Things To Consider
Items Prospective Homeowners Overlook When Researching a Home
Governmental authority: Is the house within the city or town you think it is? Don't be so sure. You may think you know, but if you're one street outside the boundary, you could be in for a shock. Different municipalities mean different laws, zoning, police and fire protection, water supply, trash and sewer services -- or none of the above.
Nearby zoning: A big-box mega-store or shopping center may be penciled in for that nice vacant corner lot down the block where kids are now playing ball. Buyers in both new and established subdivisions have been stunned to discover that a long-fallow commercially zoned lot will soon give way to a high-traffic, 24-hour-a-day retail site, with frequent truck visits and too-bright lights. Use a buyer's real estate agent and ask for details about nearby non-residential zoning and what could be built on it. Check with the city planning department or zoning board to determine what uses are allowable on the land.
Homeowner associations: Is there a neighborhood association? If so, is that desirable for you? There may be dues to pay and required memberships in social or athletic clubs. Also, the powers of these associations vary greatly. Make sure you get a full written set of the documents, rules and regulations. Again, talk with other residents to find out how strictly or laxly the rules are enforced and whether that fits your personal philosophy. The positive trade-offs are more consistent code compliance and a more cooperative atmosphere. But there may be restrictions you don't agree with.
Safety/crime: Sometimes, sellers are escaping from escalating crime or the presence of a sex offender or other unsavory elements in the neighborhood. In most states, an agent has no legal obligation to disclose to a potential buyer that a sex offender or other convicted criminal lives nearby. For links to listings of registered sex offenders in your community, go to the FBI's state sex offender registry or call your local law-enforcement agency for a local report. Your law-enforcement agency can also provide you with crime statistics in your targeted neighborhood. Most have some kind of crime-analysis or crime-prevention unit. Ask how frequent break-ins and car thefts are in your area or ZIP code and where the trouble spots are.
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