Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Buying A House? 10 Things To Check BEFORE You Purchase
There are lots of things to consider before purchasing your first home. Smart buyers will be looking at electrical, plumbing, roof, furnace, etc. You can hire a professional home inspector but you can't hire a neighbour inspector. There are however a few easy things you can do to reduce the chance of ending up with bad neighbours.
  1. Check the lawns. I know it is shallow and not exactly fitting with the new "green" sensibilities of many folks but this is really a no-brainer. You are not looking for neighbours with golf-course perfect lawns, but for simple signs that they are well cared for. Have they been edged (should be done twice a year in spring and fall) recently? Flowers and bushes trimmed and maintained and relatively free of weeds? If there are mature trees check on their overall health. Have dead branches been removed?
  2. Seasonal Decor. If it is Fall are there displays of pumpkins, hay bales, corn stalks, etc? Hanging baskets of flowers in the summer? During the holiday season look for simple and not overdone light displays.
  3. Children. How old are your kids and how will they relate/play with their new neighbours? If you have a 10 year old and a 14 year old then you will likely get along better with neighbours with children in the same general age range. Having older kids surrounded by children still in grade school could be a recipe for conflict. Kids will be kids, so don't get turned off by some clutter. In fact, bikes scattered on a driveway and chalk drawings of hopscotch on the sidewalk are things you WANT to see (if you have kids of course).
  4. General State of Repair. Sure you will look at the condition of the roof, gutters, siding, bricks, etc. of the home you are thinking of buying but you should also review the state of repair on all neighbouring properties. A street of well maintained homes indicates not only pride of ownership but shared interests and also likely will result in rising property values (great for your investment).
  5. Traffic patterns. Its all about location location location. Observe the street during different times of the day, especially during the morning rush hour and mid-afternoon (the hour after school is out for the day).
  6. Driveways. Avoid shared driveways at all costs. They are far more common in urban areas with semi-detatched homes then in the suburbs. I've been told by more then a few Real Estate agents that shared driveways are the #1 cause of friction between neighbours. This one relates to #7... just what is parked on the driveway?
  7. Vehicles. Check for "eye sore" vehicles. Broken down or pseudo-abandoned cars on blocks are obvious but you should also be on the lookout for large cube vans or other business vehicles that neighbours may regularly park out front. Also large RV and campers. Staring at the side of a giant cube van that is blocking your view can get pretty irritating over the long term.
  8. Local Businesses. Get to know them. The idea of living in a centrally located ethnic downtown neighbourhood sounds great until you realize the quaint little Italian coffee shop on the corner morphs into a full-fledged bar on Friday nights where every Gino and Gina for 20 blocks in each direction converges to drink, talk really loud, and watch UEFA soccer.
  9. Garbage Day. Garbage should only be on the curb the night before pickup. It should also be neat and tidy. Yes it is garbage, but that is not excuse to not use a solid and sturdy container to prevent animals from dumping and creating a huge mess. On a side note. Just what is it with old mattresses? How come you never see a mattress on the curb that is just "old" and slightly worn out. People buy new mattresses every day, but the ones you see thrown out always look like they have spent the last 10 years in a Mexican bordello. Was someone really sleeping on that horrible thing the night before? Is that stain blood or sperm or both?
  10. Pets. I love dogs. I have one myself. However, you should be wary of neighbours with outdoor dogs. An outdoor dog usually means nightly barking. If a neighbour does have an outdoor dog at least look for one that looks healthy and loved and with a shelter that appears to be well maintained and clean. If there are outdoor cats in the neighbourhood be prepared to find suprises buried in your garden on occassion.

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Keli said...

Under "Pets" - I would add that should one enjoy maintaining a duty-free lawn, perhaps they should examine the nighboring lawns prior to purchase to see if local dog owners believe that dogs pooping on other people's front yards are merely exercising their right of freedom of expression.

Anonymous said...

I dont think just because one has a manicured lawn ect... makes them a good neighbor. I have a NFH that likes to out due everyone. They act as though they are the cream of the crop. That would be fine with me if that is what they want to believe. I am not in competion. Just want to enjoy what I have. However, when they make our lives including my childrens lives hell. Now, we have problems.

Anonymous said...

DH and I live in a rented dump, and it really hit me how bad this building is while reading your suggestions about what to look for before buying a home.

The neighbour downstairs is supposed to mow the lawn but she never does it; it's overgrown and weedy. The hedge in the front is a disaster as well. Aren't hedges supposed to look flat and trimmed on top? This hedge looks like a big ball of uncontrolled tumbleweed.

The neighbour has two large very dead plants in pots on her balcony to great passersby. She also has an old pink tricycle on her balcony, a mop, a broom with the handle snapped off and one or two soggy old empty cardboard boxes.

The car she drives is a rusted old station wagon that rolled off the assembly line sometime in the mid-80s. The back seat is full of loose pop cans and bottles, chocolate bar wrappers and empty potato chip bags.

Her kids aren't allowed to play in the junkyard behind the building or in the park beside this dump; they have to play their soccer games inside. Of course, they wear their street shoes and thunder around on bare hardwood floors. Our pictures shake sometimes; the youngest kid is a butterball and weighs a ton. I guess it's good that he tries to run, but I wish he'd run outside with his half-brother.

The most important thing for us was that there were no kids in any building we wanted to live in. When we moved here, the current owner's mother lived downstairs alone. She looked after the garden and we got along very well with her.

After she passed, the idiot owner let the downstairs to his friend's nephew and his girlfriend and the two kids. The nephew split up with the girlfriend, but we are still stuck with the slattern and her offspring. (Two different fathers).

She's a real piece of work. I did an internet search and found out that she made several cheap porn movies and for all I know might still be making them. She looks the part, too.

Wait till her sons are old enough to surf the net (if they have the intelligence to do it, that is)and find mammy's cinematic masterpieces. The flicks are so cheap you can download them for no charge.

The owner doesn't give a toss about this building; he's a slumlord. This building is by far the worst piece of property on our street. He claims that once his kids leave home he's going to move downstairs, but I don't believe him. His wife would never agree to move into this filthy, moldy old dump and into this crummy area.

The neighbourhood has officially died. Apart from two corner stores on the next street, we have no grocery stores, banks etc. within walking distance. All the businesses closed up and left the area. The neighbourhood died very quickly after that.

Of course, the train tracks directly behind the building don't do much for the property values. Freight trains rumble by all the time. The audio pollution when the shunters are in full gear is beyond belief. Many of the trains belch toxic black smoke.

Our street is one-way and there is non-stop traffic on it 24/7.