Avoid policy surprises
You’ll want to ensure that your home is insured against weather events that are common in your area, such as floods, fires or hurricanes. This often requires having supplemental insurance, which is something you’ll need to purchase before any destruction occurs.
Also, check out your prospective home’s flood zone, since these zones can vary by neighborhood (or even by block). You can determine your flood zone via FEMA’s Flood MAP Service Center. Living in a high-risk flood area means you may be required to purchase flood insurance, which automatically increases the cost of your homeowners insurance.
Visit in the morning and the night
What might seem like a peaceful, serene block during the day could transform into a noisy, rowdy street at night. That’s why it’s important to visit the prospective home during different hours of the day, as well as the weekdays and weekends. That way there won’t be any unwelcome surprises the first night in your new home.
Get the news from your neighbors
If you really want to know what it’s like to live in your new area, check in with the people who live there already. While you don’t need to go door to door, if you’re visiting the home and see a neighbor mowing their lawn, don’t be afraid to ask some questions. You can also dig up some digital dirt via local Facebook groups or sites such as Nextdoor.
Check out the city’s stats
If you’re unfamiliar with the city or town where you’re looking to buy a home, there is some vital information you’ll want to know. You can find most of it online:
- Crime rate: Check out sites such as Neighborhood Scout and CityProtect to get statistics on the types and amount of crime nearby.
- Taxes: The home price might seem pretty reasonable, but don’t forget to factor in sales and property tax rates. That could dramatically increase the amount of money you’ll need to invest in the home. Real estate brokerage sites such as Redfin and Zillow usually list the home’s most recent property tax rate. If you’re unaware of state or local taxes, you can find that info on sites like TaxJar.com and TaxFoundation.org.
- Schools: Whether or not you have kids, or are planning to one day, it’s still a good idea to know about the school district because it could impact resale value. The website Niche provides a good overview of rankings, awards and programs offered for schools across the country.
Give it a Google
To avoid the aforementioned “house rattling when train goes by” situation, you’ll want to know what’s near your prospective home. Try using Google Maps or Google Street View to determine potentially unpleasant things like whether the home is near railroad tracks or a highway, but also to see its proximity to restaurants, parks and other places to which you’d like easy access.