How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Mistakes Buying a New Home
Mistake No. 3 – Not Fully Checking the Site:
Dream Property or Maintenance Hell?
That first drive up to a prospective property is an emotional experience. And
where there’s an immediate connection, it’s a common mistake to look past many
important site conditions affecting the maintenance and use of the property. In
fact, many features that are so attractive in the first place (e.g., long
private drive, beautiful swimming pool, large lot with plenty of trees) can wind
up to becoming a maintenance nightmare or distracting attention from other
Fully checking a site is an important but tricky process. For example, consider
one of the most important factors home buyers value, sites with large mature
trees. The obvious benefits are the natural beauty, increased property value,
and desirable shade during hot summer days. However, the picture is very
incomplete without considering many negative characteristics associated with
different tree species. Many trees with shallow roots make lawn maintenance a
constant problem and are prone to toppling during windy or prolonged wet
conditions. Trees with undesirable droppings (i.e., olives, walnut pods, etc.)
can be a major nuisance because it’s easy to stain inside floor coverings with
residue carried on shoes. Fruit trees often require a lot more maintenance,
particularly where they drop undesirable or too much fruit. In addition, fruit
and nut trees also attract a wide variety of wild animals and rodents seeking
their bounty. For example, birds eating cherries and squirrels eating nuts and
fruit drop remains all around a site for months and can cause other damage
seeking shelter in and around a home during cold weather. Many trees have a
tendency to drop weak limbs (e.g., oak trees) that could be dangerous to
children playing in the yard. Where trees grow too close to homes, they can
block desired daylight, and their roots can also damage foundations, sewer
lines, and utility connections. Trees nearing the end of their natural life
spans or in bad health need to be checked because they are a safety concern and
removal is very costly.
This detailed discussion of trees is intended to show how a site factor
initially considered to be an attribute can quickly become a liability. In this
spirit, the ‘Site Checklist’ included in this section helps you consistently
assess nine important evaluation factors for each site under consideration.
Where possible, sites under serious consideration should be visited under a
variety of conditions that can reveal hidden liabilities (see Mistake No. 8).
How difficult is access during adverse weather? How badly does water accumulate
after heavy rainfalls? How badly do autumn leaves fill gutters and how
accessible are they for cleaning?
Many specific site concerns uncovered will need the help of expert opinions to
fully assess (see Mistake No. 9). For example, a landscape expert can check the
health of trees, lawn and shrubs that appear stressed and explain relevant
maintenance and safety factors; and a civil engineer can evaluate any potential
drainage or erosion concerns.
Always keep in mind, the most important objective after you see your dream
property is to scrutinize what it really takes to keep it that way and to ensure
that it will meet all your expectations.