In the huge capital outlay that is a home purchase, you can never be too meticulous about the things that matter. Dozens of little potential deal-breakers can wreck even the most well-constructed deal.
So holster that checkbook or cashier’s check for a moment and ponder these deal-breakers before you go home-shopping.
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Here’s a flash: Flooding!
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Buying near an ocean, lake, river or creek is a fanciful notion. But check the home’s address with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood-map database. By the way, homeowners insurance typically won’t cover most flooding; only flood insurance will.
“People are finding with the FEMA updates that a home is suddenly in the flood plain — and that flood-insurance premiums have nearly doubled,” said Jim Maibach, a 30-year general certified real estate appraiser with Arlington, Texas-based Peyco Southwest Realty. Moreover, prospective homeowners are discovering that even if a small portion of a residential property is in a flood plain, lenders require flood insurance, he said.
Flash flooding is a different force majeure: Even if a home is set at high elevation, have your inspector (or even a surveyor) determine how its slope (grade) directs water to or from the place. Then there are drainage easements. Many homeowners don’t even realize there’s one on their properties until a title search by the buyer reveals it, Maibach said. “The result?” he said. “A deal-breaker.
This lands on nearly everyone’s no-deal list, especially if an offender lives next door or across the street from the seller. But know that the burden of researching this typically falls on the buyer, because sellers rarely must disclose it.
Typically, an offender lives within a few blocks of most addresses in highly populated areas, even in well-to-do neighborhoods, where parents may be harboring a troubled adult child. Know the differences between Tier 1 offenders and the more serious Tier 2 and Tier 3 types (some states use threat levels of “low,” “medium” and “high” instead). Read the nature of the offense and victim’s age(s) before you back out. And verify. Sometimes, listings are outdated or inaccurate.
This is a should-be deal-breaker. Repeat exposure to nearby vehicle emissions or power plants and other too-close sources of fine chemical particles cause lung and cardiovascular disease. Early symptoms are sometimes confused with allergies or other ailments. And those high-voltage power lines overhead are dicey at best. Studies show more cancer in adults and children who endure long-term exposure to them. Why risk it?
These have become the nouveau deal-breakers. Buyers think they’ve lined up a fair, market-priced purchase and … boom! The lender’s appraiser, sometimes a novice, values the place at $40,000 less than the agreed-upon price. The seller’s response: “Tough.” The buyer then scrambles around looking for other lenders.
It looks great, feels right, it’s got everything I want, you say. But it sure seems, well, loud. And what’s that smell? Visits to the neighborhood at varying hours may unveil some unwelcome realities: drag racers, airport landing pattern, loose or barking dogs, loud parties, 1 a.m. train whistles. Or maybe there’s landfill or feedlot in the area or persistent smells from nearby manufacturing or waste-processing plants.
While some deal-breakers are relative calls, buyers are far more prone to walk away if they discover:
Lack of central air.
Outdoor laundry rooms.
Poor or no insulation.
Old septic tanks or old sewer lines.
Acoustic popcorn ceilings.
Outdated or inferior wiring.
Other less onerous but potentially irreconcilable issues include excessive grime, clutter, strong pet odors, looming water towers, low neighborhood homeownership rates, long commutes, small/outmoded kitchens (or even kitchens without windows over the sink) and trashy neighbors.
Then there’s always poor curb appeal, lack of natural light, illogical floor plan, mediocre or bad school districts, and a low “walkability” factor such as no sidewalks. Older buyers may back out if a home’s design is not age- or handicap-friendly.