6 Ways to Uncover the Truth About Your New Home—Before It’s Too Late


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Congratulations, you’ve found your dream home! Or have you?

You set up appointments to visit your potential new home more times than you can count (you’re secretly wondering if your agent is going to change her number). You did so many drive-bys, your would-be neighbors are getting nervous. You took endless video of every room inside, and you measured all the spaces so you can start doing some late-night obsessive-compulsive furniture shopping. You’ve done all your due diligence, right?

We hate to break it to you, but maybe not.

There are a few more things to look out for—a few nagging annoyances that you might not notice right away but, unchecked, could eat at your soul day and night. Certainly, not all of the issues are deal breakers. But given the choice between dealing with them now or eventually becoming a bit too familiar with that bar on your (soon-to-be) new corner as you mull over what might have been, you might want to choose the former. Deal with the extra-fine details now!

Here’s how to make extra sure your new home won’t drive you crazy.

Drive by at night

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before (spoiler alert: You have!). Because it’s really,really good advice. A lot of basic but important questions (Is there a streetlight shining directly in my window? Do the neighbors throw late-night 80s hair metal parties?) can be answered with a quick after-hours drive-by (or two). Yeah, we know you’re already doing them during the day. Do them at night too—on the weekend as well as a weeknight.

“Find out what kind of noise levels there are before making your final decision,” saysAmy Cook, a San Diego Realtor®.

Do not skip this step: Discovering these problems after closing could give you an endless headaches.Like, real ones—migraines that won’t go away.

Take a walk and ask lots of questions

To be truly thorough, you need to get out of the car and hit the pavement. Repeatedly.

“If you really want to learn about the neighborhood and find out all the gossip, good and bad, walk around the neighborhood meeting people and asking them questions,” says Fort Collins, CO, Realtor® Angie Spangler.

Of course, this strategy works best if your neighborhood is sociable; in a suburban neighborhood without sidewalks or much daytime activity, you might not learn much (and you might freak people out a bit). Some moderation is key. And if things are tooquiet, maybe this hood isn’t for you. Or maybe it’s perfect. Some shoe leather reporting will give you a better indication of how you’ll fit in.

Understand the zoning

If there’s one thing that can prevent surprise heartaches, it’s understanding the neighborhood’s zoning laws.

Even if there are no restaurants or bars nearby today, commercial zoning allows their presence, meaning you might be right behind a noisy club five years down the line. Is your potential new home in a designated historic district? That can affect future renovation plans. In a mixed-use district? Some people don’t mind having shops and restaurants just around the corner, but you know best if that “some people” is you.

Spangler recalls selling a home to a couple a few blocks from what’s now Fort Collins’ Old Town—a raucous strip of retail shops and bars.

“They were upset that there’s commercial going in all around them,” she says. “I took for granted they had a good understanding of what to expect.”

Consult with the city’s departments

Speaking with your city’s planning, water management, and police departments can uncover vital information about your potential home—such as its flood hazard, which you may not notice in the dry season but can put your home at risk when it rains.

How close are you to emergency services and what’s the average response time? Is there a big commercial project underway nearby that could increase traffic? Do the crime statistics concern you?

Scope out social media resources

Apps such as Nextdoor help you keep an eye on the neighborhood and can be a valuable resource before moving in. Scour other apps and online resources, join local Facebook groups, and sign up for neighborhood email lists to find out the most common complaints and concerns of your new neighbors.

Pay attention to nearby homes

If you don’t have a trained real estate eye, it might be easy to overlook your neighbor’s unmowed lawn—but ignoring it might mean missing a vital clue to the area’s health and upkeep.

“As a real estate agent, it’s easy for me to identify the properties that are rentals or show lack of upkeep,” Spangler says.

If houses in the neighborhood aren’t well-cared for, it could affect property values down the line. Caveat Emptor. And that means you.