Sam's Home Buying Tips

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 critical concerns.

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.