During the past week, I watched as the real estate market ebbed and flowed. Santa Clarita Valley is dynamic and one of those areas, close enough to Los Angeles to be convenient and far enough away to be considered a suburb.
I’m sure you thought I was going to say something negative about Los Angeles. That is a big negatory ghost rider. I love LA – I was a cop there from 1990-2013 – I’m comfortable with all areas and have worked all four corners.
Being a cop turned realtor has given me some insight that most other agents don’t have. This includes me offering a bit of the little Detective I have inside.
People are more concerned about getting a great deal on a home than on who the neighbors are. I say getting a Great Deal maybe less important than finding out who the neighbors are.
Of course, most buyers have an appraiser to let them know if they are “paying too much” for the home. That is a buyer’s safety net.
A home buyer should also be able to trust his guide in the real estate process for an opinion. That would be his real estate agent.
Finding out who the neighbors are, that takes a little more effort and is very important.
Look at it this way, you are going to be living in the same place for a while. You are going to have most of your prized possessions under that roof. While you can’t/shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. You may get a good idea what may be written in the preface.
Also – these calls/investigations should be completed in the first week after opening escrow. That is before that buyer spends any of the upfront money required to purchase real estate.
- Before the appraisal – this happens pretty quickly and is ordered by the buyer’s lender. Let your lender or your agent know what you are doing, re neighbor investigation, and keep them posted on the time frame.
- Before the inspection – the inspection is something that you also pay for at the time of service. The home inspection will typically happen within the first week or at least by the second week. This is something that you or your agent will order.
- Before the pest inspection – this is another inspection that you will pay for at the time of service. This is also something that you or your agent will order. Be sure to get your Neighbor investigation completed beforehand.
Notice that I am a fan of my own 7 step rule. If we are speaking about an urban setting with homes built all around, you are going to want to make personal contact with each of the neighbors living in those residences.
Some of my favorite resources to use when explaining to a home buyer about investigating their potential neighbors are the following.
Knock knock, who’s there?
You’ll simply knock and say, “Hi, we are buying that home “insert location” and wondered what you can tell us about the neighborhood?”
Open-ended questions are the best – formulate questions that are hard to answer with a yes or no. Those that require a narrative response.
Who lives here with you?
What do you think about your neighbors?
What were your thoughts about the people we are buying the home from?
Anything else we should know?
Make it a point to contact those homes which share property boundaries with your home. As a good rule of thumb, door knock the three homes across the street. If you have an extended backyard – You will have to drive to the street which has frontage in front of those homes and door knock those.
Consider foliage – trees, overgrowth or potential issues with your home impacting the neighbors home. A Good example of this may be a large tree that is along or close to a fence line. Maybe that is your neighbor’s tree and it’s causing damage to your fence. That needs to be cleared up before escrow closes. If you wait until after you are the full owner of the home, it may be the neighbor turns out to be not nice and is not interested in helping. Then you have to involve attorney’s etc..
If you have dramatic slopes and properties above/below your’s at different elevations – those are also very important to contact.
Call the cops…
During your investigations make sure you give a call to the local law enforcement authority. Depending on the size of the agency, they may have a specific SLO – Senior lead Officer or an officer assigned to the district where your home is located. Find out who that person is. Your question will pertain to you buying a home within the area the cop knows all too well. They will tell you what they think.
In fact, in most cases, they may tell you more than you wanted to hear, which is good.
Bang away on the keyboard
Do computer searches for each of the addresses you are going to doorknock. See what pop’s up. You may be surprised what you find which could impact your wanting to buy the home or not.
The computer is also a great resource for checking the local crime trends and the Megan’s Law Database.
Condos – Townhomes – Attached properties
I could not give you the best real estate advice without giving a bit of a word about condos and townhomes. The difference between townhomes and condos is that townhomes are typically multi-level. Condos have all bedrooms, living room, bathrooms, kitchen etc, on a single level, like an apartment.
Definitely, go to the residences of anyone living above you and below you. Make sure you also doorknock those residences sharing walls with yours. If the building consists of only a few units, I’d doorknock them all.
In most cases – not everyone you doorknock will be at home and in other circumstances they won’t want to give you the time of day.
I would make sure you take everyone who’s going to be living with you on your “neighbor investigation”.
Some buyers don’t take these steps and things work out without any issues. The buyers that take my advice seem to have fewer issues moving forward from the point of moving in.
I’m Connor MacIvor with REMAX. I share this information because it is my mission that my real estate clients are well protected and safe when it comes to the buying and selling of real estate.