9 Things to Prevent Home Buyer's Remorse
Any home buyer understands the generic “before you buy” to-do list: Check out the schools. Knock on your future neighbors’ doors. Get an inspection. Stop by at night.
But in order to truly do your due diligence, you have to get even more proactive—and sometimes just a bit nosy. We know your pile of home-buying homework is huge, and you don’t want to add more to your to-do list. But the payoff of all this extra sniffing around can be truly substantial.Trust us on this one, OK? Here are nine things that home buyers often forget to check that can cause massive headaches—and costly expenses—down the line.
1. Property lines
Skipping the property survey might seem like an easy decision. Surveys can be pricey and seemingly unnecessary—hey, the fence has stood for years, so it mustbe in the correct place. Right? But the thing about property line disputes is that they can crop up at the most inconvenient times—and you don’t want to be caught off guard when they do.
Maybe you loved the winding, tree-lined driveway. “But until you had a survey done, you had no idea the driveway crossed over the neighbor’s lawn,” says Lindy Gelb, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway PenFed Realty in Bethesda, MD.
That means any improvements you want to make might be impossible, or you might end up in a drawn-out legal dispute with your neighbors. Pay for a survey beforehand to ensure none of your dream improvements will start a turf war.
2. Prior claims history
Previous owners might have ruined your chances of buying your dream home—and they might not even know it. A long history of insurance claims can render a home uninsurable, making it a risky purchase. (Or even an impossible one, depending on your lender.)
Even if previous claims aren’t severe enough to scare off the insurance agencies, your home’s history might indicate whether there will be repeated problems in the future, such as roof leaks, faulty plumbing, or flooding.
We’re not talking about annoying neighbors. And we’re not talking just about termites, either. Skipping the pest inspection when purchasing a home can come back to bite you in the bum. Literally.
If you’re particularly concerned, you can make your offer conditional on an inspection, he adds. That way, you’re free to back out if any bloodsuckers pop up in the carpeting—or if you spot termites or carpenter ants chowing through your wood.
4. Detailed HOA information
If you’re a first-time home buyer, you might be terrified by the seemingly evil HOA. But a homeowners association isn’t necessarily all that scary — as long as you check it out first. So how do you dig into your impenetrable HOA? Just ask! Try to acquire budgets, financial reports, and meeting minutes to get a full picture of your future association, Tankel recommends. Make sure your neighbors are paying their dues or that the HOA has enough funds for necessary upkeep and repairs. Otherwise, you might end up on the hook for a costly wake-up call after move-in.
5. Ghosts (and famous people)
Maybe it’s been years since the last time you Facebook-stalked an old high school fling—but it’s time to bring those skills back into use. Googling your potential address might seem obvious, but a deep dive into the results can turn up shocking surprises.
Like ghosts. Or celebrities. Or celebrity ghosts (even better)!
6. Flood zones
Flood insurance can add thousands of dollars to your insurance bills, and flood plains aren’t always obvious to the untrained eye. Sure, there’s no creek in the backyard—but that doesn’t mean you’ll be dry when the rains come.
And if you’re on a tight budget, keep a close eye on the flood map. Typically, homeowners can’t elect to skip flood insurance if they’re in a hazard zone. Your insurance company (and possibly even your lender) might require it.
7. Master plan
If you’re buying in an older neighborhood stuffed with 50-year-old homes, what you see is probably what you’ll get. No new commercial areas planned, no new bus stops to expect. But for newer hoods, understanding the area’s master plan—the overview of nearby land use and future development—is key to determining if your home is a good deal or a terrible mistake. (Your city might also call this a “comprehensive plan.”)
8. Square footage
Take the home’s listed square footage with a grain of salt. It’s not that sellers are liars, but they might be basing the number from an off-base city assessment or a simple mathematical mistake.
That’s because inaccurate measurements aren’t just annoying. Square footage errors may also cause issues with your appraisal. Even if it’s off by only about 150 square feet, in a small space that could mean a big difference in price.
Don’t let pretty porches and well-kept lawns fool you: Checking out crime in the area is a must-do—and you should always dig deep.
For detailed criminal statistics, CrimeReports.com and SpotCrime provide extensive information on burglaries, auto thefts, and violent assaults that have occurred nearby. Check the National Sex Offender Database (or Family Watchdog) to see who’s living nearby.
One thing to keep in mind: Even the safest neighborhoods may have the occasional theft or aggravated assault. Make sure to consider results in aggregate.