While your Solutions agent is going to provide you with all the available details on the home you are purchasing, there are a few items that cannot be shared as there are Fair Housing laws that any agent must respect.
We talked about checking out a neighborhood in a previous blog, but now is the time to dig a little deeper if you want to find out answers to questions your Solutions agent is not able to answer because of Fair Housing. One of the best ways to find out about a home and area is to ask neighbors.
Driving through a neighborhood at different times of day is a great way to see how busy the roads get, how many people are outside playing, chatting or walking.
But, how do you find out the real story?
It’s as easy as striking up a conversation with your potential new neighbors. Everyone has questions they would love to ask neighbors in the area before deciding if the house is right for them, and only you will know what those questions and answers should be.
By checking out how neighboring activities, schools and people will fit with your lifestyle — even if the potential home has the amenities of your dreams – you can go a long way to figuring out how happy you will be there.
As you walk the neighborhood, prepare yourself with a few questions to ask neighbors. You are certain to find out some useful information as you meet and greet potential new friends on the block.
Ask about the house
Neighbors often have better insight into the history of the home and its surroundings than your Solutions agent. A house can look great and pass all of the usual inspections, but some faults may not show up. Neighbors may know if the house you want suffers from hidden problems.
Did the previous owner put in french drains to address roof and gutter problems. Did they put a sump pump in the basement after a particularly bad storm revealed flooding issues? Neighbors might clue you into such points that the seller “forgot” to mention.
Alternatively, if all of the neighbors had tree roots damage their water pipes or know of a city or county project that will be digging up the neighborhood in a few months, you will know to get your home checked for similar problems, and won’t be surprised at construction traffic starting at7 am.
Learning more about the condition of the house and why the sellers are selling may put you in a better bargaining position when it comes to making an offer.
Check out the neighborhood vibe
Because you will be new to the neighborhood, ask about local amenities. Where is the best coffee shop, dentist or doctor, hair stylist, etc.? Do they know of any house cleaners or dog walkers? How would they rate the local church, mosque, synagogue? Where do people in the neighborhood go for fun and to exercise?
In addition to getting a feel for the available amenities, also ask about neighborly activities and whether people get along. Is there a neighborhood committee? Are there regular gatherings? Do neighbors share parking spaces, responsibilities or favors?
Neighbors, for instance, might take turn trimming hedges and trees on the property line. While legal documents might dictate these shared responsibilities, you also may find out about handshake agreements and determine whether you want to continue with the favors.
As you assess the neighbors, think about how long you hope to live in the home and whether you’ll be comfortable living next door for that long. A great neighbor can be wonderful, as neighbors often become good friends for life. However, an aggressive, noisy or uncooperative neighbor can make your life miserable.
Is it kid-friendly?
The neighborhood affects children, too. If you have kids, it’s important to ask about crime and safety, schools, as well as whether there are plenty of things to keep them occupied. Neighbors can tell you whether there has been any criminal activity or loitering at night, even if such activity doesn’t show up on police reports. In addition, while the home listing might note local schools, it’s important to verify with neighbors where school district lines lie.
Consider what child-friendly activities exist, such whether there are reliable, local babysitters, good after school clubs, math tutors and summer day camps nearby.
It’s important to ask yourself whether neighbors will have a positive influence on your children during their interactions—they’ll see them much of their lives.
Rate your experience
Was your meeting with the neighborhood positive? Hopefully getting to know the neighbors was a pleasant event. You can confirm that the house really is for you and make a few lifelong friends in the process – definitely making it worth taking the time to ask a few questions at the beginning of your house hunting process.