Buying a home is scary. If you get it wrong, there is no “let’s-return-it-for-a-refund” policy available. You don’t have 30 days to “think about it” and see if it works for your family. IF ONLY!!
10 MORE QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A HOUSE
1. ARE THERE SEX OFFENDERS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
The last thing you want is to buy a house next to a registered two doors down. Checking for sex offenders in the area isn’t something I did before buying my house, but you better believe it would be one of the first things I would do. In writing this article, I ran a search on my address and found seven registered sex offenders living within 2 miles of me, thankfully, not in my immediate neighborhood. Four of them had 3rd degree sex offenses, one had a child pornography offense, and the other two were listed as “other.” Be sure where you know where they live, and don’t buy a house near them, if possible, and certainly don’t go trick or treating near where they live. Search for sex offenders here: Criminal Watch Dog and Family Watch Dog. Just to show you what the search can reveal, I searched for sex offenders near the White House in Washington, DC, and here’s what came up! Let’s hope your prospective neighborhood search isn’t quite so colorful!
2. IS THERE RADON IN THE HOUSE?
I’m not a scientist, but let me summarize what I read on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that’s found in about 1 every 15 homes. Rock and other things break down in the ground and radon is naturally released. It’s found in lower levels outdoors, but indoors, it can be much higher. Above safe levels, it can cause lung cancer. Scary stuff!!!
Our agent recommended we get a radon test done, and sure enough, there was radon. I can’t even tell you what the level was. I was too naive to ask. But it should have been less than 4.0 PUC/L and it wasn’t. A radon remediation company installed an exhaust fan in the house, which vents outside. Afterward it must have tested below4.0 PUC/L. Although “they” (i.e. experts) say that it’s safe once the radon remediation occurs, if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have bought another house. That doesn’t mean it’s not safe now, but still…. Here’s what the radon pipe looks like in our basement. It vents to the outside, and we just have to check the vacuum levels to make sure that it’s working properly. (P.S. Don’t ask me what that weird wood thing is….Was there when we moved in!).
3. WHAT’S THE SLOPE AND LENGTH OF THE DRIVEWAY?
Do you want to shovel a long driveway in the winter at 5 a.m. before you leave for work? If not, you’re either going to have to pay someone to do it or don’t buy that house with the long driveway.
What about the slope of the driveway? If you have young kids, will they roll right into the street, or will their toys roll down the driveway into the street? While my kids love riding their scooters down the driveway and they (now) know not to go into the street, I’ve chased many of balls into the street. I’m always afraid of that slope, though…
4. HOW DO THE SCHOOLS RANK NEARBY?
Even if you don’t have small kids, how the schools rank means a lot. Because eventually you’ll sell your house, and the next buyers may have kids. If the schools suck, run. The quality of schools affect home values. When we were looking for our home, I made sure to check school rankings on GreatSchools.org and that I was buying in a good neighborhood based on elementary schools. My oldest son was starting Kindergarten soon. But even with no kids, you should buy in as good of a school district as possible.
5. ARE THE GUTTERS IN GOOD CONDITION?
Don’t just fantasize about pretty lawns and patios. Check out the gutters! Gutters are expensive home repairs! We’ve gotten quotes on them from top companies in the area, and were always quotes about $5,000, although I’m sure you could get them for $3,000. Still….that’s thousands of dollars! Do any of them look bent? If it’s raining, is water pouring over the gutters (which could mean too much water next to the foundation, which could mean water in the basement)? Are there gutter guards in place? Do they work well? Ask the sellers how well the guards work at keeping out leaves and debris. Easily backed up gutters means water pouring over the gutters–again, too much water next to the foundation. Are the downspouts in good condition? Where do the downspouts empty out the water? Is the water emptying next to the house or away from the house?
6. WHO IS DOING YOUR HOME INSPECTION?
To avoid any conflict of interest, I think that buyers should shop around for their own home inspector. Most agents will recommend a list of inspectors. That’s fine. But make sure you select your own. You want someone who will be completely impartial when doing the home inspection. I regret that I didn’t choose my own home inspector. I didn’t know anything about choosing on, even though I’m sure my agent probably recommended some. But I went with her home inspector. And honestly, I think he could have been more objective. I feel like he minimized the things that should have been red flags, like the musty smell in the basement…the mold found in the attic (that’s a whole ‘nutha post…), and things that maybe a more impartial inspector (or even more skilled, maybe?) would have warned us about. I ended up hiring another home inspector a year after we moved in, and I have to admit that that inspection seemed much more thorough (if not daunting, as well!).
7. HOW MUCH NOISE IS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
The noise you hear during the day when people are at work may be different from the noise at night. Be sure to ride by the house during the day and night so you’ll know. Same for weekdays and weekends. Is there a hospital nearby? Will ambulance drive by at 2 a.m., blaring their sirens? Is there an airport nearby and loud jets will be landing at 10 p.m., right when you’ve settled into bed? What about trains nearby? Do they blow their horns? Is there a guy that lives next door and runs his power tools at all times of the day and night? You need to know this.
8. HAVE THERE BEEN ANY NEW RENOVATIONS LATELY?
One reader said it best: no one renovates their house to sell unless they’re trying to hide something. Well, not every renovation has to be so sneaky, but you never know. Is there fresh paint in the basement, covering up water stains? Is there anything else that they’ve replaced just to sell? What’s the real story behind their renovations? Don’t just “ooh” and “ahh” over the new whatever. Ask about the renovation and why they decided to renovate now.
9. WHAT WOULD YOUR COMMUTE TO WORK BE LIKE?
Imagine finding the perfect house and telling yourself, “Well, it’s only 20 miles from work!!” But little did you know that 20 miles takes 1.5 hours on a good day? Is that acceptable for you? If you’ve found a house you really like, wake up extra early and see if you can run that morning commute around the same time you would be if you were to buy the house. What about the evening commute? Instead of going home, drive to your “new” prospective house. If you can’t stomach the commute, it’s not the house for you, no matter how “perfect” it seems.
10. HOW OLD ARE THE APPLIANCES?
This is something that a home inspector will tell you during an inspection, but here’s my advice: look for this info while you’re at the open house! Think of it this way: if you know that you’re going to have to sink $5,000 in new appliances or repairs, you may be able to adjust your offer price accordingly, or decide not to even put an offer on a house. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten so far into the process only to find out at the home inspection, “Oh. Yeah. Your appliances are old as crap and will need to be replaced as soon as you move in.” Know this info up front so that you can either walk away or be able to use that info to come up with a reasonable offer.