Imagine shopping for your dream home in the hot Seattle area market. You go to an open house, it’s crowded, you know there are multiple offers. But you feel like this is it, your dream home. It even has a great swath of vacant land behind the home for added privacy. The situation is tight, there isn’t time for a traditional inspection, and emotions are running high. This is the type of scenario in which reason tends to fly out the window and one of the reasons to have an agent on your side can be so valuable. In this case, the agent, Tony Gilbert, of RealFX had an intuition that something wasn’t right about the deal. Rather than allowing his clients to get caught up in the emotion and hype, he helped them do a quick check of county records on vacant plot of land. “Come to find out, it was zoned for mining – and owned by a mining company! Needless to say… they were horrified, and moved on. “It’s not always easy to do the investigative research necessary on a property especially when you don’t really want to find anything that will dissuade you from the path that this is your dream home. But this sort of story is not that uncommon. When you are looking at your potential home, check out the neighborhood not just for what it is now but what it could be. Some questions to ask include:
1) Is the area zoned for commercial use? What other types of properties are nearby?
2) Are there any upcoming major development projects in the area?
3) You’ll also want to know what the restrictions are for remodeling, not just for your own projects but for what your new neighbors might do. Are there height restrictions or could your neighbor add a level that might block your light?
4) Have there been any environmental hazards such as chemical spills or contamination near the area you are looking?
5) What are the local crime statistics? Have there been any incidents at houses nearby?
Gilbert advises clients to start with country records but says that it’s also important to just eat lunch or have coffee in the area to get a feel for what is going on. He explains a situation in which he was lunching with buyers who started up a conversation with another customer of the sandwich shop. “That person answered all sorts of questions the buyers had about the area, some of which they knew I would not able to address, due to “Fair Housing” reasons. I simply turned to stare out the window and checked my email while they were talking.”