If you're on the hunt for a house, you're also on the hunt for a neighborhood. Noisy neighbors, traffic congestion, and a lack of neighborhood amenities can turn your dream home into a nightmare.
Amy Simmonds, Realtor, Keller Williams Real Estate Team:
"You do not want to purchase a house if you have any doubts about its location. You want to make sure that you feel safe. That you're in an area where you feel stable in that it will increase in value and not decrease in value. Once you're in that home, you are stuck with it. It is not easy to turn around and sell a property within a few months or even a year without potentially losing a significant amount of money."
When you're shopping for a home, one of the first things you should do is look up the crime reports for the area where you're looking. The National Sex Offender Public Website, NSOPW.gov, will give you a good starting point. You can see other crime reports at websites like CrimeMapping.com. Don't just trust the Internet, use your eyes, too. Take a walk or drive through your potential neighborhood at different times of day, keeping your eyes and ears open for deal-breakers. Are there neighbors with loud barking dogs, or planes flying low overhead? How about overly bright streetlamps -- or not enough? Families also have special considerations. Are there nearby quality schools, or will your kids have to take a bus in the morning? Take the time to tour nearby schools and make sure it's the right environment for your little ones. Take a look at your neighbor's yards. Are they overgrown and littered with junk, or worse, infringing on the lot you have your eye on? If your neighbors-to-be have been using a sliver of the for-sale property for years, they may have a claim to it.
If you need help finding all of that information, your real estate agent should be able to point you in the right direction.
"One of the things that we do is we provide all of the buyers with something called the buyers disclosure. And that buyers disclosure provides them information on everything: Where they can find information on criminals; where they can find information on what's happening around them in the town; is there being something being built on the corner of the neighborhood? Is there a road being expanded behind them? What are the schools like? What are they rated? So those are things that any Realtor should provide a buyer so they can do their homework and do the research before they purchase that house."
While a few small inconveniences might seem like no big deal, keep in mind that buying a home is a long-term obligation and come closing day, you'll be stuck with your neighbors and neighborhood. For more tips on finding your next home, visit the mortgage section at Bankrate.com. I'm Lucas Wysocki.