Sam's Home Buying Tips

How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Mistakes Buying a New Home

Mistake No. 2 - Not Fully Checking Neighborhoods:

Taking a “Bird’s Eye” Tour

Once one or more preferred locations have been identified, it’s time to begin targeting specific neighborhoods. However, it's easy to get infatuated exploring new places to live and make the common mistake of not performing a detailed evaluation of all neighborhoods under serious consideration. This will typically require detailed street maps, a systematic drive around each neighborhood (e.g., 1 to 5 mile radius), numerous excursions out of your car to query residents, and in some cases visits to the local building department. In addition, satellite mapping now available on a number of web sites (e.g., Google Earth as well as several others that can be identified with a web search) provides the ability to take a “bird’s eye” tour above a desired area right from you computer.

Visits to the local building department are particularly important for neighborhoods bounded by undeveloped land. In these cases, it’s important to identify pending land uses that may have significant impacts, both good and bad. Potential projects of concern include land uses that generate lots of traffic (e.g., new highways, shopping malls, sports venues, etc.), and localized air pollution or noise (e.g., industrial projects, land fill sites, toxic cleanup activities and highways).

Additionally, local health factors concerning air and water quality should be considered. Although home buyers are typically restricted to specific regions, air quality can vary significantly due to micro-climate affects, prevailing winds, and adjoining land uses. In particular, neighborhoods near busy highways, military bases, land-fills, and local airports can be more adversely affected by noise, air and ground pollution. Water quality can be checked by speaking to residents, contacting local water agencies, or having water tested in neighborhoods with wells.

The ‘Neighborhood Checklist’ provided in this section can help check each neighborhood under consideration. In some cases important hidden conditions need to be uncovered (see Mistake No. 8). For example, rush-hour traffic may make neighborhood egress or access very difficult; a nearby manufacturing plant may produce highly annoying fumes only apparent when the wind blows from one direction; or undesirable views of adjoining highways or industrial activities may be exposed only during winter when trees lose their leaves.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s better than being surprised after a home purchase by an existing condition that may limit enjoyment or reduce resale value.