Buying A House - Things To Investigate/Ask
The Home Inspection and Beyond
THE HOME INSPECTION
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.
BEYOND THE HOME INSPECTION
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".