Twelve 'Don't-Miss' Perils When Buying a Home

That bulldog-like inspector you hired has sniffed out every flaw in your soon-to-be residence, and the sellers are busy addressing his findings.


Your sales contract is already heavy with seller concessions. Can you believe that sweet price you're getting?

In a few short weeks, you will be sitting at the closing table, and you can't help getting swept up in the excitement.

Not so fast -- you might want to hold off celebrating for just a moment. You may have marked off every entry on your homebuyer checklist, but did you really finish your homework?

In their zeal to dot every "i" and cross every "t," many buyers overlook less conventional but important "due diligence" issues when researching a home purchase, including those all-important neighborhood-culture issues that will frame their living environment for years to come. Many a new homeowner have found the daytime serenity of the neighborhood turning into a nightly storm of revving motors, barking dogs, late-night cut-through traffic and party houses, to name only a few.

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That's why a good agent will advise buyers to do as much reconnaissance work as possible on their own. "I tell them to drive the neighborhood at different times of day to make sure all the activities there are in line with their tastes," says Realtor Todd Sullivan of Keller Williams Realty in Spokane, Wash.

There's much more than renegade neighbors to consider. For example, that empty lot next door where your kids plan to play may not remain vacant for long, warns Rick Jorgensen, a Realtor with San Antonio-based Mission Realty. And another single-family home may not necessarily be what's penciled in there. "Try to do some research and see what the zoning calls for," says Jorgensen. "You don't want any unpleasant surprises.”

Jorgensen recalls how one family was recently smitten with a home with an adjacent grass field and golf-course view. "I had to tell them I was a little worried about that lot, and they say, 'Oh, it's nice, the kids will play there,'" Jorgensen says. However, a little research revealed that the grass field had "light commercial" zoning and that an office, clinic or the like would soon wipe out the lot and obstruct the family's view of the golf course. "That was a wake-up call," he says.

Commute time is under-researched as well. Relocating families that are unfamiliar with a town's traffic patterns will sometimes buy a house that turns out to be a much longer work commute than they find tolerable, he says. A few years ago, Jorgensen advised a time-conscious buyer to drive to a home he was interested in on a Monday morning, and then time his commute to work. "It took him an hour … and I lost the sale," he says. Eighteen months and about 100 showings later, the man finally bought a home.

Here's a list of a dozen frequently overlooked due-diligence issues:

Noise: Loud parties, teens with no curfews, your subdivision's late-night cut-through point, the whine of diesel engines from a nearby interstate highway … these are few of your least favorite things. Can you hear the late-night fast-food orders coming from the drive-through lane on that main artery a block away?

Environmental issues: Sick-house syndrome, sometimes caused by hidden mold or odorless radon gas, can be vexing and render a house uninhabitable. Radon measurement professionals usually are listed in the Yellow Pages. Also, check for the proximity of power lines to your house.

Odors: Phew! What is that sulfur smell? Odors from nearby manufacturing or waste-processing plants may not have been obvious when the wind was blowing in a different direction. Visit the neighborhood on several different days to get a broader representation.

Commute time, crime and more