associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields, power lines can mean property easements that will allow for work and inspection of the lines.

5. Does a highway run nearby? Are there ramps nearby? Aside from any noise a nearby highway could generate, there are also issues of accessibility of highways to school-aged kids (particularly, again, curious boys). Ramps will cause increased traffic.

6. In addition to finding out if highways are nearby, consider the traffic on adjacent and parallel streets, even if those streets are blocked by small stretches of woods. Young children and pets can, and do, make their way to other streets from time to time.

7. Ask what stores, malls, or other business establishments (strip joints? bars?) are nearby. You may see some shopping as an advantage. Other establishments could present problems for you.

8. Are there parks or school yards nearby? This can be both a good thing and a bad thing, but knowing whether they are in the area can help you decide. Ask if these are places where lots of families spend afternoons or if they are quiet most of the time. Ask if kids are allowed to congregate there at night.

9. How high or low and wet or dry is the general area? While there are always homes that are vulnerable to basement moisture and flooding when neighborhood homes may not be, there are neighborhoods where the home that doesn't flood is the exception.

10. How good are the schools in the area?

11. Is there a college in the area? That isn't always a good thing.

12. Is there a prison in the area?

13. Is there a mental health facility, rehab facility, or any type of group home in the area; and what are any potential risks?

14. Is there a gun club in the area?

15. What wildlife roams the area and how often does it show up?

16. Is there a dump in the area? Has there been one in the past?

After considering the neighborhood's "neighborhood" you can then consider the neighborhood, itself:

17. While the most appealing neighborhoods are those where all the homes are impeccably kept, it is important to keep in mind that streets that have more houses are more likely to have a few houses that look run down. In other words, don't reject a neighborhood because one house doesn't look beautiful. Size it up? Is it neglected, or does it have bizarre items around the yard? Ask who lives there. Is it an elderly lady who is waiting for her son to paint and mow the lawn? Is it a young couple who don't have much money? Is it a group of college students or, worse, a group of unrelated individuals who have unusual comings and goings?

18. Ask if anyone has experienced needing the local fire department or ambulance service, and how quick the response was.

19. Ask how well the city or town repairs road problems and how well snow removal is handled for the particular neighborhood.

20. Find out if there are parking problems or issues for residents.

21. How much traffic passes through each day?

22. Get a reading on the general population of the neighborhood. Is it one of mostly young people, mostly young families, mostly middle-aged families, or mostly elderly couples? Is there a mix? Do you have a preference?

23. If the street is long take a long at the entire street - not just the end where the house you're considering is. (I knew someone who bought a beautiful antique home on a lovely country road - only to discover that at the far end of her street there was a house that was a club for some questionable individuals.)

24. Ask about how many houses have basement moisture problems and/or water problems. In a neighborhood full of sump pumps and hoses, it doesn't take much for a house with a dry basement today to become one with a wet basement tomorrow - unless, of course, the house is situated on substantially higher ground.

25. If there are woods surrounding the area find out the chances those woods will be cut down to make room for more homes (or worse, retail and office condos). Ask who owns what land and whether zoning would allow for building, should owners sell all or part of the land.

26. Check the sex offender registry for the neighborhood. Neighborhoods can change, and anyone who has looked at sex offender registries will tell you that most towns and cities have a number of them. Still, it makes sense to check for particularly worrisome offenders and their proximity to the neighborhood you're considering calling, "home".


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    • AllSuretyBonds profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article! You have a lot of great information if you are considering buying a new home. Great tips and advice! Voting you up!

    • chbartel profile image


      9 years ago from Indianapolis, IN

      a lot of great information here if you are looking to buy a home and move to another city or state.

    • Anita Koppens profile image

      Anita Koppens 

      10 years ago

      That's a pretty exhaustive list of the things to consider before buying a new home. You've covered every angle, even some that I wouldn't have though of, thanks for sharing your insights.

    • claydejesus profile image


      10 years ago from CA, USA

      Hey, this is a great tips on house buying, thank for your sharing!

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Jim, thanks. (I don't know about where you live, but where I live the houses don't really look like that picture - not that I thought you think they do. LOL )

    • awsydney profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hey Lisa, these are really great tips and advice. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      wendypolisi, thank you for your kind comment. The "gun-club" thing came from my own experience of looking at an absolutely beautiful new home in the proverbial "wooded setting", only to discover that there was a gun club just on the other side of those trees (which weren't so much "woods" as a "grove of trees").

    • wendypolisi profile image


      10 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Lisa, I have been in real estate for years and have to say, this is a really amazing list. As a mom, you have pointed out many things that I think most people overlook. (sex registry, gun club...) A great resource!

    • Lisa HW profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa HW 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      realestateuk, thanks. My husband and I once completed what was then the state's "broker's license" course, just because we thought it would be interesting; but I think a lot of the suggestions I made are more "coming from" my having had and raised children, and knowing how important a nice, low-crime-rate, area is for families.

    • realestateuk profile image


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Good post. Parents and people who want to live a quietly efficient life would certainly make use of your article's insights. Your essentially advice is a nice one: "Make sure your house is sturdy and the neighborhood a safe one, populated by good people." As someone into real estate, I appreciate where you're coming from.

    • profile image

      Adele Whitney 

      11 years ago

      Thanks -- this was Very Helpful!!


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