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Real Estate Buyers: Looking Beyond The Home For Sale

May 3, 2008
Sure, when you look at a house, it's important to factor in things like its room count and condition, the style of the kitchen or the bathroom, and the size of the house or rooms, but there is much more to consider before buying a house.

In fact, there is so much to think about, it's very easy to overlook this and that. Typically you start to notice problems and nuisances after you've already purchased and moved into the home!

For example, a friend of mine bought a downtown rowhouse that was a great buy! He was aware that the basement to the house could only be accessed from the courtyard outside. What he didn't consider was the fact that the laundry hookups were also in that basement. Come rain, sleet or snow, my friend had to brave the weather, laundry basket in hand, just to have fresh clothes!

By then it's too late. This is why it's important for homebuyers to approach every viewing of a house with an open mind and a mental checklist of things to look for beyond the house itself.

Location Factors

You probably have a general idea of the region, town and neighborhood that you'd like to call home but how well do you really know the area? Have you researched the reputation of the school district? What about the property taxes?

Have you researched the crime rate in the area? I've known people who have searched online archives or visited their local library to browse past headlines from local newspapers and familiarize themselves with news from the neighborhood. Maybe the house you're eyeing up sits on a dangerous roadway notorious for car accidents?

Is there enough to recreationally appease you? Are there parks or museums to take the children to? What about scenic bicycle or walking trails? Obviously, if you're someone who likes water, are you near a lake, river or ocean?

Is there enough to keep you entertained, whether it's coffee shops, shopping, dining, art galleries or sports and nightlife options?

Small imperfections with the property, for example, a small yard, may not bother you as much if you love your neighborhood. You can always renovate an actual house to suit your style or personality but you can't move a house to another neighborhood!

Consider your home's proximity to work when looking for the right neighborhood. For many people, having a short commute, even a walk or a bike ride, are enough to sell them on the location. Be sure to look into the neighborhood's public transportation options as well.

Neighborhood charm is a big seller that cannot be understated! Pay close attention to how well the houses in the neighborhood are maintained. Are neighbors taking care of their homes and yards? Do people seem to be comfortable and safe jogging, walking, biking and gardening in the neighborhood? Are there children playing in any of the yards?

Try to talk to people from the neighborhood if the situation presents itself! Most people are more than happy to voluntarily provide information to potential neighbors.

Situational Factors

These are factors that are very easy to skip over while you're just walking through the home with an agent. These require some astute observation and even some research.

For example, is there reasonable access to the house for emergency services like fire, police, ambulances or emergency rooms? This is especially important if the house is in a rural area.

Can fire trucks or ambulances reach the home if the house sits on a steep hill or a narrow road? How is wintertime snow removal and road maintenance if this is the case?

If you're someone who values privacy, are the homes on the street close together or is there a respectable distance between the houses? If you're on a small street, are your windows and the neighbors' windows directly across from each other and will that bother you or invade your privacy?

Here is something that most people don't think about until moving day. Can large furniture or appliances be carried up the staircase? That spiral staircase going up to that awesome third floor loft may excite you but you're in for a let down when you realize it's impossible to get a couch, big screen television or your newly purchased pool table up the stairs!

If you have children or animals, chances are you don't want to live near a busy highway, high-trafficked road or a neighborhood street where people drive fast and recklessly. Especially if you have a driveway that requires you to pull out onto such roads!

Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day or night. Park the car and take a stroll. Do you notice a lot of For Sale or For Rent signs? Perhaps you should ask the realtor why this is? Be sure to obtain the services of a buyer's agent who is familiar and knowledgeable of the neighborhood and can educate you on market trends.

Just remember that there is more to a house than meets the eye. Sometimes it just involves thinking about or examining things a bit deeper. Don't allow yourself to be blindly mesmerized by those marble kitchen countertops and the beautiful exposed brick in the living room. Sellers naturally want your focus to be on the "good parts". It may pay off to be a little suspect and look at things with a bit more scrutiny.
About the Author
John is a contributor to a Connecticut Real Estate Home Inspection and Homes For Sale Website, and Connecticut Homes for Sale and Connecticut Real Estate Listings Website, which has helped hundreds of people gather information about the CT Real Estate. http://connecticutrealestateadvice.com
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