Talk To The Neighbors
You can find out an awful lot about a house and the area it's located in by talking to the neighbors who live next to the subject property. I try to do this whenever I have the opportunity and I always encourage my clients to talk to the neighbors themselves. The people who live near the subject property usually have been there for at least a few years. They can tell you the good and bad points of the area. The best part about their responses to your questions is that they have no incentive to lie to you or your client! They're not involved financially in the sale of the subject property, and as a result, you'll get an unbiased second opinion for free!
You can find out an awful lot about a house and the area it's located in just by talking to the neighbors who live next to the subject property.
Obviously, if the neighbor is a relative or close friend of the seller then their responses may be biased to help "move the deal along." But that's why you and your client should talk to several neighbors in the area and not just one of them. Don't feel like you're being rude or imposing on the neighbors either. You'll be amazed at how people like to talk to someone who's truly interested in listening to what they have to say. It gives people a feeling of importance and makes them feel like they're doing someone else a big favor. Especially, if the person they're helping will be a future next door neighbor.
- Some questions that you and your client's can ask the neighbors are:
Do you ever have any water problems in your house? (This is a great question to ask. If the subject property gets water from a high groundwater table, then most of the houses in the area may have the same problem unless they're located on higher ground.)
Does the local municipality raise property and/or school taxes often?
Is it a quiet area or are there any noise problems?
How are the schools and public transportation?
(If the house is located on a Private street), What are the rights and responsibilities of the homeowners to use and maintain the street? What are the fees for the street maintenance, paving, snow plowing etc.?
Is there anything about the area that you would find helpful to know if you were buying this house?
So you don't believe me that talking to the neighbors is helpful? Well, I'll tell you another war story and then maybe you'll change your mind. I tell all my clients to speak to the neighbors before they buy a house. This will enable them to find out anything interesting about water problems, noise problems, etc. One client of mine was buying a house with a septic system on the site. He took my advice and asked a few of the neighbors about water problems and septic problems in the area. Well, he was awfully surprised to find out that the area had a high groundwater table. This not only created water problems in their basements during heavy rains, but it also forced them all to have their septic systems replaced!! New septic tanks were needed due to the excessive water in the ground over the years. This client ended up having a lot more to calculate into his purchase price after finding out this information. He certainly was grateful to me for giving him that advice. So learn a lesson from this and recommend that all of your clients talk to the neighbors. They might end up finding out something very helpful and you'll end up looking like a hero for it.