Your trusted real estate agent can basically tell you anything you need to know about the home you're planning to buy, especially if it’s information that may affect the home’s marketability.
However, the old adage that says “learn from the experience of others” can also be very helpful before closing the deal on your prospective property. Talking with the neighbors and knowing their first-hand experience while living in the area can be crucial for you to make sure that your chosen home and neighborhood are absolutely perfect.
After looking up the area’s demographics, its latest crime rates, local events and school districts online, talking to the current residents can validate your research and will help you get an accurate feel of the neighborhood. Neighbors can also potentially share solid facts that the seller might have forgotten to mention, or purposely didn’t disclose. Your conversation with them may help you avoid making a big buying mistake and move into a neighborhood that can make you miserable in the future. Because aside from your local real estate agent, no one probably knows the area better than they do.
So do your mini-survey: take the time to walk through the street, approach some of the residents, and ask if they won’t mind answering a few questions. It’s also a great start if you want to know more about your potential neighbors and whether you can get along.
Here are some discerning questions that will help you uncover useful information before buying a home:
This flexible question appropriately follows the usual ‘How long have you lived here?' greeting. It allows the neighbors to tell anything they might want to share without restriction — especially about the things they love and hate most about the area. Their answers (and even stories!) can offer sensible information and let you catch a glimpse of the lifestyle they have in the neighborhood.
If the positive things they say outnumbered those they least like about the area, then it can be a good indication that you’re on the right track. Because despite the physical signs that could suggest the neighborhood is thriving, some things are not what they seem and the residents surely know better.
This is a good follow-up question, especially for the things that the residents probably hate about the area. They can discuss any common concerns or inconvenience that might also affect you as a potential homeowner.
Perhaps you've already checked out the crime rate in your prospective neighborhood when looking for your ideal home. You must have looked up the area’s crime statistics in online safety resources such as My Local Crime, or from the local police department. However, those won’t clearly tell you about the real situation of the area. It is the locals who will help you understand what’s really going on, and whether there’s anything that you need to watch out for once you settle down.
Inquire about what really goes on in the neighborhood and if there are recent problems with loitering, vandalism, frequent fights, or incidences of stray dogs running down the street. Ask if they have security systems installed in their homes — which could tell you whether you’ll also need to install one. Find out how the neighborhood responds to crimes; if they have a neighborhood watch and how active it is. It may also help to ask if people feel safe to go out late at night or if they let their children play outside with minimal supervision. Those little details can actually make a big difference if you want to live peacefully in the area.
One of the social benefits of homeownership is community involvement. Homeowners are more likely to participate in civic groups and tend to be more involved in their communities. Asking the neighbors about how they socialize can help you learn whether you're a great fit for the neighborhood, and also determine what type of community they have. Ask them whether they hold events like backyard barbeques, weekend festivals, neighborhood meetings, dinner parties, farmers markets, and others on a regular basis. It may also say a lot about whether the families living in the area really get along.
You've probably toured the place with your agent multiple times at different hours to really make sure that everything is absolutely perfect. You’ve already driven to the places that you will most likely visit often, like the grocery store, the schools, clinics, nearby restaurants and cinemas, etc. However, asking the locals about what the traffic is like during rush hour could give you more insight of the daily road situation. You also need to know the transportation options available in the area; whether there is a reliable public transport; the road conditions during particular seasons; if there are enough parking spaces, and any truthful information that will help you determine how much time you might spend on the road and how quickly you’ll get around to and from your home.
Even for singles or young couples without children, schools should be a major concern when buying a home. It's because homes located near top-rated school districts usually translates into higher property values and have a huge resale potential. For those who have families and young children, you also need to make sure that your kids will grow in a safe neighborhood with plenty of good opportunities.
You can research about particular schools and their reputation online, but hearing the personal experience of residents whose kids were enrolled in the local schools is more valuable. You can also find out what it’s really like learning from a specific school, or if there are great after-school programs or individualized education programs available for children.
After asking insightful questions concerning the neighborhood, it's best to also glean information about your prospective property. Neighbors might be willing to reveal more about the specific home — especially things that weren’t included in the disclosure. It’s best to know whether the home you’re considering has run into some problems that the seller failed to disclose, such as a high water table. Or if the house has endured damaging events like a storm or flood. They may also share bits of trivia about the house’s most appealing characteristic, or give you a backstory of why it is on the market.
However, there’s always a chance that personal relations with the seller could affect the neighbor’s response if you tell them which house you’re considering. Still, people have different opinions, so make sure to chat with several neighbors and ask the same questions so you can have a more accurate picture.