Let's face it. Buying a house, whether it is a $100,000 home or a $1,000,000 dollar home, it is a significant investment for you, and will be a pivotal moment in your life. Your home will be your base of comfort for the many years that you are in it, so it is important that you are able to get as much information as possible before closing on your new "castle". Aside from working with Real Estate Guy to ensure an easy process through the home buying experience, here are five things you could look into before making your final decision.
1. Are the neighbors renters or the owner?
A big reason for a lot of people to move is to be in a neighborhood where you can network with people relatively close to you which you can rely on. For the average home owner, it can take years to develop that kind of rapport in your neighborhood. Whether or not you think having renters as neighbors is problematic, one thing is for sure, renters will be in the neighborhood for a much shorter time period than a full blown owner would be. Generally, leases run on a year to year basis, so from a cohesion standpoint, you may have people moving in and out every year. Although this isn't always the case, you may be subject to new faces every couple of years. For the buyers looking to develop that long term relationship, you may be out of luck.
To check this, there are really only two ways to do this. The first, is going through the neighborhood and talking to the people who have been living in the area already and ask them directly. Aside from finding out if they are in your "village" for the long term or not, you will also be able to get a better feel for the neighborhood that has already piqued your interest.
The second way involves looking at the tax information. The easiest way to do this is to go to Madison WI city assessor site, which can be found here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/assessor/property/index.cfm
Look up the street name, with the range of addresses (it needs some sort of number range, so try to get in as many houses on the street as possible). Go down the list and go into each house listed. On the top left hand side of the form, you will see "Owners" with a corresponding name and address. If the address is the same as the house, then the people living there own the place. If not, they could be renting.
2. Are the other houses in the area well maintained?
Have you ever noticed in your current neighborhood that people seem to mow their lawn, and do other outdoor maintenance around the same time? I'd like to write this off as a neighbor caring about their neighbors opinions.
A big indicator of how much your neighbors interact and how close everyone is can be found out by how each home presents itself. Normally, when neighbors are mindful of one another you will notice that their yards are well maintained. Mindful neighbors will try to insure that their houses aren't an eyesore to others. Whether it is keeping your lawn mowed and the bushes trimmed, or something as simple as keeping their driveway clear, it can tell you if neighbors are interacting with one another, and if they care enough to ensure a cleanly neighborhood. While this tip may be a hit or miss, it will at least give you another clue into that prospective neighborhood
3. Does the house look like it had any renovations in the past 40 years?
Although some people may like the looks of a 50's , 60's or 70's house, it may be a red flag to anyone who doesn't want to have to fix up their new house. Even in the past 20 years, building codes, electrical standards (and technology) have significantly increased, and if a house hasn't been properly maintained, you as a new owner may suffer the costs of renovations. To avoid the majority of the problems, be sure to have a well experienced Home inspector thoroughly go through any property before you decide to close. It may save countless headaches in the future by paying the small cost for a professional inspector.
4. Have the appliances (HVAC, furnace, etc.) been routinely checked?
Usually people like to keep with the mantra "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", but that may not be the kind of thing you want to hear when taking over the reins of maintaining these new things in your life. To insure that your big appliances won't break right after closing, or right when your home warranty runs out, see if there is any sort of records or logs on service done to them. Usually with these "permanent house appliances" they will have service stickers on the side of them. They will give you a big indicator what, if any work has been done to it. If you don't see them, again, a Home inspection will be paramount to saving you from costly future surprises.
5. Are all services you are looking for provided in the area you are moving in to?
Usually you start worrying about the details of how your home will function after you are already moved in, but it may be worthwhile to pre-plan them out before you even close. Why? Well, depending on the side of town you are on, and how old the house is, it's possible you may not get all of the services you believe is standards now a days, especially if you are in a rural area. Now, since we are in the Madison area, not Alaska or some other extremely remote area, we generally don't have to worry about things like plumbing or electricity, but there are some things to ask yourself that may not have been on your radar:
- Is television and broadband available (outside of satellite)? Can I get the speed and service as I require? Has the house been wired for them?
- What kind of plumbing system does the house have? Septic? Public line? Compost?
- Where does my electricity come from? What providers can I get?
Although these type of things aren't usually deal breakers, they can become an inconvenience and a future "hidden cost". The least things that will surprise you after moving in, the better.
The Bottom Line
Although your Real estate agent (which is hopefully us!) will be able to navigate you through the majority of the process and uncertainty you may have about the process as a whole, you should realize that what may be important to you, may not be that important to the average home buyer. Make sure you provide all possible details or any intricate wants or hates you may have with a property, so they can be found, or avoided, depending on your needs. We'd love to help you with finding that perfect home that will fit all of your needs, so please, do not hesitate to give us a call, or send an email.
If you are still looking for that perfect home, why not use the best tool available in your search? Check out: Http://www.searchmadisonhomes.com to find that perfect home for you.