Neighborhood surprises and 4 other things a real estate agent may not tell you about


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What a real estate agent may not say

Buying a house is a wonderful experience, but it’s not always flawless. Sometimes, you don’t realize that until you’ve been in the home a while.

Real estate agents — whose commissions are on the line — might not clue you in on everything you need to know to avoid disappointment.

An agent doesn’t have to tell you, for example, if a home you want to buy is overpriced or if your offer is higher than recent sales of comparable homes in the area. If you overpay, that’s your fault.

So, before you start house hunting, learn these five unfortunate truths your agent might not tell you.

1. It’s tough to know all of the defects

Even if you hire a reputable home inspector, you won’t uncover everything that’s wrong with any home you look at.

Inspectors don’t dig up dirt or knock down walls looking for problems. They rely on what they can see, so a plumbing or drainage issue could show up months after you’ve moved in.

Some real estate agents might even recommend lax inspectors who won’t kill sales by finding too many problems, says John Boyd, broker and manager at The Home Buyer’s Agent in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

A seller may hide defects by painting over smoke stains or water damage, or masking a slow leak in the air-conditioning system by topping off the refrigerant.

“If something doesn’t look or feel right, hire the appropriate expert and dig a little deeper,” says RJ Winberg, a real estate agent at South Pointe Properties in Cypress, California.

2. Expensive repairs are almost a given

The agent probably won’t say this while showing you houses, but sooner or later every home needs work.

It could be that the roof, air conditioning system or flooring needs replacing, or major plumbing repairs are required. If you buy an older home, big bills could hit sooner than you expect.

That’s something to keep in mind after you’ve calculated whether you can afford your mortgage.

3. Property tax, homeowner fees will rise

Property taxes can rise or fall, but over the long term they tend to rise. What your real estate agent may not tell you is that the tax figures you’re given before you buy a home may be misleading.

“When you purchase a home, you’ll know what property taxes amounted to last year, but until next year’s bill comes out, you won’t know for sure what your property taxes will really cost,” says Jake Tasharski, a real estate broker at Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

If you buy a home in a community run by a homeowners association, or HOA, you must also pay regular dues to maintain the common areas, such as the swimming pool. These fees tend to rise over time, sometimes dramatically.

Again, you won’t know the real cost until after you buy. “You’ll need to attend a meeting and meet some neighbors to get a true pulse on what’s going on,” Tasharski says.

4. Your home can become outdated

Real estate agents may play up the latest trends in home design as they show you different places. But styles change.

Granite countertops used to be the hot thing for kitchens.  Now, quartz is in.

And remember the free-standing Roman bathtub that was a must-have feature?

“No one uses them,” says Marianne Cusato, an architecture, design and home-building trends expert for HomeAdvisor. “But for years homes were sold on the premise that you had to have (that tub) for resale. They … wasted space for millions of people who could have had a larger shower or more linen storage space.”

Cusato advises shopping for a home you truly want. “Don’t purchase a home because (a certain feature) will be ‘good for resale,'” she says. “If you don’t want or care about a feature, most likely neither will the next person.”

5. The neighborhood may hold surprises

Most states require real estate agents to disclose things about a neighborhood that would matter to a reasonable buyer. But buyers need to inquire about the rules in their state.

William Margita, an agent at Urban Nest Realty in Las Vegas, says he can’t disclose that a murder occurred in a home or that pedophiles live in a neighborhood.

“The only thing we are allowed to do is give the website address and say, ‘Here is the city and county link that shows the crime history of the neighborhood,'” he says.

There might be other drawbacks about the neighborhood the agent won’t tell you.

Late-night train whistles, seasonal odors from local factories, raucous holiday parties or neighbors with dogs that bark incessantly and use your backyard as their latrine are the types of things you could discover about your new place after it’s too late.

During your home-shopping, be observant and get the lowdown on the area from people who live there.