When you’re preparing to make an offer on what might possibly become your future home, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement – especially if the home seems to meet all of your criteria and it just feels right.
But now is not the time to rush into things! Instead, you’ll want to perform your due diligence as you gather information on some of the home’s most important features.
To make this as easy as possible, we’ve created a list of items for your home buyer checklist to get you started.
Research The Area
1. Local Schools
The quality of a school district plays a huge part in determining home values and it’s a great place to start on your home buyer checklist. Even if you don’t yet have kids in school (or kids at all), it’s a key issue to research. Better schools usually mean higher priced homes.
It’s also important to research the patterns of the local zoning boundaries. Does the city often move the boundaries around? If your dream home is just inside a line that could easily be rezoned to a much lower-rated school at any time, you may want to consider the possible drop in value. Grab your home buyer checklist and make sure you research the school district and future plans for the area.
2. Future Area Plans
Before your make an offer, you’ll want to investigate any planned future development for your potential neighborhood. Future plans can drastically change a neighborhood where added amenities could increase or decrease the home’s value. For example, if a current area is being torn down for new high-end homes or a strip mall. These two would differ greatly in how the impact the appeal of a neighborhood as well as the home values. Your agent should have this information, but most cities websites include any existing plans in their planning and zoning section.
3. Proximity To Important Amenities
You should also explore the neighborhood present amenities: public transportation, parks, entertainment, medical care, shopping, and more.
These details will not only impact your quality of life and enjoyment of your new home, they contribute to the housing values in the community. Don’t leave this one off your home buyer checklist, and be realistic about what kinds of amenities work best for your family’s present and future plans.
4. Crime Rate In The Area
Crime and safety are likely a hugely important issues when moving to a new area – but where to begin? Start by contacting the community resource officer at the city’s main non-emergency number. They’ll be able to provide you with a log of police calls and crimes in any given area that have taken place within the past year or so.
As you explore the safety of your potential new neighborhood, keep an eye on whether the roads, sidewalks, and driveways are well-lit, whether the streetlights are maintained, etc.
Research The Home
Next on your home buyer checklist: determining key information about the property itself before making an offer. Here are some of the main things you should be on the lookout for:
1. Days On The Market
If you’re about to make an offer on a home that’s languished on the market for 300 days while the average time for the neighborhood is around 60 days, you’ll absolutely need to know why it’s been on the market for so long.
It’s often simply an issue of the owners overpricing their home, but sometimes there can be a problem with the property itself. Make sure you ask whether it’s already been under contract or received an inspection report. And don’t forget to ask point-blank why the property hasn’t sold. You don’t want to be stuck with a property that won’t sell later.
2. Bills & Costs That Come With This Home
Let’s face it, homes are expensive and we’re not just talking about the mortgage. Unexpected costs, such as replacing a heating system can pop up. Before making an offer on a home, be sure to ask the ages and condition of the homes major items including the roof, furnace, central air conditioning, and windows.
Is there a homeowners’ association? If so, what is their financial status and how much are the dues? Have your agent ask for a copy of their fiscal report.
Walk through an average week in your mind – what questions do you have about how your life might look if you lived in this house? Create your own home buyer checklist of questions from there.
3. Neighborhood Restrictions
City ordinances and HOA restrictions will also play a role in the enjoyment of your new home. If there’s an HOA, get a copy of their rules and by-laws. Make sure that there are no restrictions that may prevent you from using your property the way you want. A strict HOA’s may feel constrictive for some, while other home owners will appreciate their ability to keep home values up.
Other issues that aren’t as prevalent but can still come up are parking and pet restrictions. Some neighborhoods don’t allow residents to park overnight in their driveways or on the street. Others may limit the number of vehicles they can have (ex: townhomes).
Also be aware that there are area in Denver that have banned pit bulls. Make sure to check the area and neighborhood restrictions on parking & pets before buying a house.
Talk to Your Future Neighbors
Sure, you can get a great feel for a neighborhood by driving through it. For instance, you can make note of the meticulously-maintained lawns and well-cared for homes that come with pride of ownership. On the other hand, rusty cars sitting out on overgrown lawns and are clear signs of neglect.
But why risk overlooking something? Meeting the neighbors can give you a good idea of your compatibility, and when chatting face-to-face neighbors will sometimes level with you about the things a seller might forget to mention or even fail to disclose. Still not too sure? Here’s a set of questions to get you started:
- How long have you lived here?
- What do you like best (and least) about living in the neighborhood?
- How do the neighbors get along with one another?
- Has anything ever struck you as odd about this home, or yours?
- Do you consider this neighborhood quiet?
Those conversations could save you from moving into a neighborhood where you could be miserable down the road. It’s worth reaching out!
The Last Item On Your Home Buyer Checklist
Understand that this home might not be the one for you.
No matter how much you love the idea of this house, sometimes things just don’t work out. There’s a surprising number of ways any potential home sale can fall through.
It can be difficult, but it’s important not to get too attached to one property. In fact, make sure you have a second and third option for possible homes.
And whatever you do, don’t make an offer without plenty of research first. Happy house hunting!